Foster parents charged with abuse; Indictment says child malnourished

Date: 2005-10-12

Grand jury indicts foster parents in case of malnourished child
Author: KATHLEEN HOPKINS/TOMS RIVER BUREAUSTAFF

Before the authorities intervened, the Davisons had been featured in several Asbury Park Press stories about their work in caring for disabled foster children.

TOMS RIVER - An Ocean County grand jury has indicted the foster parents of a handicapped girl, who was allegedly found severely malnourished last year. The girl bore marks of injuries indicating she had been restrained in her Beachwood foster home for long periods of time, authorities said.

The grand jury handed up an indictment last week, made public Tuesday, charging Cynthia Davison, 48, with child endangerment and with aggravated assault on the girl, who was 5 years old and 21 pounds when authorities removed her from the couple's home in December.

Authorities said at the time that average 5-year-olds weigh between 40 and 50 pounds.

The indictment charged Davison's husband, Ernest, 51, with child endangerment.

It said that the couple, on different dates between Oct. 1, 2004, and Dec. 29, 2004, caused harm to the girl, making her an abused or neglected child.

The indictment said that on different dates in the same time frame, Cynthia Davis "attempted to cause or did cause serious bodily injury" to the child.

Each of them would face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the child endangerment charges. In addition, Cynthia Davis would face a maximum of 10 more years in prison if convicted of the assault.

The couple were freed from the Ocean County Jail after each posting $150,000 bail - a total of $300,000 - last year.

The Davisons' attorneys Tuesday portrayed them as caring parents who took in medically challenged children other foster parents were not prepared to care for.

"They are two of the kindest people," said Cynthia Davison's attorney, S. Karl Mohel.

"They did whatever they could to aid these children, and they gave care and love to children that no one else was able to," Mohel said. "I am confident that after a fair trial, they will be proven as the kind foster parents who they are."

Ernest Davison's attorney, Steven Secare, echoed Mohel's comments.

"They've been taking care of severely physically challenged children for years, and are loving and compassionate people," Secare said. "They've received awards. ... Once we get to the bottom of this, they'll be vindicated."

Before the authorities intervened, the Davisons had been featured in several Asbury Park Press stories about their work in caring for disabled foster children.

According to a story in the Asbury Park Press in January 2003, the Davisons were raising three children: a girl who was then 11 and suffered from Down syndrome; a boy, then 4, with a developmental and eating disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome, and a girl, then 16 months, who required a feeding tube and had a host of disabilities.

The malnourished girl, now 6, had been placed with the couple in October 2003 by a private agency, authorities said.

The girl was removed from the Davisons' home Dec. 29, along with three other disabled children living there, by state Division of Youth and Family Services workers who received a tip that a child who lived there was being neglected.

Authorities said they found the girl malnourished, with bruises on her ankles and wrists indicating she had been restrained for long periods of time. The other children appeared well-cared for, authorities said.

The malnourished girl had not yet been adopted by the Davisons when she was removed from their care, authorities said. Two of the other children removed had already been adopted by the Davisons, and a third was awaiting adoption, they said.

The Davisons also raised five of their own children, who ranged in age from 15 to 26 in January 2003, according to previous Asbury Park Press articles. Their first natural child died at age 3 of kidney failure, they told the newspaper then.

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