CLEVELAND (AP) – An insurance agent said he warned child welfare officials that he saw cage-like beds in the home of 11 adopted special-needs children more than a year before authorities intervened.

The Toledo-based agent, Ed Clunk, said he called the Huron County Department of Child and Family Services in June 2004 after visiting the home in Wakeman, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Sunday.

County Prosecutor Russ Leffler confirmed that Clunk had alerted authorities but wasn’t certain of the date. He said he didn’t know why child welfare officials didn’t intervene until last month.

Erich Dumbeck, the agency’s director, disputed Clunk’s account.

“We would have acted within weeks,” Dumbeck said.

The children, ages 1 to 14, suffer from ailments such as autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, HIV and eating disorders. They were taken from Michael and Sharen Gravelle’s home and placed in foster homes while authorities investigate why the couple put some of the children in homemade wooden cages to sleep and occasionally as punishment.

No charges have been filed, and the couple denies harming the children.

Their attorney, David Sherman, has said the children were not caged but kept in “enclosures” built around bunk beds to stop them from doing things such as setting fires, eating batteries and cutting themselves. He has said the enclosures “were approved by licensed social workers.”

Leffler is awaiting psychological exams of the children before going to a grand jury. He has said the children were not physically abused, but that the evaluations will determine whether they suffered emotionally.

The state is also investigating the adoptions, including who placed the children with the Gravelles, whether rules were followed and whether Huron County responded appropriately once the cages were discovered.

A custody hearing in juvenile court is scheduled Dec. 6.

The Gravelles received $4,265 a month in government adoption subsidies and disability payments in 2001 when the family had eight children, according to adoption officials and court documents.

AP-ES-10-23-05 2223EDT


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