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Child abuse – even reading the word can leave you feeling with an empty, deeply sad feeling inside. If only I could help; no child should ever experience such pain and absence of love; if only I could make a difference and change a child’s life. These are thoughts that probably float through your head when you hear stories of child abuse in the news. The same thoughts probably came across Oklahoma police officer Jody Thompson’s mind as well, and this is how they affected the rest of his life.
Officer Jody Thompson’s Fateful Day
One day in 2015, Thompson pulled into the parking lot of Poteau Police Department in Oklahoma. He was just going to drop off his partner at the end of the day when he overheard a dispatch about physical child abuse.
Although he wasn’t on duty, Thompson responded to the call and offered his assistance. Sixteen years prior, he quite frequently handled numerous abuse cases while working for the district attorney’s office. Thompson had “investigated child abuse cases before [and] thought [he’d] better go ahead and respond,” a decision that would change his life forever.
Even with all the training you do in the police academy, nothing will ever prepare you to see a 61-pound 8-year-old boy, wrists bound by belts, a huge bump on his head, bruises lining his back, submerged in a trash can filled with cold water.
“He did not have a spot on his body that didn’t have a bruise or abrasion,” Thompson told CBS News. “It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
A Father to the Fatherless
Thompson soon discovered the boy’s name was John. He drove the small, vulnerable boy to an Oklahoma Children’s Advocacy Center so photos could be taken of his body, before taking him to emergency. But when Thompson got to hospital, he couldn’t let John out of his sight.
“When I’d seen him in that house shivering and his hands tied – just soaking wet and confused – I knew at that moment the only time I would be satisfied and sure that he was safe is if he was with me.”
In only two days, Thompson had gone through the process with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to become a foster parent and brought John home. Keeping in mind that Thompson had a wife and two boys already, aged 8 and 15, this was a huge decision to make almost on a whim. But, incredibly, his whole family understood.
“When I brought John home I didn’t tell them or my wife. Everyone knew… they trusted I was doing the right thing before they even knew what happened and heard the story.”
Seven months later…
On November 3, 2015, Thompson received a call from Oklahoma’s DHS – while John’s biological mother was in jail, she had given birth to a girl. In a powerful gesture, they asked Thompson if he and his family would be interested in fostering her, too. Apparently, the decision was a no-brainer.
“We literally picked her up in the hospital the next day when she was a day old and brought her straight home. Never in my life did I dream of having a large family, but God had different plans and so here we are. And I’m loving it all.”
John’s biological parents are each in jail and awaiting criminal trials and while they gave up their parental rights for him, they did not do the same for their daughter. However, this didn’t last long and after months-long jury trial and appeal, the Thompson family formally adopted the little girl, Paizley.
After living through that childhood nightmare, testifying against his biological parents in court, and the continued internal struggle, his family – the Thompson family – is nothing short of proud of John who’s now 10-years-old.
“[John’s] the toughest buy I ever met. John is amazing. He’s a straight-A student, on the honor roll, in the gifted and talented program, involved in the local drama club. That kid’s very resilient. He bounced back from this.”
Thompson’s Certificate of Commendation
In June 2017, Oklahoma’s Bureau of Investigations gave Thompson a certificate of commendation while John stood by his father’s side. Poteau Police Chief said of Officer Thompson:
“Jody’s actions as well as his family’s are second to none. The example of love and compassion he has shown to this young man and his sister is an example everyone should follow. It’s men like you that make me proud of our law enforcement brothers and sisters You are very deserving of this commendation. I am proud to serve with you.”
To this, Thompson graciously responded with something every family can glean: “We went through something bad, but we’re not going to let it define who we are. We’re not going to let this hold us back. Always have compassion, you never know what you’re going to walk into.”