The children's adoptive and foster parents, Mike and Sharen Gravelle, denied that they abused or neglected the children during a custody hearing on Monday.
"The impression that we got was that they felt it was OK," said Lieutenant Randy Sommers of the Sheriff's office in Huron County, Ohio.
The Gravelles said a psychiatrist recommended they make the children sleep in the cages, County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said. The cages were stacked in bedrooms on the second floor of their house, he said.
The children, aged 1 to 14, were described as having conditions that included autism and fetal alcohol syndrome. They were found by a children's services investigator on Friday at the Gravelles' home about 50 miles west of Cleveland.
One of the boys said he'd slept in the cage for three years, Lt Sommers said. A neighbour had recently reported seeing the children working long hours in the family's yard, he added.
Lt Sommers said there was no obvious sign of neglect or abuse.
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