Robert W. Stanford
Previous to the September 11th 2001 tragedy in New York, yet in that very same year, I happened to come across a homeless girl of 10 years of age, living with her mother in and around Moose Park.
The mother of this child was an intravenous drug user, possessing a serious and life threatening dependency on the injection of several controlled substances, including, but not limited to methamphetamine and black tar heroin. Both child and mother were constantly surrounded by several adult males. Many of whom were often confrontational with me because my presence and interaction with the mother and the child made them suspect that I was perhaps an under-cover police officer.
From my interviews with the child and mother I was able to make the determination that though the child did not appear to be malnourished, she had not bathed in an extremely long period of time and was suffering from a lice infestation that was causing multiple large sores on her scalp. Further, the many men in her surrounding environment had questionable character and value traits, since many, if not all, were seriously addicted to various controlled substances as well.
For a majority of the time, day or night, the mother had no knowledge of the specific location of the child, nor did she ever seem to be concerned about the well being of her child.
After having spent three days personally investigating this situation, I called the Stanislaus County Child Protective Services Department Main line.
The person I spoke with, told me in no uncertain terms, "We can’t just go and look for a little girl in the park."
Not only did I feel this statement was unprofessional; I felt that it was uncaring and insensitive to the actual needs which I knew for a fact were in our community. Right here in Moose Park.
I then called a friend of mine, who has now since retired from the Stanislaus County Child Protective Services Department. Fortunately, through many contacts he had still at his disposal, he was able to get the ball rolling, so that within the space of another five days, the child was removed from this dangerous environment.
One can only speculate on what this little girl’s chances are to avoid in life the pre-determined pit-falls bestowed on any child exposed to similar circumstances, but if the apathy demonstrated to me during my initial contact with the Stanislaus County Child Protective Services Department, are of any indication of the amount, we as a community care about an innocent ten year old girl stranded in a secluded park with an apathetic, strung out guardian, forced to live amongst parolees, sex-offenders and junkies, I would think any child’s chances of a fruitful future are quite dismal indeed.