GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The president of a restraint-free, direct care training program is sharing insight on its benefits after state documents showed the approach was being implemented at Lakeside Academy prior to Cornelius Fredericks‘ death.
In early October, an open records request examined by Target 8 found the Kalamazoo facility submitted 38 corrective action plans to the state in less than four years. Those plans are submitted when a violation is found that requires a remedial response by the licensee.
Recent plans sent to the state noted Ukeru Systems was training Lakeside staff. The company confirmed representatives were on-site twice: Nov. 6 to Nov. 8, 2019 and Jan. 6 to Jan. 10, 2020.
“Because of COVID, we hadn’t been back for the consult,” Ukeru Systems President Kim Sanders told Target 8. “That had gotten canceled because we couldn’t travel, but we did. We trained their folks as trainers and then they trained their staff and all of the impressions and feedback we had while we were there on their campus for two visits was, they were very committed to making this change.”
Sanders agreed to share the benefits of the training system after Target 8 reached out about its use at Lakeside.
She noted Ukeru was born out of necessity because Grafton Integrated Health Network, where Sanders has worked for more than three decades, was overusing restraints and seclusions.
“I think if you would’ve told me 30 years ago when I was a direct care staff, that Grafton would end restraint and seclusion and be teaching other people how to do it, I would say, ‘That it’s not possible,’” Sanders said.
Ukeru provides physical blocking techniques for crisis intervention and a trauma-informed approach for caregivers called Comfort vs. Control.
“Which basically means if you’re having a tough time, yourself as a person, what kinds of things would you want?” Sanders explained. “There’s no adult that’s going to say, ‘Actually, I want an adult that’s going to nag me. I want someone to make me stay in my room. I want someone to be super stern with me.’ No, that’s not what we want and that’s not what the kids that we’re working with want.”
The president acknowledged that fear and danger are realistic factors in some direct care situations and that human element can’t be erased by any amount of training.
Sanders, like so many others, watched the surveillance video which showed several grown men on top of Fredericks for several minutes.
“I can promise you the things that were on that video, that’s not anything that’s taught. I mean, I’ve been there. I’ve been on many of the Sequel sites. That’s not anything that’s taught to people,” Sanders said about Lakeside and its parent company. “That’s someone making up the rules on their own. I wish I could tell you that I knew of a way that we could guarantee that that never happens in this field ever again, but honestly, I can’t guarantee that because it’s human behavior.”
She also noted any successful implementation can’t happen with a flip of a switch and that staff has to be brought to the table for input.
“It’s about how you treat your employees. So, when I say comfort vs. control and trauma-informed practices, we believe that has to be for your employees, too. You can’t ask your employees to go be super nice and kind and loving to these kids and then sort of beat with them with a stick… they have to feel a part of this overall mission,” Sanders said.
Sanders confirmed the company is currently working with other Sequel locations around the country.
“We want to help people,” she added at the end of the interview.
On Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shared the following update on reform efforts when Target 8 notified the agency of its interview with Sanders:
“The state is providing training to all child-caring institutions related to six core strategies that have been identified. Technical assistance and coaching will also be provided in early 2021 to support reforms. Child-caring institutions will bring teams to the training and devise application plans to make and support needed improvements within their agency.”
To learn more about Ukeru Systems trauma-informed approach, visit ukerusystems.com.