LIBERTY TWP., Ohio -- The Liberty Township parents accused of trying to give back their adopted son have turned themselves in to Butler County law enforcement officials.
Cleveland Cox, 49, and his wife Lisa, 52, walked into the Butler County Jail at about 7 p.m. They were in the company of their attorney Anthony VanNoy.
The married Liberty Township couple tried to hand over their adopted 9-year-old son to Butler County Children’s Services on Oct. 24, according to prosecutor Michael Gmoser. The Coxes had raised the boy since he was 3 months old.
The couple hadn't been seen since Thursday when they took their other two adopted children out of school for what was described as a family emergency.
On Friday, the couple called the sheriff's office to let them know they would be coming in so they can move forward with the proceedings, according to VanNoy, an attorney based out of Dayton.
VanNoy says the Coxes are "devastated" and don't understand the charges filed against them.
"I think the public is really going to question why they were indicted in the first place and charged with these misdemeanor offenses," the attorney said at the jail. "We've never seen such a thing based on the information that I have in this scenario."
Through their attorney, the Coxes said they love the boy and only wanted the best for him and their family. They said bringing their son to Children's Services was the "right thing to do," VanNoy said.
"They love this child and they have done everything and will continue to try to do things that they can do to help this child," VanNoy said. "These are good folks. They come from a good family and they thought they were doing all the right things."
While he says he hasn't seen the police reports, VanNoy said "opinions will change" when the facts of the situation are revealed.
"At the appropriate time we'll present the facts from our perspective as to what we did in order to best provide care for this child," he said.
While VanNoy was surprised charges were filed, Gmoser said he’s "shocked" by what the parents tried to do.
"It shook my sensibilities and I believe it shook the conscience of most people that have heard about this story," he said.
The Coxes were indicted Thursday on one count of nonsupport of dependents after “recklessly” abandoning him.
"If we have a case involving the abandonment of a child, the case will be a criminal charge of abandonment if it is applicable," he said.
But Jami Clarke is looking at things a bit differently. She's foster care director for Lighthouse Youth Services, which recently began handling adoptions.
Clarke said this is an isolated situation and doesn't reflect the typical adoption experience.
"That is a very rare situation that an adoptive family would give a child back. I think most commonly they'll reach out to the organization and ask for support, help, guidance so that this could be prevented," she said.
The child’s guardian ad litem, Adolfo Olivas, said the boy’s parents cite aggressive behavior as their reasoning for returning him to children’s services. Olivas said the parents were frustrated that the boy would not agree to get help for his behavioral issues.
One of the Coxes' neighbors referred to the child as a "bad seed."
But while the family says it had a difficult time handling the child, Clarke said there's plenty of help available for parents who are having a difficult time raising their child.
"We could put interventions in place by going in an working with the child in the home, they could have family therapy, there are support groups for adoption," she said.
And that's not all the assistance available.
"There's adoption subsidy that will cover the cost of any therapeutic needs. It could be residential treatment -- that the child is experiencing psychiatric issues that they need to be hospitalized. We could facilitate that for them," Clarke said.
Clarke says she hopes others don't worry about how their adoptions turn out as a result of this incident. Her group and people in similar positions want to help put families -- and the children they're adopting -- in the best situations possible.
"We're educating our families when they adopt. Don't feel disconnected from us. We're still tied to you. We want to make sure that there's a success in this story. It doesn't end on the day they finalize. It ends when that child reaches adulthood and they're still part of your family," she said.
While Clarke is focused on future adoptions, the matter in Liberty Township is still far from resolved.
A hearing on the matter involving the Coxes
and the boys is scheduled in Butler County Juvenile Court on Nov. 27. A hearing has not been set in the criminal case.