A couple who have reportedly cared for many adopted children in a sprawling 7,000 square foot Glastonbury home has pleaded not guilty to sexual conduct with a minor and are due back in court in February.
Glastonbury police began investigating George Harasz, 48, and Douglas Wirth, 43, in February 2011 for allegations of sexual conduct with a minor.
In August, police began investigating Harasz after allegations of a victim surfaced.
Harasz has been charged with sexual assault in the first degree, two counts of injury to a minor, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault in the third degree and cruelty to persons. Bond was set at $250,000.
Wirth was charged with sexual assault in the third degree and injury to a minor. Bond was set at $75,000.
Both men are free on bond and pleaded not guilty in court on Jan. 17. Their cases were continued until Feb. 29.
The men were featured in the Hartford Courant in December for their work with troubled children.
They live with George’s two biological children and they adopted nine children and have 23 dogs, according to the article. They also run a company called "Puppy Love” in Glastonbury,. the Courant reports
Police will not say whether the alleged victims are children who live in the home.
The couple adopted nine children from three separate groups of siblings between 2001 and 2008, Joette Katz, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, said in a news release. She said she became aware of the allegations soon after becoming commissioner.
"Shortly after becoming Commissioner, I became aware of what had transpired with this family. I was horrified that adopted children could be so terribly abused by the adults who are responsible for their care. We immediately removed the children from the home and fortunately, were able to keep them together with their biological siblings. In addition, I ordered a close examination of our involvement and ensured that we would fully cooperate with Glastonbury police,” Katz said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Katz said that standard protocols were followed when the children were placed, but the department has instituted changes:
"Home studies, whether conducted by private agencies (as occurred in this instance) or by the Department, will in the future be required to ascertain and evaluate the past history of abuse experienced by prospective parents and to evaluate the prospective parents' own families of origin.
Commissioner waivers to permit homes to exceed capacity only will be granted under the strictest of guidelines. A team of experts will be convened to inform the decision, and waivers only will be granted where a clinical evaluation determines it is in the best interests of the children involved. This is consistent with the process we have instituted for granting other waivers, including that instituted for allowing children to be placed out of state."