Not all adoption diaries enjoy happy endings. Some of them are so painstakingly gruesome that they end up destroying more lives than building them. Ironically, how does one tell apart perpetrators from rescuers?
We've read numerous stories about the miracle of adoption changing people's lives for the better. Many couples willing to become parents are thrilled when their hearts and home are filled with resounding giggles, cries, and untimed tantrums.
At the same time, children who grow up without parental love are relieved to find a forever home with their adoptive family. However, this isn't always the case, and sometimes, reality can be far different and more tragic.
A few of the eleven adopted siblings [Left]. A teary-eyed Abba proceeds to hug Smith, the man who helped rescue her and the other children [Right]. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil | facebook.com/drphilshow
NOT A BUSY HOUSEHOLD
Sharen and Michael Gravelle from Norwalk, Ohio, were expected to have a busy household. They were entrusted with looking after 11 foster children, who they later adopted. But there was hardly a peep inside the Gravelle house.
The couple was accused of keeping some of their adoptive kids in cages. The cages were covered with wires and connected to an alarm to alert the parents if the children tried to escape.
The children ranged from one to fifteen, and more than half were caged. The Gravelle couple explained that they kept only a few of the kids in enclosures as they were emotionally disturbed and a possible threat to themselves and other kids.
Simon. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
The Ohio couple further stated that some children liked sleeping in the cage. Sharen said one little girl preferred to crawl inside the enclosure, despite having a proper bed in the room.
Dr. Phil then asked Abba and Simon what they'd do if they were in the same room as the man who contributed to their rescue.
But when the Huron County Sheriff's Office investigated the case, they discovered that the children suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and autism and faced sheer abuse, neglect, and ill-treatment.
Abba. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
LIVING INSIDE CAGES
They also found nine cages built into the wall of an upstairs bedroom. Sharen and Michael responded that there were only six cages, and only some children had disabilities. Michael even revealed the reason behind constructing the cages in 2002.
He said a child therapist suggested he build enclosures to protect one child from the other, and they were spacious enough to fit a twin-size mattress and enable the children to move freely. The man also added that the cages were never locked.
The 11 children were removed from the Gravelle house in September 2005 after a social services officer noticed one of the children in the enclosure. According to the police, the cages were less than three feet high.
Carlyle Smith. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
SURVIVING THE ORDEAL
"Several of the children still need to be in some type of enclosure for their safety and for the security of the whole family," remarked Michael, hopeful of winning back the children's custody.
Unbeknownst to the couple, several eyewitnesses testified against them. The Huron County Sheriff, Dick Sutherland, testified at Sharen and Michael's trial that he smelled urine when he stepped inside the house and saw "wood-framed enclosures with rabbit wire."
One report even claimed the children sometimes ate non-food items. After the kids were removed from the Gravelle house, they were placed in foster care, and their adoptive parents lost custody in March 2005.
Smith, Abba, and Simon share a group hug on Dr. Phil's show. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
Another witness, Carlyle Smith, noted that he visited the Gravelle home in 2003 because he was looking for a part-time job as a babysitter. 54-year-old Smith revealed he was left astounded when he heard the couple calling the children "monkeys."
During his four-hour visit, he spotted a boy asking at mid-afternoon to use the washroom and being told by a furious Sharen that it wasn't his scheduled time.
Eventually, Sharen and Michael were convicted of four felony counts of child endangering, two misdemeanor counts of child endangering, and five misdemeanor counts of child abuse. The couple was imprisoned for two years.
A TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD
After years of legal proceedings, the 11 children managed to get two million dollars in a settlement in 2014. Their attorney, Jack Landskroner, expressed that they were good children and the payment would enable them to move forward.
There were seven public and private financial settlements with agencies and counties that placed the children with Sharen and Michael Gravelle.
Several years later, in 2017, two of the adopted siblings, Simon and Abba, were reunited by Dr. Phil for the first time in ten years. A teary-eyed Simon told Dr. Phil, "I spent most of my childhood locked up in a cage."
MEETING THEIR BENEFACTOR
Simon shared he was relieved when Abba and the rest of his adopted siblings escaped their abusive household. Dr. Phil then asked Abba and Simon what they'd do if they were in the same room as the man who contributed to their rescue.
The youngsters replied that they would give him a big hug. Soon afterward, Dr. Phil surprised them with another guest, and it was none other than Carlyle Smith — the man who was one of the first to report the abuse that led to the children's rescue.
There was no dry eye in the house as Smith, Simon, and Abba shared an emotional hug. Smith expressed sheer gratitude on seeing the siblings all grown-up and thriving in life. We hope that no child has to endure such a troublesome childhood.
Here's a big shout-out to Smith and everyone who helped rescue Simon, Abba, and the other children. If this story touched your heart, don't forget to share it with your friends and family.
Here's another story that mirrors this one, and it's about twin brothers who were adopted by abusive parents, and their biological family wasn't allowed to take them in. Read the complete story here.
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