On April 29, 2020, 16-year-old Cornelius Fredrick threw a sandwich at another child during lunch at Lakeside Academy, a Sequel Youth and Family Services facility for at risk children in Michigan. In response to the sandwich incident, seven adult male staff members held little Cornelius on the floor for more than 10 minutes, putting weight on his legs and torso. Cornelius died two days later at a hospital. He was a foster child whose mother had died four years prior.
State officials believe this death was preventable. As such, a Michigan task force has proposed new rules banning the use of restraints on children living in group homes, like Lakeside Academy, in all but the most extreme circumstances, such as to save a child’s life. Michigan also severed ties with Sequel, a for profit corporation that operates facilities in 19 states for vulnerable youth, including foster children and children with disabilities. This corporation has faced allegations of sexual and physical abuse of children. Sequel has facilities in Illinois, a state that still permits the use of choke holds on at risk and vulnerable youth. In response to these events leading to Cornelius’ death, a Sequel spokesperson said that staff members are only supposed to use restraints as a last resort, such as when a child is a threat to themselves or others.
This incident of little Cornelius throwing a sandwich at another child during lunch was caught on camera, and so were the seven men holding him down. Cornelius paid the ultimate price for throwing a sandwich: his life. Meghan Folkerson, Cornelius’ caseworker, remembers him as a scared, lonely boy who was desperate for attention, and a family of his own. Cornelius will never have that family and attention he desperately needed. However, there are still many children just like him, facing similar circumstances, that can be helped.
For more information on Chicago child injury, New Orleans foster care or New York children’s rights, contact Justice for Kids today.