It was a familiar scene for officers at the peak of the crystal meth pandemic, an underweight baby lying on a bed next to her mother and drug paraphernalia, unkempt, malnourished and neglected, but unlike many drug-related stories, this one has a happy ending for both the infant and officer who moved her into protective custody.
The Escondido Police Department in California posted a heartwarming social media post this week, celebrating the success of Natalie Young, the child saved by Officer Jeff Valdivia that fateful November day 22 years ago.
Valdivia surprised Young at her El Paso County Sheriff’s Academy Graduation, pinning the new deputy and bringing their shared experience full circle.
Young, who knew the story of being rescued by a police officer when she was 6-weeks-old, always hoped to someday thank him for saving her from her 17-year-old mother and a life of few opportunities. Young’s adoptive parents, Jeff and Shelley Young, set out to find the officer for the baby they adopted on New Years’ Day 2000. Natalie Young, who works in police dispatch, located Valdivia still working for the Escondido Police Department.
“My mom sat me down…she was like, I found the officer that saved your life,” Young told 10News. “When I tell you, I couldn’t even speak. He’s coming to my graduation? [My mom] said ‘he’s going to pin the badge on you!'”
In an emotional and heartwarming moment, Valdivia congratulated Young as he pinned her new badge on her sheriff’s uniform.
“I could never re-experience that feeling,” Young said of meeting Valdivia and having him present for such a momentous milestone. “The whole time I was holding back tears at graduation. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
While Valdivia has seen much in his long career in law enforcement, he still remembers that long-ago day and has often wondered how the innocent victim fared.
“Personally, I feel blessed just to have found out what happened to her,” he said, flashing back to their first meeting. “She was underweight…and of course the house was a mess. Just being invited to her graduation was a huge honor but being asked to pin her badge on was definitely a career highlight for me. You can just tell she cares about people. She’s gonna make a great cop.”
Although Young lives in Colorado, the two plan to stay in touch.
Their respective departments congratulated the new deputy and her veteran savior in their social media posts.
“Congratulations, Deputy Young! Welcome to a noble profession,” the Escondido PD Facebook post read.
“[Valdivia] truly made a positive and long-lasting impact not only on Deputy Young but to the community he serves,” the El Paso Sheriff’s Office wrote. “The EPSO appreciates our first responders in all communities and we alongside them will always be committed to service before self.”
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