Please join us in demanding severance of all Washington ties with Sequel Youth and Families, a for-profit company that operated a facility in Michigan where a child was killed by staff who were abusively restraining him. Despite this and numerous other reports of abuse in various Sequel facilities, including an Iowa facility Disability Rights Washington investigated in 2018, Washington still contracts with this company to institutionalize children in other out of state facilities.
As recently reported by American Public Media, the Washington Department of Children Youth and Families has recently suspended new Sequel placements of Washington foster children while it considers its future relationship with this company. However, there are children from our state who are still being kept in Sequel facilities. Given this company’s track record, we believe there is already ample reason to urge Governor Inslee to act immediately in order to ensure all Washington child-serving agencies end Washington’s connection to Sequel once and for all.
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Letter Sent October 9, 2020:
WASHINGTON STATE: END ALL SEQUEL CONTRACTS.
Cornelius Frederick, a sixteen-year-old Black child, was killed for throwing a sandwich at Lakeside Academy, a Michigan institution that was part of a nationwide chain of residential facilities run by Sequel Youth and Family Services. A video of the April 29, 2020 incident begins with a cafeteria food fight breaking out, which prompts a group of staff to tackle Cornelius Frederick to the ground where they violently hold him down for over ten minutes. The video ends with staff administering CPR after trying to prop this child’s completely limp body into a sitting position. He was hospitalized and died two days later.1 Three Sequel staff members have been charged criminally for Cornelius Fredericks’s death, and Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer called for no Sequel-affiliated facility to be licensed by the State of Michigan.2
Sequel is a private-equity backed, for-profit company whose staff have been reported to physically, sexually, and emotionally abuse children in its facilities across the country.3 Although Washington does not have any Sequel facilities in-state, Washington pays as much as $300 to $800 as an average daily rate per child for placements in out-of-state Sequel facilities that market their services for behavioral health conditions like autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Washington youth have spoken out about their own painful experiences with abusive and unjustified restraints in Sequel institutions. Jesus Lopez, an alumni of Washington’s foster care system, recalled that he “blacked out” while Sequel staff restrained him, while another foster youth, Quatezz Wrice, described his “nightmare” experiences with “really painful” restraints, remembering how in “a few of them I got slammed on my head, and I passed out.”4 One young woman from Washington, Kathie Nguyen, described how Sequel staff “would lift her arms up during a restraint, ‘like chicken,’ until it hurt so bad she would fight back before she was slammed to the floor.”5
Yet, Washington has persisted in sending young people to Sequel facilities scattered around the U.S., in spite of the Department of Children Youth and Families’ (DCYF) goal to bring all foster youth home from out-of-state institutions by April 2020.6 As DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter has rightly acknowledged, our state incarcerates and separates Black and Indigenous youth from their families at shamefully disproportionate rates,7 and in turn disproportionately fails to provide them with stable homes.8 Rather than providing for in-state services that will help them and their families heal, Washington has continued to ship children with the greatest needs to Sequel institutions, despite this company’s appalling track record and growing evidence that confining youth in for-profit institutions is neither safe nor cost-effective.9
We call on Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee to put an end to this. Washington should not entrust an abysmally failing company like Sequel with the precious lives of its children. No Washington agency should be permitted to add to Sequel’s profits with taxpayer money. Governor Inslee must direct all Washington State health and child-serving agencies to avoid and dissociate from this company. Washington should put an end to its relationship with Sequel in order to protect children from the abuse that Cornelius Frederick and far too many other children have suffered at the hands of Sequel staff.
ACLU of Washington
Kendrick Washington II, Youth Policy Counsel
Disability Rights Washington
Susan Kas, Staff Attorney
Carney Gillespie PLLP
Christopher Carney, Attorney
King County Department of Public Defense
Anita Khandelwal, Director
Law Office of Julie Kellogg-Mortensen
Julie Kellogg-Mortensen, Attorney
Legal Counsel for Youth and Children
Erin Lovell, Executive Director
Annie Blackledge, Executive Director
National Center for Youth Law
Leecia Welch, Senior Director, Legal Advocacy and Child Welfare
Northwest Justice Project
Deborah Dorfman, Managing Attorney
Office of Developmental Disabilities Ombuds
Betty Schwieterman, Ombuds
Partners for Our Children
Laurie Lippold, Public Policy Director
Ray Deck III, Founding Director
Dan Ophardt, Staff Attorney
The Arc of Washington State
Stacy Dym, Executive Director
Washington Association for Children and Families
Jill May, Executive Director
Washington Defender Association
Christie Hedman, Executive Director
Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Amy Hirotaka, Executive Director
Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council
Jeremy Norden Paul, Executive Director
1Tyler Kingkade, “Video shows fatal restraint of Cornelius Frederick, 16, at Michigan foster facility,” NBC News, July 7, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/video-shows-fatal-restraint-cornelius-fredericks-16-michigan- foster-facility-n1233122#:~:text=Gretchen%20Whitmer%2C%20a%20Democrat%2C%20has%20asked% 20the%20department,that%20Sequel%20no%20longer%20works%20with%20the%20state.
2See, e.g., Taylor Romine & Anna Sturla, “Three staff members charged in death of 16-year-old who went into cardiac arrest after being restrained at facility,” CNN, June 25, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/25/us/teen- restraint-death-staff-charged-michigan-trnd/index.html; “Governor Whitmer Statement on Youth Death at Lakeside for Children in Kalamazoo,” June 20, 2020, https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387- 90499_90640-532682–,00.html.
3See Eileen O’Grady, “Understaffed, Unlicensed, and Untrained: Behavioral Health Under Private Equity,” Private Equity Stakeholder Project, September 2020, https://pestakeholder.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/PESP- behavioral-health-9-2020.pdf(citing several sources, e.g., Jessica Miller, “After a riot, increasing violence and now sex abuse allegations, Red Rock Canyon school will close,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 2019, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2019/07/10/after-riot-increasing/; “Bennett Haeberle, “State threatens to revoke license of Sequel Pomegranate, citing failure to create safe environment,” WBNS, June 22, 2020, https://www.10tv.com/article/news/investigations/10-investigates/state-threatens-to-revoke-license-of-sequel- pomegranate/530-589e77b2-640a-40d2-b30a-df5cddedb584; “$4.5M lawsuit says child was repeatedly raped at Kingston Academy,” WVLT 8, February 19, 2020, https://www.wvlt.tv/content/news/4M-lawsuit-says-child-was- raped-at-Kingston-Academy-568008361.html; “Report on Sequel Youth and Family Services of Courtland,” Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP), July 2, 2020, https://adap.ua.edu/uploads/5/7/8/9/57892141/ sequel_attachments a_b_and_c r_.pdf); see also “Second Utah facility for troubled teens to close in a month,” KUTV, July 16, 2019, https://kutv.com/news/local/second-utah-facility-for-trouble-teens-to-close-in-a-month; David Struett, “Employee charged with choking special needs student at mental health care facility in Aurora,” Chicago Sun Times, January 28, 2020, https://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/2020/1/28/21111837/jacquetta-hill- charged-choking-special-needs-student-aurora-northern-illinois-academy; “Worker at juvenile mental health facility in Aurora gets 10 years for sex assault of child,” Chicago Tribune, February 3, 2019, https://www. chicagotribune.com/suburbs/aurora-beacon-news/ct-abn-aurora-sex-assault-st-0225-story.html.
4Allegra Abramo, “Head trauma, painful restraints: WA foster kids face abuse out of state,” Crosscut, February 5 2019, https://crosscut.com/equity/2019/02/head-trauma-painful-restraints-wa-foster-kids-face-abuse-out-state; Susannah Frame, “Report finds prison-like conditions for Washington foster kids sent out of state,” King 5 News, October 17, 2018, https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/tacoma-foster-child-says-being-sent-to-out-of-state- institution-was-a-nightmare/281-605444408.
5 Wilson Criscione, “A new report reveals dismal conditions in an Iowa institution where Washington state ships foster kids,” Inlander, October 18, 2018, https://www.inlander.com/spokane/a-new-report-reveals-dismal- conditions-in-an-iowa-institution-where-washington-state-ships-foster-kids/Content?oid=13516041.
6Austin Jenkins, “Washington reduces number of foster youth out of state, but in-state beds still lacking,” Northwest News Network, August 13, 2019, https://www.kuow.org/stories/washington-reduces-number-of- foster-youth-out-of-state-but-in-state-beds-still-lacking.
7See Ross Hunter, “The Murder of George Floyd” June 7, 2020, https://rosshunter.com/2020/06/the-murder-of- george-floyd.
8 See e.g. “Washington State DCYF Racial Disparity Indices Report (2018)” https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/sites/default/ files/pdf/reports/Washington_State_DCYF_Racial_Disparity_Indices_Report_2018.pdf; “DCYF Use of Hotels and Offices as Placements,” Washington State Office of Family and Children Ombuds, August 2020, https://ofco.wa.gov
/sites/default/files/2020-09/Placement_Exceptions_Dashboard_August_2020.pdf; compare general population demographic data e.g. at https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/WA with detention data, e.g. “Washington State 2018 Juvenile Detention Annual Report” at p.12, Washington State Center for Court Research, http://www.courts. wa.gov/subsite/wsccr/docs/2018_DetentionReport_Final.pdf.
9See Curtis Gilbert, Lauren Dake, “Youth were abused here,” American Public Media Reports, September 28, 2020, https://www.apmreports.org/story/2020/09/28/for-profit-sequel-facilities-children-abused?fbclid=IwAR0Vzd05 SdQc8GMSpjJzGdMKohyGmbLSiMIwWmTSpcloLpu08j0ovVdUjdI; “Confining Youth for Profit Policy Platform,” National Juvenile Justice Network, September 2015 Update, https://www.njjn.org/our-work/confining-youth-for- profit–policy-platform.