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Today, we are thinking about Cornelius Frederick. Cornelius was a softhearted, rambunctious Black 16-year old child. He loved chess, card tricks, and computers. He was a loving brother and nephew who dreamed of being a counselor one day.
His life was not easy. At age 10, he found his mother after she died in her sleep. By the time Cornelius turned 12, he was separated from his siblings and had shuffled through three different facilities where he was supposed to receive treatment for the trauma he endured. On April 29, 2020, seven Lakeside Academy employees violently restrained him for 12 minutes. Two days later, he died in a Michigan hospital with his aunt holding his hand.
Cornelius had his entire life ahead of him. But a system that focuses more on keeping kids compliant rather than providing meaningful support and rehabilitation cut his life short. Sadly, Cornelius isn’t the only child who has been harmed by those charged with caring and protecting them.
The burden of institutionalization falls heavily on Black children who are disproportionately affected by the child welfare system. They represent 14% of the country’s children age 18 or younger, but 22% of children in foster care, and 26% of children in institutions and other group facilities. Once a child is in a facility, the rate of physical abuse is almost double that of family foster care and triple that of the general population of teenagers.
The time to fix this is now. We must end the institutionalization of children and dismantle the persistent racism within child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Cornelius Frederick should be alive, because like every child, he deserved love, care, and protection.
Join us today in honoring the life of Cornelius Frederick and fight for justice for the 43,000 children still living in dangerous facilities.
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Learn more about the dangers of facilities and how we’re working to end the unnecessary institutionalization of children in our report, Families Over Facilities.