Parents Accused of Abuse Say They'll Change

A couple accused of abusing their 11 adopted special-needs children by making them sleep in cages defended their actions but said they'd be willing to give up the enclosures to get the children back.

Michael and Sharen Gravelle said they would be more lenient and would send the home-schooled children, who have a host of health and behavioral problems, to public school.

"I will do whatever is necessary to get our children home," Michael Gravelle told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer in Tuesday's editions.

A judge ruled Dec. 22 during a custody hearing that making the children sleep in wooden cages without pillows or mattresses constituted abuse. The judge also decided to keep the children, ages 1 to 15, in foster care.

The Gravelles defended their initial decision to make some of the children sleep in the cages. They said the enclosures were necessary to keep the children from harming themselves or one another.

"We did it for their safety," Michael Gravelle said. "Those were the final products of everything we did."

The children have problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating dirt.

The Gravelles have not been charged with a crime. Prosecutor Russ Leffler said he plans to go to a grand jury to pursue criminal charges this month.

The Gravelles could regain custody, with some restrictions, after a Jan. 18 hearing.

"I use my faith," the father said. "We have been knocked down, not destroyed."