No jail for 'caged kids' social worker

Date: 2007-04-10
Source: USA Today

NORWALK, Ohio (AP) — A private social worker who knew that a couple forced some of their 11 adopted special-needs children to sleep in cages avoided a jail sentence Tuesday.

Elaine Thompson cried in relief after she received a suspended three-month jail term and five years of probation, during which she cannot serve as a social worker.

She counseled Michael and Sharen Gravelle, who were sentenced in February to two years each in prison for felony child endangering and other convictions. They remain free on bail pending their appeal.

"This entire situation has been tragic," Thompson said. "I'm sorry for the role that I played."

Thompson, 64, of Elyria, pleaded guilty in February to three counts of failing to report a crime. She had previously testified at a custody hearing that the children's behavior improved with use of the cages.

The 11 children, who suffered from problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating non-food items, ranged in age from 1 to 14 when authorities removed them in September 2005 from the Gravelles' home in Wakeman, about 60 miles west of Cleveland.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler had requested that Thompson serve six months in jail and pay back the $100,000 in wages she collected from the county when serving the Gravelles.

"This is the worst form of failure to report child abuse you can have," Leffler said during the hearing. "She could have stopped this with a phone call. She chose not to do that."

Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey said he received 85 letters from Thompson's colleagues, patients, friends and family, and said her compassion and exemplary career should not be ignored.

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