Parents of Autistic Teenagers Accused of Keeping Them ‘Caged’

The parents of two autistic teenagers are accused of keeping them ‘caged’ in their house in unsanitary conditions, according to a March 4th article on James and Jean Yates were arraigned this morning on two counts each of endangering the welfare of an incompetent person, a misdemeanor. The Yates, who live in Pound Ridge in Westchester County in New York, maintain that the ‘teenagers are perfectly well cared for and that authorities simply overreacted.’

In response to the charge of keeping their youngest son, who is 17, ‘caged,’ James Yates says that the ‘cage’ is ‘actually three soccer nets stitched together and a gate to close off a portion of their living room.’ This was done so his son “doesn’t roam around at night and hurt himself”; he also notes that ‘”This is a soccer net so he wouldn’t climb over it….He’s not strapped in, and is happy as can be.”‘ The Yates’s other autistic son is 19 years old; they also have a third son who is not autistic and who resides outside of New York state.

Authorities and the Yates offering differing accounts of the situation:

Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan said the arrests stemmed from a 911 call from a school bus driver, who on Feb. 11 reported an undisclosed medical condition involving the youngest boy, who is 17. Ryan said police, prosecutors and child welfare officials then found unhealthy conditions in the home. 

“We are talking a significantly diminished air quality and sanitary condition compared to normal conditions,” said the chief, who would not provide further details. 


Jean Yates said the Feb. 11 incident involved her son having a seizure in the driveway as he went to board the Bedford school district bus. She said her sons have had seizures before as a result of their autism, and argued that since it happened in her driveway the driver should have let her handle it herself. 

Instead, she recalled, “everyone started running all over the place.”

James Yates said there was garbage piled up inside the home because a dumpster outside was buried in snow and he was forced to keep the trash inside the house. He said that once emergency personnel arrived at the house for the the 911 call, “all of a sudden it became ‘you can’t take care of the kids.’ ” 

A judge has issued an order of protection prohibiting them from having any contact with their sons.The article does not mention details about who is presently caring for the Yates’s two sons.


Without knowing details beyond what are described in the article, it’s very hard to ascertain the situation. As the mother of a teenage son on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, I can more then understand the difficulties the Yates have faced in taking care of their son and also their hesitation when others, like the bus drive, offered assistance when one of her sons had a seizure in their driveway. Did the Yates fear that others might feel they were not longer able to take care of their children?

On the other hand, the use of something like soccer nets to ‘contain’ their youngest son is very troubling. It’s a sign that the Yates are in need of more supports and staff in taking care of their son: Why had these not been provided? Had the parents felt they had no choice but to resort to such desperate measures?


Previous Care2 Coverage

Sharp Drop-off in Services for Autistic Students After High School

Photo by DRB62.


Deanne P.
Deanne Perry7 years ago

Try and get a copy of the Australia movie "The Black Balloon" which gives a sympathetic view of a family with an autistic son

Loo Samantha
Loo sam7 years ago

thanks for sharing.

shannon b.
S B7 years ago

I agree with a lot of you. I find Kristina Chew's articles to be VERY SLANTED & BIASED. I think she lives in the "woe is me" world of autism & their and their (cough, cough) "heroic" parents.
I've learned to ignore her posts and file them under "fantasy"

shannon b.
S B7 years ago

I agree with a lot of you. I find Kristina Chew's articles to be VERY SLANTED & BIASED. I think she lives in the "woe is me" world of autism & their and their (cough, cough) "heroic" parents.
I've learned to ignore her posts and file them under "fantasy"

Victoria Day
Victoria Day7 years ago

Sad, it sounds like the parents need additional support vs persecution... Obviously, they shouldn't have put nets to keep their children blocked off, but it also doesn't seem like they put them in a dog crate, etc... My heart goes out to the misguided parents and the innocent kids involved.

Jennifer M.
Jennifer M7 years ago

They are caged, yet they go to school?
Obviously, the parents need some help. But taking the children away? That is just going too far. They need to be educated to properly care for the children. CPS is so quick to just take kids away these days. What do you think that does for the child? My mother was a drug addict. Our house was raided when I was 16. I was obviously old enough to care for myself until a family member came to get me, but no, they took me to an orphanage! My aunt lived a mile away, but they wouldn't let her come get me because she wasn't my guardian. RIDICULOUS. I had family all over that town and the stupid CPS lady took me away and made me spend a night at the orphanage. I was absolutely terrified, and I was a teenager. They made me strip naked and noted every mark on my body. It was so humiliating, and I wasn't even the criminal!! I can't even imagine how scary it must be for these kids :( Nobody is perfect. I wasn't being abused or neglected, yet they still wouldn't let ANYONE come pick me up. The government needs to learn to stay out of our lives!!

Grace Adams
Grace Adams7 years ago

It sounds like the two boys have epilepsy on top of autism. Is their epilepsy being treated effectively?

Maarja L.
Maarja L7 years ago

Well said, Bryon S.

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D7 years ago

The area of greatest concern should be for children. Too many children in this country are horrifically abused and often these instances result in the death of the children.

It appears the people investigating this case felt there was enough evidence to remove these children temporarily from their parents custody. How many parents of autistic children feel 'caging' their children is acceptable. I don't know about you all, but, I don't think it is. Every state has built into their budget, care of the disabled by a family member. This has existed for a great many years. To assume guilt or innocence is wrong until further information is provided and more investigation into the matter is done. One thing is for sure, prudence is on the side of legal officials because if something had caused the death of one or more of the children, the law would have been blamed.

Joslynne Davidson

Ryan B. Thank you.

What ever the circumstances, these parents need help. And these are the first services cut while lawmakers give themselves a raise.

So, Bohner, where the jobs so services can be provided to help these poor parents.