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Parents Abused Caged Children, Judge Rules
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 30, 2005

NORWALK, OHIO--The adoptive parents of 11 children with disabilities abused eight of them by forcing them to sleep in wire enclosures, a judge has ruled.

Huron County Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Cardwell decided on December 23 that Michael and Sharen Gravelle abused the children by making them sleep in wooden cages without pillows or mattresses.

All of the children, ages 1 to 15, were removed from the Gravelle home on September 9 after a social worker and sheriff's deputies searched the residence where they found several wire and wood enclosures, a strong smell of urine, and no working smoke alarms on the second floor where the children slept.

The couple claimed that they built the enclosures in 2003 to keep the children -- who have developmental and other disabilities -- from hurting themselves or each other.

Earlier this month, one child testified that his parents often sent him and his siblings into the chicken-wire enclosures as punishment, sometimes for soiling or wetting their beds. The boy recounted other punishments for urinating in his wire "box", such as being forced one time to spend 81 days in the bathroom, only being let out for some meals and to go to school. At other times, he testified, his parents made him go outside in wet clothes while the rest of the family got up to use the bathroom.

Cardwell said the children's disabilities, medical conditions and behavioral problems had become too difficult for the Gravelles to handle.

"In this overwhelmed state, the Gravelles made a series of poor parental decisions that were detrimental to the children and led to an appropriate intervention by the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services and the Huron County sheriff," he wrote.

Cardwell said there was no evidence to support allegations that the Gravelles neglected the children, noting that the couple apparently provided them with adequate food and clothing.

According to the Associated Press, the Gravelles have not been charged with any crime and they have denied abusing the children. The children will remain in foster care until Cardwell holds a hearing on whether the Gravelles should regain permanent custody.

Cardwell allowed the children to have a two-hour visit Thursday with their parents and a grandmother at the Huron County Job and Family Services office.

"Judge: Caged kids abused" (Cincinnati Enquirer)
"Judge cites abuse, keeps caged kids under foster care" (Toledo Blade)
"Parents accused of caging kids get supervised visit" (Associated Press via Dayton Daily News)

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