A Connecticut volunteer firefighter and his wife have been charged for allegedly locking their children in a bathroom for months at a time as punishment for their behavior.
On Jan. 28, Watertown volunteer firefighter George Barnes, 45, and Nancie Barnes, 47, were arrested and charged with cruelty to persons, risk of injury to a minor, and unlawful restraint. Four of the children were adopted by the couple. They are the legal guardians of the fifth child.
One of the adopted children was reportedly found locked in a bathroom when the Department of Children and Families came to the house. According to police, the child had been locked in the bathroom from September until mid-December. The children were temporarily removed from the house by the DCF.
Police say that while the child was locked in the bathroom, the parents used baby monitors to make sure the child was standing when he or she was “supposed to be.” They brought meals to the child in the bathroom during the three-month period.
The children, who are between the ages of 9 and 18, told investigators that their parents had punished them each various times by locking them in the bathroom and forcing them to stand and read for extended amounts of time. The children would only be allowed to leave for sleep or school during their time confined to the bathroom.
Rhonda Lagasse, the owner of a day care center where the children allegedly used to be enrolled, told NBC Connecticut that several years ago, Nancie Barnes told her to withhold snacks from the kids as “punishment.”
“It was concerning to us that mom actually wanted us to not provide snacks for her children as a punishment for misbehaving at home,” Lagasse said. “In a proper learning center, you do not demean or embarrass children or withhold anything from your program from a child because of misbehavior.”
An unidentified woman who knows the Barnes family said that the parents would sometimes punish their children throughout the home, locking “one in the bedroom, one in the bathroom upstairs, one in the bathroom downstairs, one in the hallway.” She also said that the parents used baby monitors to “keep an eye on the kids.”
On Jan. 29, the Department of Children and Families released a statement regarding the Barnes family.
The parents who were arrested today were licensed by the Department and accordingly received criminal and child welfare background checks prior to obtaining their license and caring for the children. We have high expectations for the families who foster and adopt children from state care, and those expectations are met in in all but the rarest of instances. If the allegations are true, the treatment of the children is completely unacceptable and a violation of the trust we place in foster and adoptive families.
The children were removed from the home when we received information about this treatment a number of weeks ago, and they are receiving services to help them heal from their experiences.
George and Nancie Barnes remain free on $35,000 bond after a court appearance Jan. 29 and they are scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 24.