Today was really like most days for us… or at least it started that way. Wake up to breakfast and morning school time, crafts, activities, and naps and then we’re off on our daily walk through the local park to swim class. But everything changed when we met Jordan.
We walk the same way every day past the same old play structure. My kids, always ready to burn off the stored up energy of the day, were running up head of me while I pushed Avery in a stroller bringing up the rear. After a brief look down, I gazed up to see a young boy running toward me. Aaron, the spokesperson says, “Mom this is Jordan. Can we play with him?” He was a sweet child. You could tell this by his disposition. Genteel in nature, he actually introduced himself to me. I was impressed. Then he mentioned that he was looking for some kids. “Oh?” I said. I explained to him that we were only passing through the park today and heading all the way to the other side for Aaron’s swim class. He hung his head low, obviously disappointed. I took a quick inventory of the park. It was strange. Normally the park had at least a few families with children playing, but not today. Today it was completely empty. There was no one in sight. Now curious, I asked Jordan, “Who are you here with, Sweetheart?” He said, “I am just looking for some kids to play with.” “Yes”, I said, “But is your mother around?” It was his reply to this question that dramatically changed the course of not just my day, but really, my life.
Jordan’s mother was not at the park that day. I would later find out that this was only the beginning of his sad story. Apparently Jordan had been dropped off there alone. Now very concerned, I ask Jordan his age. His reply? Seven. He was seven years old and on his own. He mentioned that his mother was off doing “important business” and that she would return to pick him up. “What kind of business?” I asked. “Well Target, some place called Oshinoya (Yoshinoya fast food I assumed) and to see a friend.” You could tell from his description of events that this was not his first trip alone anywhere. I instinctually put my arm around him, rubbing his back wishing I could take him with me but I knew if she did return he would get into trouble if he was not where she told him to be. So we said our goodbyes to Jordan and I started for the pool.
As I walked away, I just could not stop the tears from falling down my face. Should I not have left him? Would it be considered abduction if I took him with me? But if he stays there alone, what will happen to him? Unable to shake the helpless feeling, I called my husband who works for a child and family services agency. After I told him the story, he was quick to inform me that this was child endangerment and to call 911 right away. Now, why is it that I was instantly concerned that I would get a full face of “Angry Mom” by making this call? I mean, for the first moment or two that haunted me, I will not lie. But I dialed those 3 numbers anyway and told myself two things, 1) that child was worth it and 2) I could not bear it if I somehow found out that someone had hurt him or had taken him and I did NOTHING about it. So I called.
“911, what is your emergency?” said the young woman’s voice on the other line. “I have a child that has been abandoned here at the park” I answered. I followed with a complete detailed description of race, height, name, age, outfit and last seen location. I was holding back more tears as the sound and meaning of my own words were now more real then ever. I tried to understand the reasons behind why a mom would leave her child at the park alone, but I could not. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt as a fellow mother, but again I could not. I was angry and now deeply hurting for this sweet young boy left alone. Why was he not in school? Does he not have other relatives that he could stay with? WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST TAKE HIM WITH YOU!!! I wanted to scream. I was so angry and disturbed, fearful and concerned for Jordan. I was filled with so many emotions! They dispatched someone from the Sheriff’s department as this is an unincorporated part of Los Angeles and therefore under their jurisdiction.
After Aaron’s class, I walked to meet the officer back at the location of the park where we had first met the young boy. I was surprised to find that Jordan was still there. He was playing with two puppies that belonged to a few teenage girls who were walking by. The officer called him over and the story unraveled right before my eyes. Turns out that sweet Jordan had been at the park since 6:30 that morning. It was now 5:15pm. He had breakfast but no lunch. When asked by the officer if he was hungry he quickly answered yes while nodding his head. He spent his entire day roaming the area for friends. I instantly reflected on how quickly he came running up to us and now it was clear that he was desperately lonely and looking for a friend. “All day long alone??” I said out loud.
The officer sent Jordan and my kids off to play so he could speak to me for a while. He explained to me that he has been working this division for over 3 years and found that this was some kind of pattern with parents. He said they treat the park like a day care and leave their children all day only to return to get them after they do what ever it is that they do, hang out, work, etc. With my jaw hanging open, the officer looked at me and said “I did that. Hung my jaw open for the first year. Then it got to the point where I came to almost expect it.” He went on to tell me that the Department of Child and Family Services was so inundated with these kinds of cases that they couldn’t take any more. He said “Oh they know about what is going on here at the local parks but their hands are beyond full and they cannot do anything about it.” I could only hang my head.
I know the system we have in place is trying to help those who most need it, but when there is more need than help, what happens to the children? I was scared to even think about it, let alone ask. I was nervous that his mother might hurt Jordan or badly punish him for telling her whereabouts and giving out her cell phone number. He kept saying out loud, “She will come back for me. She just went to get me something to eat.” I no longer cared if I was going to get a face full of “Angry Momma”, I wanted to know what would become of Jordan. The officer painfully explained to me that unfortunately, his mother will probably be taken into custody for child endangerment and then off to jail for some time. Jordan, if he is lucky, will go to a relative or end up in an orphanage. His exact words to me were “Truth is, he will probably end up worse off than he is now.” That sentence shot through me like a million daggers. Instantly I wanted to run over to him and tell him how sorry I was…how I meant no harm… how I wish I could take him home and be what he needed!!! Oh how I was pained for this innocent boy!! But all was done now and there was no undoing it. Once the officer was finished with us, he said we were free to go. He had all my information and would call me should he have any more questions. We waved to the children who were all playing so freely and laughing, calling them back over to us. We all said our goodbyes. Then Aaron, Arielle and I waved back at Jordan as he got into the police car. Aaron said to me as we walked away, “Mommy every time we come to this park I make a new friend but then I never see them again.” This time I wondered how true his statement really was.
I cry as I write this article because I realize that I have no control over what will happen to Jordan. I am sure there are countless others like him, sweet, kind, wonderful kids, unassuming, trusting, loving, just looking for someone to love and care for them. Did I do the right thing, I ask myself? I have to believe I did. Maybe God used me to protect him from some harm or danger at the park. I really don’t know. But I will not stop praying for Jordan now as his sweet face is forever with me. I hope you will pray for him too. Jordan Jackson… seven years old, black male, brown short sleeve shirt, dark denim jeans, with a bright smile, and warm brown eyes who was just looking for a friend.