Malnourished Toddler Of Vegan Parents Had No Teeth, Looked 'Terrified'
A young girl who was malnourished by her extreme vegan parents is now -- remarkably -- considered “obese” because of the stunted way her body has grown, a Sydney court has heard.
The child, now aged two-and-a-half, was removed from her parents’ care in March 2018, after being taken to the Sydney Children’s Hospital suffering a seizure.
Doctors found her to be extremely malnourished, with rickets, fragile bones and deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, zinc, calcium, and B12. Her levels of vitamin D were almost undetectable.
In a victim’s impact statement read to the District Court, the little girl’s temporary foster carer described her shock when meeting the child in hospital for the first time.
“She looked like a three-month-old baby,” the statement said.
The carer said the girl had no teeth, was being fed through a tube in her nose, and must have been “terrified” with tubes coming out of her body.
The youngster had been kept on a strict diet since birth by her vegan parents, which included items such as oats and rice milk, and no meat or dairy.
Her bones were so weak, they could break from what specialists described as “normal handling”.
In December, her parents — both aged in their early thirties — pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide for a child, causing serious injury.
The District Court also heard on Thursday that the parents did not officially register the girl’s birth, did not immunise her, did not list her on a Medicare card, or even name her for two weeks after she was born.
The carer’s statement was read to the court as part of sentencing proceedings.
She said the girl was “defenceless and unable to protect herself” from her parents' criminality.
She said while other children the same age were able to run around, this girl “couldn’t sit up, couldn’t speak any words [and] couldn’t hold her bottle.”
She said while the girl is now two-and-a-half, she is still only the height of a standard one-year-old, and while she can now walk, communicate using gestures and speak about 20 words, “It has not come easy”.
“It has taken hours of persistence and hard work from (the child)...” the carer said.
The child's height and weight are still not in proportion, because while she now eats a normal amount of food, she has not grown to an appropriate height, and is now classified as “obese”.
“It’s like her body is storing calories, in case she needs them in the future,” the carer said.
She also told the court she remains worried about the physical consequences for the child’s future.
“People ask her age, and are shocked," she said.
“She stands out as different.”
The girl now lives with a relative in Queensland, along with her two older brothers.
The Crown also called upon evidence from psychiatrist Dr Yvonne Skinner, who had interviewed the mother.
Skinner said in her opinion the mother was not suffering from post-natal depression, as she had expressed great enjoyment when the child was born, formed loving relationships with her children, had regular appointments to get her eye-lashes done, and had gone to great lengths to research appropriate schools for her oldest son.
The mother dabbed at her face using a tissue while the carer’s statement was read.
She and the father -- who had previously walked into court hand in hand -- sat well apart from each other in court and did not speak to one another.
Judge Sarah Huggett is expected to sentence the pair at a future date.