Mar 3, 2017

Minster-grandfather charged in death of 2-year-old girl who died after lack of medical care

Jonathan and Grace Foster have surrendered custody of their six children. The Berks County couple, who are members of Faith Tabernacle, a faith-healing sect, are charged in the November death of their two-year-old daughter Ella, who died of pneumonia.
 Members of Faith Tabernacle, a faith-healing sect.
By Barbara Miller
Penn Live
March 2, 2017

A grandfather who is also a minister is charged with failing to report the death of his granddaughter, whose parents didn't seek medical treatment for her due to their faith.

Rowland George Foster, 71, of the 400 block of North Ninth Street, Lebanon, is charged with failing to report child abuse, a third degree felony, court records say.

Foster, police said, "had reasonable cause to suspect that the victim died due to a failure to obtain adequate medical care."

Jonathan and Grace Foster of Upper Tulpehocken Township, Berks County, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the Nov. 8 pneumonia death of their daughter, Ella Grace, age 2.

The Fosters, members of Mechanicsburg-based Faith Tabernacle church, attributed the toddler's death to "God's will," according to charges filed in the case.

The Fosters told police their church does not believe in any medical treatment whatsoever, charging documents state.

Rowland Foster is pastor of Faith Tabernacle's Harrisburg district, which includes Lebanon, Mechanicsburg, Shippensburg and Schuylkill Haven, and is also Ella Foster's grandfather.

Rowland Foster told police he received a call from Grace Foster the evening of Nov. 7, after arriving home from a meeting of church elders in Philadelphia. She asked him to come to their home to anoint the child, which is performed in their faith when someone is ill.

Foster said he knew the child had a cold, since she hadn't been at church the previous Sunday.

The day after the anointing, Foster said he again visited the child, and found her in the same condition as the night before, which he described as "resting peacefully."

As he left, he said Jonathan Foster was holding the girl in his arms, and that she "appeared peaceful and that there was no detection of anything out of the ordinary."

Afterward, he said he got a call from Jonathan Foster telling him the child had died. Foster said he went back to the home to be with the family.

Foster told authorities he saw Ella between 11 and 11:45 a.m. on the day she died, and recalled she was "not talking much during the morning, and that she sounded sick."

The Berks County coroner said the child died between 3:20 and 3:24 p.m.

As a minister, Foster was a mandated reporter, and is required to report child abuse, police said, which can include failing to provide a child with adequate medical care, police said.

After arriving back at the home and seeing the child's body, police said he failed to report the child had died due to medical neglect.

Foster was released on his own recognizance and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 8.

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