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Residential Reform

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. 

Overview

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:

  1. Update coercive intervention policy and practice using national best practice guidance

  2. Authentically engage youth and families to advise on and co-design ongoing improvements and alternatives

  3. Improve licensing, contracting, oversight and quality improvement

  4. Enhance data reporting and management

  5. Strengthen organizational and finance structures

  6. Update casework policy and practice according to national best practice guidance

A screenshot of a memo to JooYeun Chang, Senior Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, Vice President of Center for Systems Innovation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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.  

Progress

A blue background with a picture of Cornelius in the upper left hand corner. Text in the middle reads 'Day of Action: This Thursday June 18th! #JusticeforCornelius. 18-year-old Cornelius Frederick died after being restrained at lakeside Academy for throwing a sandwich. We demand justice! Download the action toolkit: bit.ly/JusticeForCorneliusDayOfAction'

  • 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.

  • Screenshot of a news article from the Associated Press with the text 'Foster care teen's death prompts state to pull Michigan group home's contract, 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. 

    Media Coverage

    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'



    Vice- 7/9/20

    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

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