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Gross Abuses Alleged in Foster Child System

CLEVELAND (CN) - Two girls who say they suffered "heinous and unforgivable abuse" claim dysfunctional "adoption assessment" counselors allowed them to be placed in the hands an admitted child molester and his wife, though the couple had met in sexual abuse counseling, had four prior marriages between them and had had their own children taken away from them.

The two young girls say their foster parents, Michael Gravelle and Sharen Curtis-Tipperman fka Sharen Gravelle, subjected them to almost 7 years of torture - "including being caged in kennels like animals." The girls also sued Collin Myers Ph.D., and Fairhaven Counseling of Cuyahoga Falls, who endorsed the adoption.

The girls, whom the Cleveland News reported are 11 and 12 years old, say they lived in the Gravelles' home from 1997 until 2005, when they were rescued by authorities.

They were two of 11 foster children the Gravelles were allowed, despite their checkered history, according to the complaint in Cuyahoga County Court.

The girls say the Gravelles' foster children were "caged in unsanitary kennel-like structures, complete with alarms, where they were required to sleep, and which were used for discipline."

The girls say they were housed in rodent-infested rooms, and "hosed down outside, regardless of the season or temperature after incidents of enuresis."

The girls say that more than once the Gravelles pushed their head into the toilet and flushed it, or stuffed a sock in their mouth as a form of punishment.

They say that before they were placed in the Gravelles' home, Dr. Myers negligently performed a "home study assessment," and approved the Gravelles to adopt multiple children.

Myers failed to discover that Michael Gravelle had molested his own daughter between 1984 and 1986, which he admitted to Lorain County authorities, and had attended sexual abuse counseling sessions, where he was "very uncooperative," according to the complaint.

The complaint adds that the Gravelles had kicked several of their own children out of their home, and that the daughter who had been molested - after being returned home - ran away.

"Collectively, the Gravelles' biological children have described their life with the Gravelles as a prison," the complaint states.

It continues: "Accessible records further document that the Gravelles were ineffective in their parenting skills and had failed in their relationships with their biological children. The Gravelles had great difficulty disciplining children they believed were acting out, and they resorted to grossly inappropriate disciplinary tactics, including locking their children in the basement of their home, where they were forced to live at times without utilities, in a dangerous circumstance unsuitable for children."

But Myers approved them as adoptive parents anyway, the girls say.

In the Gravelles' home, the girls "endured corporal punishment, restraint, maltreatment and abuse;" they were denied love, were socially isolated and were deprived of nourishment, according to the complaint.

Two other foster children sued the Gravelles in October 2009. Those kids claimed Gravelle made so much money from being a foster parent he quit his job, saying, "These kids pay well." One child in that case claimed he was locked in a cage for 30 days "around the clock" and was forced to stay in a bathroom for 81 days.

In December 2006, the Gravelles were convicted of four felony counts of child endangering, two first-degree misdemeanor counts of child endangering, and five first-degree misdemeanor counts of child abuse, according to the recent complaint.

The girls demand compensatory and punitive damages from their former foster parents, and from Myers and Fairhaven Counseling.

Their lead counsel is Jack Landskroner with Landskroner Grieco & Madden.

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