OAKLAND PARK, FLA. (WSVN) - A concerned mother drove nearly a thousand miles to South Florida so she could be reunited with the 3-year-old son she had not seen in more than a year.
Prior to the heartwarming reunion, Mississippi resident Callie Frith said she is relieved little Sterling was located safely, but she was also terrified the toddler would not remember her. “I’m just so happy that I finally got to find him,” she said.
7News cameras captured Sterling as he walked into an office while holding a black and white balloon. Seated just feet away from him was his mother, who called out his name as the toddler walked toward her.
She then picked him up and hugged him. “It’s going to be all right now,” she told him.
The anxious mother drove 932 miles overnight after the Broward Sheriff’s Office had notified her they had located Sterling, months after the boy had vanished with his father.
Frith, a single mother, said she never imagined her son’s one-week visit to Ocala to visit his sick great-grandmother on his father’s side, then his grandmother in Fort Lauderdale, would turn into such heartache.
Frith posted a video and pictures of Sterling on Facebook months ago. She put up fliers and begged for answers, to no avail, even after the courts granted her full custody of her son in March.
Then, BSO detectives got a lead from Mississippi. They were told the word “creative” may be in the name of the daycare his father was using.
That clue led them to the Creative Minds Preschool on East Oakland Park Boulevard, where they found the missing child. “I see the child sitting at a table with other kids,” said BSO Detective Elisa Galindez.
Sterling is too young to understand what his mother had to endure in order to be with him again. “Even if a week goes by, and I don’t see my children, I can only imagine what this mom was going through,” said Galindez.
Authorities said Sterling’s father won’t face any charges because he was never served the custody papers. Deputies could not find him.
It’s a tough reality for Frith but one that won’t take away this moment.
Mother and son headed home hand in hand, something Frith had always wanted for herself as a child in the foster care system but never got. “My parents dropped me off, and I didn’t know what happened, if I did something wrong,” she said as she held back tears. “I felt so abandoned, and I just didn’t want my son to feel like I just left him and didn’t care because I do. I love my son, and I looked every day for him.”
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