CARTHAGE, Mo. — Two girls were removed from foster care in Carthage on Monday and are being treated at a hospital in Kansas City with their foster mother facing four felony counts of child abuse.

Carthage police arrested Jennifer L. Chambers, 42, early Tuesday morning after an investigation of injuries that appeared to have been inflicted on two biological sisters, ages 3 and 8, who have been in her care since the spring of 2019.

The two girls' injuries came to light Monday when Chambers brought the younger one to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin at the insistence of a witness who saw her pale and curled up in a fetal position in her bedroom with a distended abdomen and "in obvious pain," according to a probable-cause affidavit filed with the charges brought against the foster mother on Tuesday.

Freeman staff discovered numerous injuries on the girl, including bruises to her knees, elbows, ankles and forehead; a sore on the inside of her lower lip; a scabbed-over wound above an eyebrow; a purplish knot on her skull; a rash that ran from her cheek down her arms and torso to her legs; and nail marks down the side of her face.

She was flown by medical helicopter to Children's Mercy Hospital In Kansas City, where doctors reported lacerations to her liver and spleen and a suspicion that she may have some bleeding on her brain, according to the affidavit.

Freeman staff concerns prompted a well-being check on the girl's older sister by child abuse investigators with the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services. They found the 8-year-old girl with one eye socket heavily bruised and the eye swollen shut. She was taken by ambulance to Freeman, where the Carthage police officer who wrote the affidavit reported seeing bruising on the side of her face that appeared to have been inflicted by the palm of a hand.

Hospital staff documented two broken fingers and other fractures on the older sister's left hand as well as additional bruising on her neck and head. The older sister, whom the affidavit states has a tracheostomy and requires special medical care, also was transferred to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Chambers offered no explanation for the girls' injuries to hospital staff and police other than that they fell frequently, according to the affidavit. The document further states that she has "a history of domestic assault investigations" with Carthage police. There is no explanation in the affidavit as to how she was permitted to become a foster parent with a history of involvement in domestic assaults.

Chambers had sole legal care and custody of the two girls, according to the affidavit. Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan said police are looking into the possibility that she may have legally adopted the girls since becoming their foster mother. But, lacking that determination as yet, the affidavit refers to her as their foster mother, he said.

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