Children in cages? So what's the problem?

WTF? Eleven children in Ohio, all special needs kids apparently, were found in cages:

The children were found in nine cages built into the walls of the house near this small city in northern Ohio, according to the Huron County Sheriff's Office. They had no blankets or pillows, and the cages were rigged with alarms that sounded if opened, Lt. Randy Sommers said.

The children told authorities they slept in the cages - 40 inches high and 40 inches deep - at night. Doors to some of the cages were blocked with heavy furniture.

Sharen and Mike Gravelle are adoptive or foster parents for all 11 children, officials said. Prosecutors were reviewing the case, but no charges had been filed as of Monday night.

And then (my emphasis):

Appearing with a lawyer at the hearing, the Gravelles denied they had abused or neglected the children.

County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said the Gravelles claimed a psychiatrist recommended they place the children in cages.

Hello, screening for adoption and foster care? HOW could this couple possibly have been found suitable to raise children? Making children sleep in cages is okay? Didn't social workers ever visit the house? This just makes me sick.


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I also saw this and was

I also saw this and was going to post about it. I wonder if there's been a case study of the "adoptive parents who treated children like animals" syndrome. There have been several cases of it, and we may overestimate its frequency because of the attention they automatically receive. At one level, it could be explained simply by banal evil--the parents see these children as a way to get assistance from the government. But I'm not sure that all of the cases have been from parents who got money in that way.

I'm sure there's some evo-psych cant about the question.


First, let me make it clear that I'm NOT advocating putting children in cages, many of you have or even know an autistic child? My oldest is mildly retarded and is in the higher funtioning spectrum of autism. He takes care of himself for the most part, reads at grade level. Until puberty, he was rather placid, easy to get along with, just not relating to or showing any interest in other people or things the way other folks do. Then puberty hit and all of a sudden he started saying he wanted to go "out for a walk." "Hurray", I thought. "He's actually showing a spontaneous interest in something." But when he started wanting to leave every ten minutes my mom radar went up. So I surreptitiously followed him and found that he was visiting a little boy down the street. I caught him just as he was about to pull down his pants!

As you can imagine, this behavior had a great impact on my home. Even though we explained that his actions were wrong and could get him arrested, got him psychiatric helpand counseling, he continued to try to leave the house. I put inside locks on the doors and wore the keys around my neck. He figured out how to get out throught the one vulnerable point, the rear sliding door, that by the way, didn't make a sound when it was opened. My other children, husband and I were on constant 24 hour alert. I was mentally exhausted and depressed. When I went to my local community services board, they told me they could fund an aide that could come in for half an hour once a week! Eventually,with medication and 3 times per week therapy and constant reinforcement by his parents, my son's impulses now appear to be under control. Of course, I still keep a watchful, if not as desperate, eye on him.

Now, imagine having ELEVEN kids like mine, whom I am sure are much more severely autistic. Also remember that the report said they were put in the cages to sleep, not "kept" in them. These children may exhibit self injuring behavior,pose an escape risk, safety risk (i.e. start fires, flood the commode, hurt other people, not understand that knives are dangerous, etc.). What would these folks do? They probably don't have eleven bedrooms to lock the kids into at night. They have to sleep sometime. I'd be willing to bet they don't get any social service aid. Short of using phyical restraints (Posey restraints) like they use in hosptals and nursing homes, these folks may have been desperate to keep these kids and themselves safe. There aren't exactly people lining up to take care of these kids.

I have no idea how I would cope with their problem. What would you do?

Thanks for your story

I'm glad you posted that, flameworker, and I don't want you or anyone else to think I don't sympathize with parents of special needs children. What got to me about this case is 1.) the fact that these parents chose to adopt more and more children when they obviously didn't have the resources to care for them. It's not clear whether any of the children were the couple's biological children, so this is speculation, but why didn't they say, "We don't have room or time for any more children? Why did they take in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh?* Of course it's best to keep children from hurting themselves or each other, perhaps locking them into rooms to achieve that objective, but those cages weren't much bigger than dog crates! And 2.) the utter failure of the system:

Officials are investigating how the adoptive parents managed to take in the children, and why no one kept closer tabs on the youngsters. The children have since been placed with foster families.

"I don't believe there were any case workers checking in with this family," said Erich Dumbeck, director of the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services.

So, I guess what I'd do in your situation is, exactly what you did. But in their situation? I probably would have taken in fewer than eleven children.

Fortunately, the children are okay and have been placed in other homes. I hope at least the bad press has been a wake-up call for the state of Ohio, Huron County, and the city of Wakeman and that they'll stop families from falling through the cracks like this (including giving more funding to these programs. An aide for half an hour once a week?! I'm very sorry to hear that).

* We don't know what would have happened to the children had this couple not taken them in; it's possible that it would have been worse for the children. See #2. Ultimately it's more the fault of the social services in this area than the fault of the couple. They should have monitored this family and put a cap on the number of children they were allowed to adopt/take in for foster care.


As you can tell from my previous post, parenting a handicapped child can be much more emotionally and physically taxing than "normal" children. I agree that these folks were in way over there heads. I think they really needed help(!) to find a better solution. I think that the article stated that the parents had either adopted or were fostering all of the children. Social services may have been part of the problem. Like I said before, people aren't exactly lining up to take these kids.

A friend of mine ran into the same problem when she agreed to foster two Down Syndrome kids. She was fantastic with them! She got called almost every week from the local agencies asking if she would take another child. At one time, she had five children in her home. The social service people just kept cajoling her and guilt tripping her until she agreed to take another kiddo. Eventually, she couldn't take it anymore and ended up giving up all the kids. Sadly, I think everyone lost.

Finally, do you know any wealthy social workers? Overworked, underpaid...they're at the bottom of the funding hierarchy. "A Thousand Points of Light" my ass! The legacy lives on. You get what you pay for.

Children in cages

I agree...
I have worked with handicapped children for 21 years..In groups of up to 12.
In normal circumstances it's hard to protect a child from injuring themsleves..When you are dealing with a child that can not be reasoned with a person has to resort to other means..
Medication is accepted..It can and is used as a mental straight jacket..Restraints of all sorts..Are accepted.
When a parent needs to sleep and wants to assure their mentally handicapped child is safe then what are they to do?
Restraining these children through the night with cages around their beds is different from a crib or play pen..HOW? In what way?
Unless they have harmed them or thrown them in as punishment..If the cage was part of their sleeping routine and they were not left to sit for hours awake in them..I can't understand how this equates abuse.
And I also agree..There is no help..And very few people that would offer these children a home at all..Keep in mind they are not with their own parents!!.
Maybe people are too quick to judge..
And it's a shame so many people who would NEVER care for a child like this or possibly not even have been around a child like this..Can condemn without knowing the facts.


What woudl I do? I would give them all the love and attention that they deserve. To begin with, these are not all autistic children. They are all special needs children, but not all of them are mentally handicapped.

I am the foster mom to two of these children. Yes, I only have two and so it is much easier than 11, but if you can't take care of 11 children without putting them in cages, you shouldn't have 11 children.

I have a girl and a boy. The girl is 7, in the second grade in public school, and doing well so far. She isn't reading at a 2nd grade level, yet but with a little time, work, and patience, she will be.

The boy is in kindergarten. He can write his name and knows shapes, colors, numbers, letters, etc. All of the things a kindergartener needs to know.

These are both intelligent children with some discipline problems. My husband and I give them lots of positive reinforcement and love and they seem to be doing well.

We have only been foster parents for 2 years, but I don't see any differences in these children compared to others we have had. In fact we have had others who were much worse, but I would never think of putting any of them in cages.

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