In May of 2020, 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks died after being restrained for throwing a sandwich at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo, MI, which was run by the national for-profit Sequel Youth and Family Services.
Cornelius's death highlights the harms faced by youth at for-profit facilities. Years of investigation into juvenile and adult facilities show that privatization often correlated to a variety of harms, including unsafe conditions. The practice also incentivizes extended incarceration, prioritizing profits over public safety. In response to Cornelius's death, MCYJ banded together with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the National Juvenile Justice Network, and many other community organizations to reform residential placement licensing, contracts, and restraint policies.
Cornelius's death, and subsequent investigations into private facilities, have made it glaringly clear that reforms need to be made to residential placement facilities. To assess the level of need, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) requested the Annie E. Casey Foundation produce a report of findings and recommendations for improving the oversight and accountability of these facilities.
The report, which can be found in its entirety here, details six broad areas where reform is needed and provides recommendations for improvement:
Update coercive intervention policy and practice using national best practice guidance
Authentically engage youth and families to advise on and co-design ongoing improvements and alternatives
Improve licensing, contracting, oversight and quality improvement
Enhance data reporting and management
Strengthen organizational and finance structures
Update casework policy and practice according to national best practice guidance
Each of the six recommendations outlines reforms that can be made immediately, within six months, and within a year. Following the report publication, MDHHS convened a committee of local and statewide advocates to discuss the recommendations and their implementation. The general steering committee met monthly, while the focus groups (one for each of the six recommendations) met weekly. MCYJ sat on three of the six focus groups: Restraints and Seclusion, Contract Monitoring, and Licensing/Oversight. The meeting of the groups recently concluded, paired with the proposal of new administrative rules to govern child caring facilities.
On June 18th, 2020, MCYJ, in partnership with NJJN and Youth First!, hosted a social media day of action.
In May 2020, in coordination with the National Juvenile Justice Network, MCYJ promoted a petition calling on Governor Whitmer to remove Sequel from operating facilities from Michigan.
On June 18th, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services began the process of removing Lakeside's license.
On June 20th, 2020, Governor Whitmer released a statement condemning the acts of those involved with Cornelius's death, and demanding Sequel be removed from Lakeside.
On June 22nd, 2020, former MDHHS Director Robert Gordon issued a statement regarding Cornelius's death and the department's response.
On July 16, 2020, MDHHS issued an emergency rule prohibiting specific types of restraints deemed to be dangerous.
Sequel no longer operates facilities in Michigan.
Lakeside Academy has permanently closed!
We are thankful for this progress and continue to work on improving safety in Michigan's child-caring institutions.
NBC News - 12/16/2020
A profitable 'death trap': Sequel youth facilities raked in millions while accused of abusing children
Investigate West - 12/2/2020
Washington Foster Kids Detail Abuse at Sequel Group Homes
NBC News- 7/23/20
The brief life of Cornelius Frederick: Warning signs missed before teen's fatal restraint
Detroit Free Press- 7/9/20
Case of Black teen who died after being restrained at Kalamazoo facility is 'under review'
New Video Shows 7 Youth-Home Staffers Restraining a Black Boy Who Died a Few Days Later
Wood TV- 7/8/20
911 call: Lakeside teen ‘unresponsive’ after deadly restraint
Detroit Free Press - 6/25/20; Op-Ed by Hazelette Crosby-Robinson, MCYJ's Board President
Death of Cornelius Frederick exposes deep changes needed in child welfare system
NYTimes - 6/22/20
Lawsuit: Teen Screamed 'I Can't Breathe' During Restraint
WWMT - 6/20/20
Demonstrators: Cornelius Fredericks's death exemplifies broken system
KSTP - 6/19/20
Community leaders call for change within Minnesota juvenile justice system after Michigan death
WWMT - 6/19/20
Report: Lakeside staff member sat on teen's chest for more than 9 minutes during restraint
MPR News - 6/19/20
After boy’s death, Hennepin County finally severs ties with troubled facilities
AP News - 6/19/20
Teen’s death prompts facility’s loss of contract, license
USA Today - 5/15/20
Foster care teen's death draws scrutiny to group home outbreaks: Who is looking out for these children?
WWMT - 5/14/20
Justice group calls for closure of Kalamazoo facility where teenager died
WWMT - 5/08/20
Lakeside Academy criticized for its COVID-19 response
MLive - 5/07/20
Family of Lakeside Academy student seek answers about his death
Fox-17 - 5/07/20
Father worried about son’s well-being after he witnessed student's death
CW7 - 5/07/20
More than 30 students at Lakeside Academy test positive for COVID-19
WWMT - 5/06/20
Family lawyer: Lakeside Academy boy who died after being restrained 'didn't deserve this'
WKZO - 5/05/20
Residents pulled from Lakeside Academy following teen death; victim identified
Fox-17 - 5/05/20
‘Family doesn’t believe this was an accident’ says attorney of Lakeside teen who died last week
MLive - 5/01/20
Lakeside Academy was ‘out of control’ prior to student death, police say
WWMT - 5/02/20
MDHHS confirms investigation of Kalamazoo teen center following 16-year-old's death
WOOD TV-8 - 5/01/20
Records: Program where teen died has a history of violations