County agency faces heavy criticism in case
Children Services knew about the cages for two years, one juror said.
NORWALK, Ohio (AP) -- The court-appointed guardian for several adopted children who were forced to sleep in cages criticized the county's Children Services agency Thursday for not acting more quickly to remove the youths from their home.
"How do I justify to these children why they had to wait two years to be taken out of cages when at least six workers knew about it?" Margaret Kern said at a Huron County commissioners meeting. "It's common decency. Children protective services failed to protect -- that's what they're there for."
Kern's comments came after a member of the jury that convicted Michael and Sharen Gravelle of abusing some of their 11 adopted children wrote a letter criticizing the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services.
Commission president Gary Bauer acknowledged there were questions that needed to be asked. He said the commissioners did not have enough facts to make any decisions.
"It's not something we're ignoring," Bauer said. "It's not something we're going to sweep under the rug."
Juror Nancy Whitacre sent a letter to Bauer and a newspaper, saying the county's Children Services agency knew about "cages with sirens" two years before the children were taken from the home of Michael and Sharen Gravelle.
Both Michael Gravelle, 57, and Sharen Gravelle, 58, were convicted last month of four felony counts of child endangering, two misdemeanor counts of child endangering and five misdemeanor counts of child abuse. Each was acquitted of 13 additional charges.
The children, who suffered from problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating nonfood items, ranged in age from 1 to 14 when authorities removed them in September 2005 from the Gravelle home in rural Wakeman, about 60 miles west of Cleveland. They were placed in foster care last fall and the couple lost custody in March.
The parents contended during the trial that they needed to keep some of the children in enclosed beds rigged with alarms to protect them from their own dangerous behavior and stop them from wandering at night.
The Gravelles could face one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 10,000 for each felony count when they are sentenced Feb. 12.