After a months-long struggle in the spotlight of national media, a couple in northern Ohio have permanently lost custody of their 11 adopted children, essentially because of their use of Attachment Therapy parenting methods.
A judge in Norwalk, Ohio, ruled on March 20th that Michael and Sharen Gravelle of rural Huron County were unfit parents. All but the youngest of the children, ranging in age from 2 to 15 years where put in the permanent custody of the county, making them immediately available for adoption by other families. The youngest is expected to be returned to the Illinois adoption agency that had recently placed her with the Gravelles. (http://www.morningjournal.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=16342656&BRD=1699&PAG=461&dept_id=46371&rfi=6)
The horrific treatment of the children gained national media attention last September when law-enforcement and child-welfare officials took the children from their home after discovering that a number of them had been kept in wood-and-wire cages for sleeping and punishment. The home-built "enclosures" had loud alarms to discourage children from leaving during the night or any other time they were occupied.
There was remarkable news coverage for the custody proceedings and other matters which are normally heard in closed sessions in family court. The Gravelles claimed that all of the children were damaged or dangerous, and the enclosures and other measures were indispensable for protection of the household against the children's allegedly violent tendencies. Officials disputed those assertions, saying that none the children have shown significant problems since being placed in foster care.
As the process unfolded during the fall and winter, more and more was revealed about the Gravelles' use of AT and AT parenting methods (aka Nancy Thomas parenting). Some of the children had been treated by an Attachment Therapist for years (billing the State of Ohio to the tune of $107,000). Testimony showed that Sharen Gravelle was a dedicated user of Nancy Thomas's methods of child-rearing.
During cross-examination by an attorney representing the children, Sharen Gravelle admitted to following or agreeing with nearly all the statements in Thomas's book, When Love is Not Enough, that are quoted on ACT's webpage about Thomas (http://www.childrenintherapy.org/proponents/thomas.html). She maintained to the end that harsh treatment of the children was necessary.
While the Gravelles made repeated declarations that they would change "whatever it takes" to regain custody of the children, they reportedly made no specific renunciation of AT or AT parenting. "It was obvious that Mrs. Gravelle still does not see the harm the children suffered in her household," Judge Timothy Cardwell's wrote as part of his decision.
The Attachment Therapist for various Gravelle children was Elaine Thompson, LISW, of neighboring Elyria, where she has a private practice with Mershona Parshall (the therapist who developed the Attachment Therapy program at Beech Brook, Cleveland, and worked with Martha Welch on the federally funded video "Introduction to Holding Time.") Nationally prominent AT proponent Gregory Keck, of nearby Cleveland (Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio), declared that he knew her to be an "excellent therapist." Thompson endorsed the Gravelles' parenting decisions, admitting on the stand to knowing about the cages and thinking they were appropriate. A grand jury has indicted Thompson on several counts of failure to report child abuse.
The Gravelles have used a typical blame-the-children defense and -- as has been shown over and over again -- an unsuccessful one. And the Gravelles' troubles are not over. They have vowed to appeal the custody ruling, but they also have other legal woes. The same grand jury that indicted Thompson has also indicted them on 30 counts of child endangerment, abuse, falsification, and perjury.
In addition to child abuse, this case has other troubling aspects which are being taken seriously by authorities in Ohio. There is the "mega-family" consideration -- why were so many "special needs" kids were placed with one couple, and does this really constitutes an informal "institutionalization" of the children? The Gravelles also did not work outside the home, and they were receiving $4,000/month in adoption subsidies. Eyebrows have been raised at how the Gravelles' questionable backgrounds and how they were able to get favorable "home studies" required for adoptions.
All this has prompted an urgent review at the highest level of the adoption system in Ohio -- a system which many AT proponents describe as one of the most AT-friendly in the country -- and official calls for immediate reform and the introduction of legislation about AT.
It is quite possible that the Gravelle case could prove the tip of an AT iceberg in Ohio. If AT isn't specifically addressed as a problem in this state -- say as a major issue in Ohio's hotly contested gubernatorial election this year -- then more situations as bad or worse than the Gravelles are likely to be found.
Meanwhile, the outcome in the Gravelle custody case is one more example of an emergent principle: parents who subject their children to Attachment Therapy and AT parenting methods risk losing their family and getting prison time.
* AT NEWS sends the latest news/opinions to activists and allied organizations about the many abusive, pseudoscientific, and violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as "Attachment Therapy" (aka "Holding Therapy" and Coercive Restraint Therapy) and Attachment Therapy Parenting (aka Nancy Thomas parenting). Attachment Therapists claim to work with our nation's most vulnerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees. AT NEWS is the publication of Advocates for Children in Therapy. For more information on Attachment Therapy and film clips demonstrating AT, go to the Utah activists' site at http://www.kidscomefirst.info and ACT's website: http://www.childrenintherapy.org.
SEE REALTED: Mental Health Profession Condemns Attachment Therapy;
Authorities Advised to Suspect Abuse in AT Cases;
AT Industry Warned to Cease Immediately
SOURCE: Advocates for Children in Therapy, January 13, 2006
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