Vargas: Why I’ll be spending week with foster kids


This week, I’m off working as a volunteer counselor at a summer camp for foster children. I’ve done this before and to tell you the truth it’s an absolutely exhausting week of fun and activities with children who have been removed from the custody of their parents.

They get to enjoy one week of living a life of no worries with caring adults who will love them just the way they are.

As a cop, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of abused children. On many occasions, I’ve taken children into custody for their own protection.

One case in particular always touched me and that involved a girl I will call Gloria. I met her when I was a young patrol officer.  My partner and I had been called to a home regarding suspected abuse. Once we got to the house I found Gloria naked and tied up with shoelaces in a dark closet.

According to her drug-addicted mother, Gloria was being disciplined for disrespecting her. She cried in my arms as I got her dressed and explained she was being taken someplace safe. Like so many abused children, her concern was for her mother and why she couldn’t stay at home.

She had big brown eyes and curly hair. While she was in the Sitton Home (now Orangewood) my wife and I visited her and took her out on day excursions. Eventually she was reunited with her family. I saw her occasionally while I was on patrol. Once I transferred to narcotics our contact became less frequent. By then my wife and I had started our own family and life was very busy.

The next time I saw Gloria an officer passed along a message that someone in custody wanted to talk to me.

Gloria was now 19 and herself a drug user. She cried as we talked and promised she would never get in trouble again. After she was released we talked a few times but our contacts were infrequent. I saw her a few years later and she was an unwed mother. A few years after that she had two children and was in an abusive relationship. The last time I saw her she was moving out of town to start over. I wished her well.

I have not seen or heard from her since.

Police officers deal with situations like this every day in every city. It always is heartbreaking.

Statistics show that abused children eventually fill our prisons and female foster children are disproportionally represented in sex trafficking.

I think of that 11-year-old, curly haired, brown-eyed girl with a big smile whenever I work with foster children. Besides the camp,  I mentor an 11-year-old boy who I meet with regularly. We all could do just a little bit more, I suppose, to help the neediest of these children.

So one week with little sleep doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.

See you next week.

If you would like more information on volunteering with foster children, here are some links:

OC 4 Kids

Orangewood Foundation

Royal Family Kids Camp