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Elizabeth Susan MacDonnell and her husband leave Nova Scotia Supreme Court Thursday. (CBC)

A Dartmouth, N.S., foster mother pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life by denying food to her two-year-old foster daughter.

Susan Elizabeth MacDonnell, 43, was first charged in June 2010 with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, as well as the other two charges after the foster child became more ill while being treated at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

Crown attorney Catherine Cogswell told the court Thursday that the little girl nearly died after being hospitalized due to malnutrition.

The Crown will be seeking a five-year jail term when MacDonnell is sentenced on March 1. She is free on bail until then.

The criminal acts took place over a two-month period beginning in February 2010, after the little girl was hospitalized with dehydration and malnutrition.

Cogswell said the child, who has special needs, is doing well, but medical staff at the IWK Health Centre suspected wrongdoing when the child was slow to recover.

"The allegations of the Crown are that the child almost died as a result of being deprived of food for a lengthy period of time," she said.

At an earlier bail hearing, the Crown said MacDonnell admitted to disconnecting the child's feeding tube in the hospital, and to diluting a high glucose formula at least six times.

A psychiatric examination found the mother fit to stand trial. Defense lawyer, Jean Morris, has asked for a pre-sentence report to try and reduce the five-year jail term the Crown is seeking.

"Ms. MacDonnell has no criminal record. This is her first offense. That being said, these are very serious and egregious offenses. That's why we are looking at  what we perceive as a lengthy period of incarceration," Cogswell said.

Other foster children in MacDonnell's household were also removed by the Department of Community Services.