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Abusive Parents Lose Custody Of "Caged" Kids
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 20, 2006

NORWALK, OHIO--A judge has terminated the parental rights of a couple that forced some of their 11 children with disabilities to sleep in cage-like beds.

Huron County Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Cardwell said Monday that it would not be in the children's best interests to return to Michael and Sharen Gravelle. In his ruling, Cardwell reportedly said he believed the children would be at risk of further abuse if they were placed back with the couple.

According to the Toledo Blade, Cardwell placed 10 of the children in the permanent custody of the county's Department of Job and Family Services. The other child, whose adoption had not been completed when she was removed from the Gravelle home, will be placed in temporary custody while it is determined whether her current foster parents could adopt her.

County sheriff's deputies and social workers removed the children, who now range in age from 2 to 15, from the Gravelles' rural home on September 9, after finding several wire and wood enclosures armed with electric alarms. They also found a strong smell of urine, no working smoke alarms on the second floor where the children slept, and the door to one bedroom that was blocked by a dresser.

During a seven-day hearing that ended earlier this month, county social workers testified that the Gravelles continued to create a hostile environment, and refused to cooperate with them, including failing to undergo psychological evaluations as directed.

The Gravelles have said they had to use strict discipline to handle the children because of their disabilities. The couple said the beds were covered with wire and electric alarms to keep them from wandering around the house, urinating on baseboard heaters, taking knives from the kitchen and hitting each other.

Several of the children testified in December, including one boy who said that he and his siblings were sometimes sent into the chicken-wire enclosures as punishment, often for soiling or wetting their beds. The boy also recounted how he was forced to spend 81 days in the family's bathroom -- only being let out for some meals and to go to school -- as punishment for urinating in his wire "box".

Last month, the Gravelles were charged with 16 criminal counts of felony child endangering, eight misdemeanor counts of falsifying adoption applications, and one felony count of lying under oath when being qualified for adoption funding.

Independent licensed social worker Elaine Thompson was also charged with 16 felony counts of aiding and abetting child endangering, eight misdemeanor counts of complicity to child endangering, and eight misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect. Thompson approved of the wire enclosures after diagnosing many of the children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a diagnosis that psychologists hired by the county said the children do not have.

"Judge grants permanent custody of caged kids to Huron County" (Toledo Blade)


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