Pennsylvania Parents Charged After 2-Year-Old Ella Foster Dies Of Pneumonia

Jonathan and Grace Foster are the parents of 2-year-old Pennsylvania toddler Ella Foster, and the pair reportedly doesn’t “believe in medicine.” Or doctors. Their reasons, according to investigators, are purely religious. And, also according to investigators, that disbelief directly led to little Ella’s tragic, preventable death in November of last year.

Now, the Pennsylvania parents are facing serious criminal charges for not getting their seriously ill 2-year-old the medical care she so desperately needed. Medical care that, despite the Fosters’ religious disbelief, authorities believe could have saved the toddler.


As Fox 29 reports, the parents of Ella Foster have been arrested for their alleged medical neglect. The Pennsylvania couple has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. The couple are reportedly members of a non-denominational church known as Faith Tabernacle. One of the church’s primary tenants is a disavowal of all medical treatment.

“This is not a case of ability or inability to afford medical care.”

According to authorities, at least 10 other children with ties to the controversial Pennsylvania church have died of treatable illnesses in recent decades. The Foster parents are not the first members of Faith Tabernacle to be prosecuted for their children’s “faith healing” deaths, and authorities are hopeful that this case will serve as a warning to other members of the congregation.

“I hope that the members of this church understand that authorities, such as our office, will not tolerate children not receiving medical care.”


Police discovered the death and alleged medical neglect of 2-year-old Ella Foster when they responded to a call at her Berks County, Pennsylvania home. Presumably, it was one of her parents who eventually called police but by that time, it was far too late. According to police, little Ella was already dead when they arrived at the family’s home on November 8.

“Our laws recognize that you have a duty to care for your child’s health and welfare, and we cannot justify a parent not seeking health care for their children when their children are ill.”

As Fox News reports, death by pneumonia is incredibly painful and accompanied by an array of harsh symptoms. While pneumonia can kill quickly or slowly, depending on the type, it is almost always treatable with modern medicine if caught early. It is unknown what type of pneumonia claimed the life of Pennsylvania toddler Ella Foster, but it is unlikely that the child’s parents were unaware that the little girl was extremely ill.

Pneumonia in young children is most frequently a viral infection, and it often begins in the upper respiratory tract. The symptoms that Ella Foster’s parents may have witnessed in their daughter could have included a cough, fever, shaking chills, sinus symptoms, changes in breathing (either breathing faster or struggling to breath), an unwillingness to eat and/or vomiting. The Pennsylvania toddler may also have suffered from chest and/or abdominal pain during her illness. In the case of a virus, it is most likely that Ella Foster would have been sick for some time, with her symptoms progressing and becoming more pronounced as her condition worsened.

Pneumonia can also be a bacterial infection of the lungs. In cases of bacterial pneumonia, illness can have a very rapid onset and progression, usually accompanied by an extremely high fever.


According to the parents of the Pennsylvania 2-year-old, Ella had been exhibiting cold symptoms for about two days before her tragic death. They claim that, at some point, toddler began to struggle with her breathing. According to Grace and Jonathan Foster, Ella “died in her dad’s arms.”

The medical examiner in the case claims that the little girl’s survival odds, with proper treatment consisting of nothing more than antibiotics, was 95 percent.

Investigators claim that the girl’s father told Pennsylvania police that his church would have “frowned upon” the seeking of medical care for Ella.

So-called “faith healing” child deaths are a problem across the country, despite only seven states having laws on the books that allow parents to utilize “religious exemptions” to deny necessary medical care to their children. One such state is Idaho, and that state’s use of legal religious exemptions was scrutinized by its legislature last August, reports The Spokesman-Review.


As in the case of Pennsylvania toddler Ella Foster, a handful of Idaho children lose their lives annually as a result of their parents refusing to get them the medical care they need. The only difference is that, in Idaho, parents can deny their children medical care for religious reasons. During last year’s legislative hearing, parents who support having the right to deny medical care to their children had the opportunity to speak to lawmakers.

“We believe that pharmaceuticals and medicine is a product from Satan. Proof can be found in one of the lost books of Enoch. [He said he equates medicine to ‘witchcraft and sorcery’] Those who imbibe in those things will not attain a home in heaven. That is our belief. … We do disagree with medicine and believe that it puts our very eternal lives in jeopardy.”

The above quote was taken from a statement made by 52-year-old Dan Sevy, father of five. Of his five children, only three survived to adulthood.


Because roughly one dozen children in the United States die every year as a result of failed faith healing efforts, at least one state has taken extreme steps to protect children suffering from medical neglect.

In Oregon, neither faith healing nor religious freedom can be used as a legal defense in a murder trial.

In the case of Pennsylvania toddler Ella Foster, many details have remained unclear to the public. However, the prosecuting attorney and Pennsylvania State Police held a press conference discussing the case and the arrest of the girl’s parents on Wednesday afternoon.

As the Toronto Sun reports, the parents of Ella Foster have been released from custody on unsecured bail and are back home with their other six young kids. Authorities are reportedly closely monitoring the welfare of the other children due to the death of Ella Foster and claim that the Pennsylvania parents have promised to seek medical attention for them should they fall ill.

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