16 Sep 2008

Mother of malnourished baby freed

Globe & Mail - Canada
September 16, 2008

by Kate Hammer
The mother of a malnourished infant boy at the centre of a standoff between members of a religious sect and concerned hospital workers was released yesterday on bail, while his father remained in police custody.

The nine-month-old child weighed only 11 pounds when his parents took him to the Hospital for Sick Children and then fled after refusing treatment, according to police reports.
The 22-year-old mother, 36-year-old father and a 24-year-old friend were arrested after they returned and were allegedly combative with hospital staff. They were charged with obstructing police.
Members of the religious sect, the Moorish Science Temple of America, who reject institutionalized medicine and are encouraged to observe a meat- and dairy-free diet, defended the young mother's parenting abilities outside the College Park courtroom where she appeared.
They described a doting mom who placed socks on her baby's hands so that he wouldn't scratch the red and oozing rashes caused by his food allergies, and who observed an increasingly restrictive diet in an attempt to curb the baby's allergic reactions to her breast milk.
"It's not like [she] neglected the baby for nine months," said Kudjo Adwo Sut Tekh El, Grand Sheik of the year-old Toronto chapter, which includes about 30 members.
As she waited in a courthouse hallway for the paperwork to be completed for her daughter's release, the infant's maternal grandmother shook her head with relief.
Allegations that her family hadn't co-operated with police were untrue, she said, and reports that her daughter was involved with a mysterious religious sect, and her grandson was severely malnourished, came as a shock.
"Thank God it's over," she sighed, shortly before her daughter was released from police custody and her lean figure appeared in the hallway.
Wearing a brown hooded sweatshirt, the daughter embraced her mother, who is responsible for ensuring she meets the conditions of her bail. This includes controlled contact with the youngest generation of their family, the malnourished infant and a two-year-old son, who are both in the custody of the Children's Aid Society.
The mother and her 24-year-old friend are scheduled to appear again in court at College Park today at 10 a.m.; the father is scheduled to appear tomorrow.
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