A judge ruled that a couple abused some of their 11 adopted children by making them sleep in wooden cages without pillows or mattresses. The special-needs children, who were removed from the home of Michael and Sharen Gravelle on Sept. 9, will remain in foster care until Huron County Juvenile Judge Timothy Cardwell holds another hearing to determine their future. Cardwell also dismissed allegations that the Gravelles neglected the children. Thursday's written ruling noted there was no evidence that the Gravelles did not feed or cloth the youngsters.
But forcing the children to sleep in cages constituted abuse, Cardwell wrote. The Gravelles have not been charged with a crime and have denied abusing the children. They say they built the cages in 2003 to protect the children from each other and themselves. The children, ages 1 to 15, have health and behavioral problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder which involves eating nonfood items.
The cages had alarms that would go off if the children got out of them at night. A school-age Gravelle child testified that the couple forced him to stay in his "box" for up to two weeks for taking peanut butter, bread and cereal from the kitchen. He said another time he was forced to live in the bathroom for nearly three months for urinating in his enclosed bed. He also testified that he liked the Gravelles as parents and felt safe in their home.
Asked if he wanted to live with them again, he said, "I don't know." Elaine Thompson, a social worker hired by the Gravelles, testified that the boy only slept in the bathtub, which helped improve his problem wetting the bed. Thompson discredited much of the boy's testimony, including that the parents shoved the heads of two children in the toilet as punishments.
She said she approved the cages but never asked the children how they felt about them during their weekly counseling sessions. One expert hired by the county testified that 11 special-needs children were too many to have in one home. But an employee from the agency that helped place the 11th child in the Gravelle home disagreed, saying she had no reason to believe the couple couldn't handle the children, reports the AP. N.U.