According to a 2004 report by U.S. DHHS, 60.7% of abuse investigations lead to a finding that the alleged mistreatment was "unsubstantiated."
--Dr. Douglass Besharov, Child Abuse Expert
Gravelle Case: Reader Responses
Updated March 26, 2006
by: Annette M. Hall
System Failed the Gravelle Family
Thank you for supporting the Gravelles. You seem to understand the
situation a lot better than many people. This is an editorial that my
husband and I (who know the Gravelles well) wrote and sent to the
editorial section of a number of area newspapers.
The removal of the Gravelle children and then permanently severing all
parental rights six months later is the equivalent of a dragonian
nightmare. The words child abuse and sexual molestation are used any
time the government wants to cast suspicion, discredit and vilify a
person. The nature of these charges causes most people to quietly give
up the God-given rights to parent their children as they see fit, even
when the charges are false.
This case has become a world-wide issue, not only because it involves
children, but also, because the Gravelles are fighting to get their
children back in spite of the besmirching of their character. There is
another side of this story that has been suppressd by Huron County. The
system didn't just fail the children, it also failed these parents who
were trying to provide a family for children no one wanted. These
children need to be returned to the Gravelle home before the emotional
damage from the foster care system totally destroys them.
I was also told by a person living in Russia that one of the reasons this
case is being watched with interest is because Americans are known because
they always want to be helping someone but, they didn't help this family.
Gravelle Family Friends
Gravelle Family Thanks You!
The Gravelles want to thank everyone who has supported them by praying
for them and sending them money. The Huron County judge has granted
permanent custody to the county, but now the Gravelles can appeal their
case out of the county (and away from the "home-cooking" of Huron
County) to a three judge panel in the Sixth Circuit in Toledo. The cost
of an appeal will be astronomical, but if the Gravelles don't stand up
and fight it will be disastrous for the families of America. It's not
an easy thing to do.
Please support them by sending a donation in any amount to:
Gravelle Family Defense Fund at Key Bank,
11-13 West Main St.,
Wakeman, Ohio 44889
Phone: (440) 839-2555
Mr. and Mrs. Carl Gibson
Cage-Like Enclosures Typical in Some Cultures
February 24, 2006
I am a supporter of the Gravelles, and am frustrated by the power crazed
child welfare people who although
probably well intentioned, are making a mountain out of mo hill about these so called
"cage-like enclosures." To me they are like bunk beds,
cheerful in their painted colors. If I were a child again and were in a large family of children
with limited space and money - to
provide multiple bedrooms, I would have enjoyed them as being safe, secure, and
fun private space for myself.
Cabinet Beds - Hanseatic League Museum in Byergen, Norway
Such sleeping quarters are not uncommon
in some parts of the world. Just because it would not be the choice of
sleeping arrangement for most American
families, with our delicate and superiority complex driven attitudes about what we deem to be proper,
doesn't necessarily make these bed frames
improper. They definitely do not rise to the level as dangerous, harmful, or abusive.
While watching our local Cleveland PBS station last week, my wife and I were watching a travelog
called Rick Steves' Europe.
In this particular episode the host, Mr. Steves, was showing us Norway. He was in
The Hanseatic League Museum, which celebrates the high culture
that was derived from one the greatest multinational trade
organizations that the world has ever known. In this museum we were shown a typical trade guildman's home,
which was also his shop, and included living quarters for his
When we saw the cabinet beds that the
apprentices slept in, the box like, heavy wood paneled enclosures that had to be in common use for
people of that era, we looked at each other simultaneously and said, "Cage-like enclosures."
People in that time and place were well-off, happy, loved, and were for their time, able to attain a
high standard of intellectual achievement in perhaps the greatest culture in Europe. Their sleeping
arrangement had no affect on them whatsoever except to provide them with a little bit of peace,
security, and sense of coziness while they slept in the sometimes overcrowded, cramped lifestyle
of the burghers.
Isn't this what the Gravelles claim their beds
did for their kids? As long as they truly love their kids, which I have no doubt they do, then what is the
harm of those beds?
If you find this E-mail interesting, and you think it might be of use to the Gravelles or their attorney,
Mr. Myers, I would be indebted to you if you would pass it along to them. They don't deserve this
intrusion into their lives, I am convinced. It would be a shame if the hyper sensibilities of the
state and county welfare people overshadow a bit of common sense
about what child abuse is, and cause a break
up of this family.
Robert B. Andrews
Parents Raising Too Many Children
March 1, 2006
Dear Mrs. Hall,
Cabinet Beds - Japanese Capsule Hotel
As a close friend of a family that cares for a mentally-challenged child, I am disgusted by your
article defending the Gravelle family. You use their case as a way of supporting your own personal
objections to the Department of Job and Family Services' practices,
rather than considering the specificities of this particular case. No family should ever, ever
take on the financial and personal responsibility of 11 mentally and physically changed children,
unless, of course, they can afford a full-time medical and cleaning staff at their household (which
clearly the Gravelle's could not afford).
For example, the Gravelle family admits to leaving feces smeared on the wall of the
This is a biological hazard and should be cleaned up ASAP, but with 11 children, I doubt the house
ever gets an adequate cleaning. Ask any doctor or nurse that handles
mentally disabled children and you'll
get the same response.
The construction and usage of cage-like enclosures is a good example of how these parents could not
handle 11 children. One child can be watched without a cage in a parent's bedroom. 11 children,
however, is an entirely different story.
I doubt that any of us have all the facts of the case and having extensive
knowledge of how the media like to sensationalize reports of
and other heinous crimes, I place little faith in hopes that the
true facts of this story have been revealed.
We have laws in this country that protect innocent people, except in family
court where parents are guilty until proven innocent. I personally know many
families who have children who are autistic and are forced to deal with
behavior that is way over the top. These children must be protected and if
that means providing secure enclosures to do so, it is a small price to pay.
As for cleanliness, granted, I'm certain their house could have been cleaner
but unless you have children, you have no idea what you are up against.
Children in third world countries are forced to live in much worse. Many are
unable to get enough to eat, they live in homes with dirt floors that will
never be "clean."
I myself grew up in several homes that were condemned by county officials.
We had an outhouse and no running water at one house I called home. I've
lived in houses with no heat, in one house we lived in we went two years
without hot water.
Children with sever disabilities
often not only smear their feces on walls, sometimes they even eat it. One of
these children had a disease where they eat anything and everything. I have a
grandson, who displays the same behavior. It is essential that these children
be protected because eating sharp objects can be fatal.
It is my stand that unless you are
raising a child with disabilities
such as these, you have no idea what these parents are dealing with. Instead of
removing children from the only home they have ever known, services should
have been offered to help the parents.
I will note that if what the parents did was so wrong, why have no
criminal charges been filed in this case? Answer - there is no case. A child should
never be removed from a parent's (or even an adoptive parent's) home, unless the
state is prepared to bring legal charges. That is the only way justice can be served.
The state allowed this family to adopt all those children and was wrong for
placing them and not providing a support system for those parents but the
state was more interested in lining it's own pockets with federal bounty
monies, instead of caring for children in need. These parents should not be
vilified but helped.
~Annette M. Hall
Thank you for addressing my concerns promptly, but the fact of the matter is
that no family should ever take on the responsibility of 11 special-needs
children. This is the point I made in my previous email, a point which you
adverted in your e-mail.
Yes, I understand what goes on in third world countries. We do not live in a
third world country. We live in the richest country in the world, yet poverty,
as you yourself experienced as a child, still exists in our very wealthy nation.
You avoided my main argument - which is that no family, unless they are incredibly
wealthy, can care for 11 special needs children.
You yourself, as a parent, must realize that. The fact that this family thought it
was reasonable to take on the responsibility of caring for 11
special needs children
demonstrates their lack of reason and sanity. I believe that they, like animal hoarders,
truly believed they were doing good. There has been a significant amount of research
that has documented these types of individuals and, as a result, has shown that this
is a psychological problem stemming from early childhood abuse. These people aren't
"bad," they're sick and because of their sickness, they lack the capacity
for sound judgment.
Whether or not I have children makes no difference. If you were to apply
this logic to your other arguments, then obviously you cannot discuss legal
issues since you are not a lawyer.
I agree that the state made a mistake in giving this family the children.
This is something you state. Since you believe that it was a "mistake"
to place these children with these parents, then perhaps you are now siding with
my argument - that these people were unfit as parents. I also agree with you that
this family should be helped. The parents need psychological assistance. I'm not
trying to be mean, but no one in their right mind would ever take on the
responsibility of these children in their condition. They couldn't support the
children (the older children stated they often went unfed) and the children got
Perhaps the lesson you could share with your readers (considering you are one of
the top googled articles when you search for info on this family) should be more
about educating people about the physical, emotional, and financial support
special needs children
(rather than the age old story about the state's inadequate policies and practices).
As a writer, this is something positive you could do to make a tiny change in society.
I imagine there are thousands of children out there waiting for homes, and, as it
seems to be in this case, they become easy targets for children hoarders to collect
because the state is looking to find homes for these hard to place children.
This is no doubt a sad story from no matter what angle you look at it from, but I
hope that you will possibly revise your article and reconsider its ramifications in
the hands of a naive reader. The focus should not be on "saving" the family
purse, but rather considering why and how these 11 children ended up in the Gravelle's
care and what that says about our society in general.
All the best,
You obviously think that this family could not afford to care for 11 children and I am
quite positive that this is not the case. You see in this country, when you adopt 11
special needs children,
the adoptive parents are paid quite well. The figures escape me at this moment but somewhere
on my site I have the exact numbers. This is just another reason it is so wrong, not that
parents couldn't care for that many children but because the pay is so well many parents
get into the foster care business for the money.
This family in all likelihood was making over $2,000 per child, per month, which if you
do the math, is a substantial sum of money. On top of that they would have qualified for
respite care, in fact I would be surprised if they weren't receiving at least occasional
These are issues which should have been included with reports made by the media.
You seem to think that caring for this many children isn't possible. I've known many large
families and the parents have all said it's actually easier, than raising a small family,
those are of course so-called normal families, not a family composed of multiple special
The points you raise disturb me mainly because it's not easy finding homes for special needs
kids. Where would you draw the line? What about parents who give birth to 6 or 7 children all
at one time? Should we force them to adopt them out? Should we require that children from large
family groups be separated?
As for editing my article. I do edit it on occasion, as new information becomes available
and if you would like to write up your comments, I'd be happy to post them. My husband and
I own and operate our own business and simple don't have the time available currently to
research this issue and make the changes you request. I am also not convinced that you really
understand the issues at hand.
I hope I covered the gist of your arguments, I simply don't have the time to run through point
by point at this time.
Thank you for your comments.
~Annette M. Hall
Allegations of Abuse, Abandonment & Falsification of Documents
February 24, 2006
Are you aware of the facts of this case? Besides chicken coop cages the
children were kept in:
- At the February, 2006 custody hearing for 11 children adopted by Sharen and Michael Gravelle
of Norwalk, Ohio, it was determined that Sharen Gravelle had signed her home study in the 1990s
concerning one of the first adoptions.
- The children forced to sleep in bed with their adoptive father.
- The statement Gravelle signed said that she and her husband had one child, when they had
five between them. It further stated they the Gravelles met in church, despite testimony that
the couple met while attending the STOP program in Lorain County, a sexual abuse counseling
program. The home study also indicated the couple reported they had never been turned down as
a foster home applicant, but
DeLand read a letter from Lorain County Children Services that had turned the family down
based on "an extensive" family history.
- Also falsified in the home study was the fact that Michael Gravelle told Catholic Charities in
Lorain County that he was addicted to hash and made a living selling
hashish. Other inaccuracies
that were reported in the home study included information indicating the family had never been
investigated by a social services agency.
- The Gravelles had been investigated for
sexual abuse allegations between
Michael and Jenna Gravelle, his biological daughter, when she was a young girl, according to
last week's testimony. They began adopting after abandoning another of their biological
children at a shelter.
Are you aware of all of this and still asking that these children be returned?
Until I received your letter, I was not aware of any of the
allegations brought against the
parents, other than those I had already mentioned in my article.
I've spent a little time looking into the current news items available online and most of the
items you mention simply aren't included in the articles I found. Perhaps you could share a few
Most of the things you mention in your letter happened over ten years ago, some as long as 20
years ago. Are you the same person you were ten years ago? I know that I'm not. I have grown and
matured as the years have passed by. I'm sure the kids are more concerned with their current
problems than they are about ancient history. That may not make some of their actions right but
we are talking about children's lives and futures.
Children who are separated from their parents,
even adopted parents are put under a tremendous amount of stress.
Couple that stress with the disabilities these children are already suffering from and you have
a recipe for disaster.
The Plain Dealer reported on February 25, 2006,
"The 9-year-old son of Michael and Sharen Gravelle was suspended for bringing a knife to school
- weeks after he was removed from the Gravelles' home, a social worker said Friday."
According to Ohio News Now on February 28, 2006,
"The couple is accused of forcing their children to sleep in cage-like enclosures." I'm still
searching but if that's all they are charging the parents with, then I don't know what all the fuss is
about. This case should have never gone to trial. There is no law against having children sleep in cages.
Child abuse is a terrible thing but sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. In this case, I
am sure the parents probably had their hands full. I can't image trying to care for that many special
needs children. It appears that the case workers of these children, didn't do their homework before
placing the children. Does that mean that the children should suffer the consequences of actions beyond
their control? No. The children should not be forced to endure the break-up of their family, one that
most of the children will probably never understand.
I will state again that the laws need to be changed. It does appear to me from a preliminary glance that
the state has finally charged the parents in criminal court, at least now the parents stand a good chance
at getting a fair trial. Let's hope the judge is wise and does the right thing by all parties concerned.
I just wonder where these children's natural parents are? Will we hear from them during the trial?
Thank you for your comments.
~Annette M. Hall