Docs: Firings, trainings protected Lakeside’s license, but not residents

Target 8

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — State documents detailing corrective actions Lakeside Academy took in response to violations over the years show repeated problems with staff not following policies. 

They also show the Kalamazoo facility’s employees were learning how to avoid physical intervention in the months and weeks leading up to seven staff members laying on top of Cornelius Fredericks until he became unconscious.

The teen’s death garnered national attention this summer. On Tuesday, the state announced a steering committee will look to overhaul Michigan’s child welfare system, after previously revoking Lakeside’s license altogether.

Corrective Action Plans, or CAPs, are submitted to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Division of Child Welfare Licensing after an investigation done by a licensing consultant substantiates a violation that warrants a remedial response by the licensee. 

In June, Target 8 submitted a Freedom of Information Act request with MDHHS for all CAPs Lakeside had to submit since 2015. 

The state turned over responsive records last week. The records show Lakeside submitted 38 CAPs related to 55 violations found during state investigations that were conducted between June 2015 and March 2020. 

The most common violation fell under staff qualifications and the most common corrective response was additional training. Target 8 also found Lakeside fired 13 people in that timeframe as a result of investigations. 

At times, employees involved in a violation were moved to another dorm if it involved interaction with a resident, some were written up by administration and a few noted their commitment to better serving the boys and teens in their care when given another chance, according to the documents. 

The violations range from not properly supervising residents to admittedly pushing one or getting physical to the point marks or injuries were left. 

Improper use of restraint, swearing at residents and calling them “snitches” were other instances noted in violations related to the action plans. 

One action plan submitted in October 2019 noted that staff working directly with Lakeside residents would be undergoing “Safe Crisis Management Re-certification.” 

The document obtained by Target 8 goes on to note an evidence-based restraint reduction program would be implemented, beginning in early November. 

The explanation notes the training, called Ukeru, would be rolled out to staff beginning Nov. 4 with a goal to “kick-off the initiative by creating excitement and hope for things to come over the next 7 months. We will focus on benefits to employees by undertaking the Ukeru System and how this is a clear sign of (Lakeside’s) commitment to safety and willingness to invest in the workforce.”

Ukeru’s website notes the training offers “a restraint-free approach” to care.

“Ukeru is a crisis management technique rooted in the belief that the use of physical restraints is unnecessary and unproductive. We believe that all intervention — educational and behavioral — should be built on an approach of comfort rather than control,” the website says. 

Target 8 reached out to the system to learn about its benefits, when followed properly. 

The ongoing Ukeru training at Lakeside was most recently mentioned in a corrective action plan submitted after an employee was fired for a January 2020 incident.

That specific corrective action plan noted continued compliance will be achieved because “all staff have completed the UKERU training and the goal is to have it fully implemented on campus by 3/16/2020. The goal of implementation is to provide staff with additional de-escalation techniques to reduce the use of physical management.”

The plan was signed on March 6. Less than eight weeks later, on April 29, several Lakeside staff members laid on top of Fredericks for more than 10 minutes in the cafeteria.

While it’s not yet clear if all the efforts described in those documents actually happened, it is clear that 10 people were fired and three of them now face felonies in the teen’s death. 

So not only were staff violating state and company policies, as Target 8 previously reported, it also appears they weren’t following the new training their own employer was paying to implement.

Target 8 reached out to a representative for Lakeside’s parent company, Sequel, for comment. As of 4 p.m. Friday, the company did not respond.

MDHHS was also reached for comment and provided the following statement:

“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is deeply committed to protecting the safety and well-being of children who under the care and supervision of the state.

MDHHS has been working to reform the state’s child welfare system to make it safer for children, to keep children with their families whenever possible, and to reduce the reliance on child caring institutions. We need to do more – and will. After the tragedy at Lakeside, the department is acting swiftly and taking actions to prevent other tragedies.”

Any additional responses will be shared as they’re received.

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