Couple Fights to Give Child Abuse Victim, Foster Child Forever Home
When Katie and Chas Shira walked into Cook Children’s Medical Center on a warm December night in 2015, they had nothing but a name, a code and an empty car seat. They had driven three hours from their home in the tiny town of O’Brien, Texas with the understanding that their lives were about to change.
They just didn’t know exactly how or for how long.
Inside the hospital, nurses and security guards were on high alert. The 2-month-old boy the Shiras were on their way to pick up was under a security watch. He had a broken femur and doctors were certain his injury was no accident. The longest and strongest bone in his body had been snapped in half. On top of that, he was suffering withdrawals from methamphetamine. Child Protective Services (CPS) acted quickly by taking the baby into their custody and beginning the search for a foster family.
“We got a call saying they were ready to discharge this baby and we decided to drive to Fort Worth to pick him up. We didn’t know much, but were told to find a specific nurse and give her a code,” said Katie Shira. “When we first arrived, the staff was very guarded. They weren’t going to let us see him until they figured out we were the foster parents. I was really impressed because they were doing everything to protect him.”
The baby, now known as Jett, was in a Pavlik harness. The full-body contraption kept both of his legs from moving. Katie and Chas listened as nurses explained how they should care for Jett. They had to handle him with extreme caution as the slightest adjustment could cause the baby pain.
When they left the hospital that night, the Shiras had no idea what life had in store. While they both wanted to provide love and support to a child in need, they never imagined the child would be in such a severe state.
“Sometimes I didn’t know if he was crying because his leg was broken or if he was withdrawing from meth,” said Katie. “It was so hard. He would shake and have tremors. His jaw would quiver. It was scary to watch and very sad.”
It took about six months for Jett’s addiction to subside. Slowly, his withdraws faded away and at the same time his leg was healing fast. He was soon able to ditch the harness and begin walking on his own. In many ways, things were looking up, but there was still a tough road ahead.
Jett’s biological family was fighting to get him back. They denied allegations of abusing the little boy and wanted full custody.
After 18 months of Jett living in the Shira’s home, the case finally went to trial. Katie describes the months leading up to that point as some of the most difficult she’s experienced.
“It’s a very odd feeling to have your life in the hands of 12 strangers,” she said. “I was struggling emotionally for two to three months before trial. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. The anticipation of what was about to happen was so daunting.”
Katie and Chas both feared that Jett would be taken away from them. Even worse, they were scared he would be placed back into the care of the people who hurt him.
“When the trial began, the attorneys for the biological parents were arguing that his broken leg was an accident,” said Katie. “It got pretty ugly. Dr. Jamye Coffman was on the stand for 3 or 4 hours. She testified that there was no way this was an accident and his injury could have only been the result of abuse.”
Jamye Coffman, M.D. is a child abuse pediatrician and the medical director of the Child Advocacy Resources and Evaluation (CARE) team at Cook Children’s. She saw Jett soon after he arrived at Cook Children’s and followed his journey back to health and into a new home. It would be great to say that Jett’s case was one of the few Dr. Coffman became involved in that year, but the truth is her office saw 1,520 child abuse visits in 2015.
For the Shira family, having Dr. Coffman and the CARE team on their side was a game-changer. After seven days in court and two hours of deliberation, the jury came back with a decision. The Shiras were granted full custody of Jett.
“It’s funny because I feel like she has no idea what she has done for us. She changed the entire dynamic of the trial,” said Katie with audible emotion in her voice. “I get teary thinking about her because I believe she is an angel walking among us.”
For Dr. Coffman, knowing the outcome of cases like Jett’s help her stay motivated.
“Sometimes we don’t know if what we’re doing is really making a difference in a particular child’s life,” Dr. Coffman said. “Knowing that we helped a child is what keeps us going.”
Jett is now 2 years old and was officially adopted by the Shiras in January. Katie says there are days when she still can’t believe he’s theirs.
“It’s still kind of surreal that we don’t have to worry about his safety and well-being. He can just live with us forever,” she said.
In addition to becoming an official Shira, Jett is about to take on a new role. Katie and Chas are expecting their first child in May meaning Jett is about to become a big brother.
“We always wanted to have our own children, but we really wanted to adopt first,” Katie said. “We realized there are kids out there who don’t have the convenience of waiting until we have our perfect family. There are kids at the CPS office right now who just need someone to say yes.”
Adopting Jett Video
About the CARE Team
Led by pediatricians who are board-certified in child abuse medicine, the Cook Children's Child Advocacy Resources and Evaluation (CARE) team provides medical evaluations, psychosocial assessments and preventive education. Most CARE team examinations are conducted following a referral from Child Protective Services, a law enforcement agency or a medical provider.
The team provides medical evaluations for:
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Other forms of child maltreatment
- Drug exposure
- Medical child abuse
To schedule an appointment
Caregivers, Child Protective Services representatives and providers can call 682-885-3953 and ask for the fostering health care coordinator or email email@example.com.