To Southworth, Ala'a was like a little brother. But Ala'a - who had longed for a soldier to rescue him - secretly began referring to Southworth as "Baba," Arabic for "Daddy."
Then, around Christmas, a sister told Southworth that Ala'a was getting too big. He would have to move to a government-run facility within a year.
"Best case scenario was that he would stare at a blank wall for the rest of his life," Southworth said.
To this day, he recalls the moment when he resolved that that would not happen.
"I'll adopt him," he said.