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August 11, 2023

Founder of Delco nonprofit that helps 'grandfamilies' charged with child abuse

Rhea Kelsall, whose Gratitude 4 Grandparents aids people who unexpectedly become the caretakers of their grandchildren, and her fiancé allegedly abused 2 boys over multiple years

Investigations Child Abuse
Rhea Kelsall abuse Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Rhea Kelsall, the founder of the Delaware County nonprofit Gratitude 4 Grandparents, and her fiancé, Carl Haner IV, are facing criminal charges for allegedly abusing two boys over multiple years.

The founder of a Delaware County nonprofit that aids children living with their grandparents and her fiancé have been charged with child abuse.

Rhea Kelsall, 65, and Carl Haner IV, 66, of Media, are accused of physically and verbally abusing a pair of boys over multiple years, according to charging documents.

Kelsall is the founder of Gratitude 4 Grandparents, a nonprofit that aims to support "grandfamilies," or people who unexpectedly find themselves as the primary caretakers for their grandchildren. The organization, launched in 2019, has been featured by national news outlets, including PBS NewsHour.

The boys detailed the alleged abuse to forensic interviewers with the Delaware County Child Advocacy Center. 

One boy told investigators that Kelsall and Haner screamed at him and called him names. In one incident, Haner allegedly drank alcohol before he slapped and threw the boy, and then grabbed him around the neck, charging documents state.

Kelsall allegedly grabbed, scratched and pushed the boy. During a trip to a Disney theme park, she allegedly shoved the boy into a trash can because he didn't want to go on a waterslide. The boy told investigators that Kelsall and Haner instructed him to keep quiet about the alleged abuse or else he would be beaten, charging documents state. 

Kelsall allegedly hit the second boy on the buttocks five times and also on the face. The boy told investigators that she once kicked the other boy out of a car, leaving him on the side of the road. She allegedly drove around the block, yelling at the boy still in the car, before picking up the other child and yelling at him, too. 

The children are no longer living with Kelsall and Haner, and are staying with relatives, the Delaware County Daily Times reported. Kelsall and Haner's defense attorney, Christopher Boggs, told the paper that they "vehemently deny the allegations."

Kelsall has been charged with simple assault, conspiracy, intimidation of a victim and endangering the welfare of children, court documents show. Haner has been charged with aggravated assault, strangulation, endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy and related offenses.

Kelsall and Haner each posted the required 10% of $300,000 bail. They have a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Andrew Goldberg on Thursday, Aug. 17. 

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