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While nearly 50% of children removed, will reunify with their families, too many will return to foster care because of the lack of an available, funding for support services.

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Legal Strangers: Gravelle Accused of Visiting Kids

Prosecutor threatens criminal charges over chance meeting with unsupervised children.

The media, as well as Huron County, can change the facts of a story to fit their agenda. The following information was taken from the Norwalk Reflector on March 29, 2006.

Michael Gravelle has been accused of visiting three of his 11 adopted children Friday, March 24. Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said the Gravelles could face criminal charges if the couple contacts any of the children again. The prosecutor explained that they are "legal strangers" now which means there are no legal rights between the Gravelles and the 11 children.

Huron County Juvenile Court Administrator Chris Mushett said there is no specific court order saying the Gravelles can't visit the children, but added Huron County Department of Job and Family Services "has the right to control that." Michael Gravelle spoke with the three children living at the Wakeman foster home Friday, Leffler said. He had no information on the nature of the talk. Huron County Juvenile Prosecutor Jennifer DeLand has written a letter to the Gravelles and their attorney, Kenneth Myers, Leffler said, indicating "they do not have the right to have contact with these children." Leffler said further contact could result in more criminal charges for the Gravelles, but also said that he didn't want to "make this a capital case."

On March 29, The Morning Journal reported that an unexpected visit Friday from Michael Gravelle to a foster home where some of his adopted children live left the children "confused," said the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services director. And, he said, he wants to make sure it won't happen again. "It makes me a little concerned because the only visitation they should be having is supervised visitation and if they're showing up at a foster home, that obviously to us was unannounced. That makes me a little concerned as to what's going to happen in the future, you know, if they're going to start showing up at schools and stuff like that. I find that real concerning," said JFS Director Erich Dumbeck.

The foster mother asked Gravelle to leave her rural Lorain County home Friday evening after he arrived alone and approached one of the children, according to the Huron County Sheriff's and family offices. Gravelle left the home without incident and the child was left confused as to why he was there. After Gravelle left the foster home Friday, the foster mother contacted family services and the sheriff's department to report the incident, said Dumbeck and a sheriff's report. While Huron County Prosecutor Russ Leffler said Gravelle was able to talk to one of the children, he refused to give any details.

The prosecutor's office is drafting a letter to send to the Gravelles to inform the couple that no further attempts at visiting the children will be tolerated and trespassing charges will be filed in the event it happens again, said Leffler. No court order prohibiting the Gravelles from seeing the children was issued, even though that is the effect of the court's ruling by granting permanent custody of the children to family services, said Court Administrator Chris Mushett.

Meanwhile, the "last visit" requested by the Gravelle's attorney Ken Myers has not been granted, said Dumbeck. Because Myers has said he intends to appeal the court's decision, family services is hesitant to grant the visit until the matter has gone to the appellate court, because Cardwell's decision could be overturned, said Dumbeck, adding that he doesn't want to further confuse the children. Dumbeck has referred Friday's visit by Gravelle to the prosecutor's office which will not comment on whether it will allow a good-bye visit. However, Leffler said in reference to the impromptu visit on Friday, that it "may have been (Gravelle's) final visit,"

On March 30, The Morning Journal reported that a letter was sent stating "Michael Gravelle apparently drove to the foster home, parked in the driveway, and engaged in protracted discussion with at least one of the children and promised that there would be further contact. This office will not hesitate to criminally prosecute your clients in such a situation if necessary to protect the children."

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The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth

Michael was driving home on a road that he often travels which passes by the foster home where three of the children now live. He had no intention of stopping to see the children. However, two of the children, who were playing outside, recognized his truck and began jumping up and down and ran down the driveway into the road. Because they were actually standing in the road, Michael stopped and rolled down his window about 8 inches.

The two girls were very happy to see him and asked if he would give them a hug. He said, "No I can't get out of the truck." They asked him when they would be seeing them again and he said, "We still love you and we're trying to get you back." They asked him why they were going to be adopted out again, when they had already been adopted by them. Michael did not answer the question, but only said, "I can't stay. They'll get mad. Good-bye." As he drove away, he saw the girls running up the driveway, jumping up and down, and heard them shouting, "We saw Dad; we saw Dad!"

The so-called "visit" lasted less than two minutes. The children were unsupervised because they ran and stood in the road. Michael never saw or talked to the foster mother. He did not pull into the driveway. If Russ Leffler didn't want to "make this a capital case," why was it published on the front page of the local newspaper five days after it occurred?

This is a small community. In the past, the Gravelles have had occasion to both see and interact briefly with their children in the presence of foster parents in restaurants and stores. Are they going to be charged with a crime whenever this happens in the future? The children want to see their Mom and Dad so they are the ones who initiate contact with their parents when they see them.

The greatly exaggerated response of the prosecutor's office makes it seem like they are using any opportunity to make the Gravelles look bad. Instead, it makes the prosecutor's office look mean-spirited and as if they are enjoying their international "fame" at the cost of crucifying the Gravelles. And who is really confusing these children? Why are they being told that they "are being adopted out?" This should never have been done until the appellate court rules, because if this case is overturned then the children will be allowed to come back home where they want to be and they are not confused about that.

Gravelle Family Friend

Michael and Sharen are very grateful for your support and prayers. They have received donations from people all over the world but the cost of the appeal is going to be very costly. The court reporter's transcripts alone are going to cost over $10,000.00. Please continue to support the Gravelle family with your prayers and a donation to the Gravelle Family Defense Fund, 11-13 West Main, Wakeman, OH 44889 or any Key Bank.

Posted April 14, 2006