Watertown Couple Didn't Think Kids' Punishment was Unacceptable: Docs

A Watertown, Connecticut, volunteer firefighter and his wife accused of punishing their five children by making them stand in the bathroom said the Department of Children and Families knew about the treatment, court documents said.

George Barnes, 45, and Nancie Barnes, 47, are facing charges including cruelty to persons, unlawful restraint, and risk of injury to a minor. The couple adopted four of the children and are guardians of a fifth child. 

Nancie told police she does not think she has done anything "not acceptable," the court documents read. 

A 15-year-old girl was locked in the bathroom from September to mid-December, both George and Nancie told police, according to the court documents.

On Dec. 21, police and the DCF interviewed the 15-year-old victim and her 9-year-old brother about alleged abuse in the house. The 15-year-old victim said she stays in the bathroom when she returns from school and all day on weekends, the court documents said. She told Watertown police she got in "trouble" for reaching out to her biological mom. The victim also told police she was not allowed to sleep with a pillow or talk to the school psychologist, the court documents said. 

She told police she was able to leave the house to get a Christmas tree with the family but had to stay in the car. When the girl was allowed to eat with the family, she was not allowed to speak with her siblings because she was a "bad influence," according to court documents.

The 9-year-old victim told police that when the children were in trouble, including his 15-year-old sister, they had to read while standing for 20 minute intervals before they either "earned" a chore or had to do homework, court documents said.

The DCF temporarily removed the children from the house for 96 hours in December. 

Both George and Nancie said their therapist and the DCF knew about the displinary action, which they said was necessary to curb the children's attitude and tantrums, according to the court documents.

Baby monitors were used to see if the child was standing when he or she was "supposed to be," police said. Meals were brought to the child during the three months. 

All five children, ranging in age from 9 to 18, told police they had been punished various times and would need to stand in the bathroom and read for extended periods of time, Watertown police said. 

NBC Connecticut reached out to DCF and the agency released the following statement:

"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 Barneses appeared in court on Jan. 29, where protective orders were issued. Each was released on a $35,000 bond and they are due back in court on Feb. 24.

The couple or the public defender representing them had no comment on Friday afternoon.

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