Sequel Youth & Family Services: Social Services Agency Ends Contract with Sequel Following Death of Teen at Lakeside

July 4, 2020

On July 1st, the Michigan-based social services agency Starr Commonwealth announced that it had ended its contract with Sequel Youth & Family Services following news of the tragic and avoidable death of 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks on April 29th, while he was a resident at Sequel's Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo. 

The Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner determined Fredericks' death to be a homicide. The three Lakeside employees involved have been charged in his death

Prior to Fredericks' death, Starr Commonwealth had 135 children under the "care" of Sequel at their Starr Albion Prep facility, which is also located in Michigan. This relationship between the two organizations was in its sixth year.

A statement on the Starr Albion Prep webpage regarding the ending of the contract completely avoids mentioning the death of Fredericks:

"While we are deeply disappointed in the [Starr Commonwealth] board’s decision to end our relationship in light of recent conversations with the State of Michigan, we will do whatever we can to help ensure a safe and smooth transition for our students and staff. We are currently working alongside state officials, case workers and resident families to secure appropriate behavioral health program placements for the approximately 135 Starr Albion students currently on campus." 

The statement is followed by information about the programs they offer. 

The statement from Starr Commonwealth CEO Elizabeth Carey to the Starr organzation does not avoid mentioning it: 

"Our Board of Directors has unanimously agreed to end our contract with Sequel Youth & Family Services effective immediately. We now begin the process of doing our best to find an alternative solution to meet the individual needs of each of the 135 children in our care.

"Like so many others, we were shocked and saddened to hear the details that have emerged over the death at Lakeside Academy. Such treatment is unacceptable. Those of us working with children have a duty, first and foremost, to love and protect those in our care. We can and must do better.

"After this death, some might ask why we waited so long to sever our relationship with Sequel. The fact is this was not an easy decision. For many youth on our campus, we are their last best hope. Absent Starr, they may be forced to return to environments not equipped to meet their needs. Additionally, our relationship with Sequel is unlike that of Lakeside. Since 2015, we have run our campus as a partnership with Sequel, using many longtime Starr Commonwealth team members who know our philosophy, our protocols and the children we serve. Our residential program is currently being run by a team member who has been on our campus for more than three decades. Three-quarters of the current leadership team are former Starr employees who have been with us for years.

"It pains us deeply to have reached this point. We have a 107-year history of providing community-based programs, residential treatment, education and behavioral health services that work to heal trauma and build resilience in children and teens. We are proud to serve as a link between children at risk and their families, caregivers and communities – an extensive network of dedicated professionals who specialize in medical, psychological, rehabilitative, therapeutic, legal and ancillary services. We have positively changed the lives of tens of thousands of children and their families – and we have the stories to prove it.

"Over the past century-plus, we have changed and adapted as treatment modalities and best practices have evolved. We are now seeing a shift away from large residential campuses like Starr to smaller settings. We want to be part of that solution. We want to work with the State of Michigan on addressing the root causes that induce trauma in the lives of children and teens.

"In the coming weeks, Starr employees will be fully involved to ensure the continued safety of the youth in our care. Simultaneously, our leadership team will begin to explore what residential treatment may look like on our campus in the future. As always, we remain committed to providing the best care for the children and teens we serve, now and going forward. You have my word on it, backed by support from our entire leadership team and the strength and determination of our entire Board of Directors."

Source: "Statement from the Starr CEO To the Starr family," letter from Starr Comonwealth CEO Elizabeth Carey, July 1, 2020, URL: and "IMPORTANT NOTIFICATION & MEDIA STATEMENT REGARDING STARR ALBION PREP," Sequel Youth & Family Services, undated, URL:


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