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A three-year study concluded in 2001 found that 36% of Vermont prison inmates had once been in foster care.

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Gravelle Case: Reader Responses

Updated March 26, 2006
by: Annette M. Hall

System Failed the Gravelle Family

Dear Annette,

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

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 apprentices.

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.

Sincerely yours,
Robert B. Andrews

Parents Raising Too Many Children

March 1, 2006

Dear Mrs. Hall,

Cabinet Beds - Japanese Capsule Hotel

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 children's room. 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.

Stacey Camp

Dear Stacey,

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 abuse allegations 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 severe 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.

Sincerely yours,
~Annette M. Hall

Hi Annette,

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 taken away.

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,
Stacey Camp

Dear Stacy,

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 in-house help.

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 needs children.

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

Mrs. Hall:

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?


Dear Mirah,

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 links?

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