Couple Who Caged Their Special Needs Children Get Two Years in Prison

Finally, we have a wrap-up (at least temporarily) in this very sad and bizarre case. Sentencing was handed down today for two Ohio adoptive parents who were discovered to be keeping many of their 11 special needs children in cages at night. Michael and Sharon Gravelle were each given two years in prison for child endangerment.

Sharon Gravelle gave a 26-minute statement to the court, where she explained that social services had failed her and her husband. She said they did not offer any help to the couple, despite the very difficult behaviors that the children had. Gravelle described how the children were unruly and some had tried to jump out of their second-story windows. Without the cages, she said, the children would wander at night and might hurt each other. The cages, according to Gravelle, were there for the children’s safety.

Witnesses for their defense included a social worker who stated that the children were benefited by the “bright blue and red cages,” and that no abuse had taken place.

Prosecutors argued that the Gravelles were cruel and had even kept one child locked in a bathroom for eighteen days, forcing him to sleep in a bathtub because he wet the bed. Experts for the defense argued that this “technique” was beneficial to the child.

One of the Gravelle children testified that the cages reaked of urine and had no pillows or mattresses.

This is certainly a failure on many levels. I still wonder why the Gravelles were allowed to adopt so many special needs children in the first place, without careful, frequent follow-ups and scrutiny? Were these hard-to-place kids just passed off to the first home available? Has foster care and special-needs adoption become a money-making scheme for some couples who don’t really intend to do the hard work of parenting? The former Gravelle children are currently in foster care after their adoptive parents lost custody last March.

The Gravelles plan to appeal the decision, and the judge allowed them to remain free on bond pending the appeal.

I think prison time is fair and warranted in this case, but I’d like to know exactly how long these children were caged. Was this abuse going on for years, unchecked? The Gravelles should at least be caged for as long as their children were, or maybe double that time, don’t you think? Fortunately for them, they’ll have flushable toilets and cots to sleep on inside their enclosures.

Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.

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