Vegan Parents Arrested After Investigators Find Baby ‘Close to Death’

By Zachary Stieber

Parents in Florida were arrested after investigators found their baby clearly malnourished.

Titusville police officers said that Julia French, 20, and Robert Buskey, 31, knew their 5-month-old son wasn’t doing well, but failed to do anything.

The family physician provided orders regarding the child’s nutrition and the baby was improving but the couple switched him to a potato-based mash, leading to a severe health decline.

“I’ve never seen a child to this level, this close to possible death,” Detective Lauren Watson with the Titusville Police Department told WFTV.

She said that the child may suffer long-term issues due to the malnourishment.

The couple told police they are vegan but didn’t explain why they stopped using the formula the doctor advised them to in favor of the mash.

Vegans cut out meat and dairy products, including milk, cheese, and eggs. Some vegans are stricter than others on products such as honey and, like some vegetarians, may have days or meals where they consume products they normally wouldn’t.

French and Buskey were booked into Brevard County Jail for neglect with great harm, with additional charges possible.

The baby, who weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces, five months after being born at 7 pounds, 9 ounces, was taken to a hospital. The infant gained half a pound just by being given fluids, highlighting his severe dehydration and malnourishment, according to court documents. He is in custody of the Department of Children and Families.

French and Buskey aren’t officially married but a source told WESH that French describes herself as Buskey’s concubine under their religion, Nazarite Hebrew.

French told investigators that she found the recipe for the potato-based mash on the internet.

Australian Parents Kept Malnourished Toddler Out of Sight

An Australian couple who pleaded guilty to causing their young daughter serious injury after she was found severely malnourished kept the toddler hidden from neighbors, who didn’t even know she existed.

The girl’s mother and father, aged 32 and 34 respectively, pleaded guilty in December 2018. The couple was not identified, Australian and English media reported, citing strict laws in Australia.

Officials said the parents fed the girl a diet so extreme that she developed rickets.

“Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the gastrointestinal tract. A deficiency of vitamin D makes it difficult to maintain proper calcium and phosphorus levels in bones, which can cause rickets.”

Neighbors told police officers that they thought the family only had two boys and were unaware of the third child.

The girl had no medical records after leaving the hospital in 2016 after being born in good condition, as her parents refused to take her to doctors.

The girl was finally admitted to the hospital 19 months later after suffering a seizure at the family’s home in Sydney.

While at the hospital, the girl’s mother informed doctors that her family followed a vegan diet.

The mother said her daughter would typically eat one cup of oats with rice milk and half a banana for breakfast and a piece of toast with jam or peanut butter for lunch.

The family typically prepared tofu, rice, or potatoes for dinner but the girl was a “fussy eater” so she may have had oats again for the evening meal, reported the Daily Mail.

The extreme diet resulted in severe deficiencies of a number of nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin A, and iron.

How to Report Suspected Child Maltreatment

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, contact your local child protective services office or law enforcement agency so officials can investigate and assess the situation. Most states have a number to call to report abuse or neglect.

To find out where to call, consult the State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers website.

The Childhelp organization also can provide crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. Contact them at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

“Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children),” according to Childhelp.