When Ali, 63, asked the boy what he could do for him, the child broke down crying. He told Ali that his mother had beaten him for not separating the laundry or doing the dishes. He said she beat him with a belt and her fists.
"On his arms was all these red marks," Ali said. "I looked at his back. His back was worse than the arms."
The boy told Ali that his mother had beaten him before, but never like this. Ali called the police.
"I said to him, 'Nobody deserves that,' " Ali said. "He was crying periodically. He would cry and then stop and pull himself together but every time he told the story he'd cry."
When police counted all of the welts and abrasions on the boy's back, arms and shins, they numbered 27, Upper Darby police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said.
Police said all the marks were believed to have been made about 7 p.m. Monday.
Given the nature and severity of the child's injuries, police charged his mother, Samantha Starnes, 39, with simple assault, harassment, endangering the welfare of a child, recklessly endangering another person and possessing instruments of a crime, namely, the belt, Chitwood said.
"I believe that parents have a right to discipline their children. I think it's important today and I think it should be part of raising a child," Chitwood said. "I think to brutalize your child . . . it's not acceptable. It rises to the level of criminality."
Chitwood said police contacted Delaware County Children and Youth Services, which set up a safety plan for the boy, who was turned over to family members. The boy's father is not in the picture and he is an only child, according to police.
Ali, who has worked at the center since it opened four years ago, said he's had other traumatic walk-ins, like teenagers reporting sexual abuse, but this was the first child who has ever come in on his own.
"He was brave enough to come in and tell on his mother," Ali said. "I'm glad he knew this was a safe place."
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