Cruel to children

fate of Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) CEO Rosalee Gage-Grey may be known in Parliament today after Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams tables a report from a probe into the entity’s relationship with disgraced US educator Carl Robanske.

Williams is also scheduled to make a statement to the House during which, Jamaica Observer sources say, it is expected that the she will announce that Gage-Grey’s position is untenable and the long-time CEO will be asked to resign or be fired based on a recommendation from the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) for disciplinary action to be taken by the minister.

The OCA launched its probe in March 2021 following a report by Nationwide News Network on the partnership between Robankse, the executive director of the US-based charity Embracing Orphans, and the CPFSA.

Robankse claimed that he had been directed by God to come to Jamaica to help less fortunate children.

But reports from at least three wards of the State to OCA investigators suggested that Robankse, while splashing out cash, was also interested in the sexual grooming of some of the girls, exposing his genitals to them and invite them to participate in “a threesome”.

According to the OCA report, in 2009 Embracing Orphans entered a partnership with the then Child Development Agency (CDA) which later transitioned into the CPFSA.

In 2014, the CDA opened a transitional facility known as The Father’s House in St James that would cater to female wards of the State.

The facility was established based on a “gift” to the CDA by the Robankse-led charity which seemingly gave him unlimited access to the female wards, some of whom were minors.

By 2016 there were red flags around Robankse as his sexual conversation with a minor was reported to US authorities.

The body which conducted the investigation of the allegations found that: “There is clear and convincing evidence the [he] has a behavioural problem that endangers the educational welfare or personal safety of students, teachers, or other colleagues within the educational system.”

But the CPSFA claimed it was not aware of this until 2018 and did not terminate the relationship fully until after March 2021 when the story was first reported locally.

In its report, which is to be tabled in Parliament today, the OCA concludes that: “The CPFSA, by its own admission, knew of Robanske’s antecedents from early 2018. It also knew (despite recent denials) that it had children accommodated at The Father’s House.

“Its continued partnership with Robanske himself, and with Embracing Orphans, given the central and lead role that Robanske plays in that organisation, was not only questionable, but betrayed the CPFSA’s mandate and undermined its moral authority to be telling Jamaicans that they should be wary of persons who may be around children for fear that they may abuse them.”

The OCA added: “The CPFSA’s knowledge of Robanske’s antecedents, coupled with the liberal access to its residents from 2018 right through to 2021 (only being interrupted because the heat was turned on due to the public discourse), vividly speaks to the CPFSA’s wilful blindness and its inadequate response.

“Instead of decisively taking steps to protect what is accepted as a very vulnerable population, the CPFSA somewhat legitimised Robanske through its public association and endorsement and effectively justified their continued partnership by utterances such as that made by the CEO that “we continued our relationship because he did not have a criminal record”.

On Monday when the Observer contacted Gage-Grey for a response she declined to comment.

In one of its more damning statements the OCA said: “The leadership and management of the CPFSA has demonstrated that it either does not have the capacity or the will to effectively manage sensitive matters in spite of the high level of responsibility that has been entrusted to it in relation to some of Jamaica’s most vulnerable citizens.”

And, in its closing jab at Gage-Grey the OCA said: “The material inconsistencies and discrepancies that have been exposed at the instance of the CEO are of concern and special attention needs to be paid to this disposition in light of the reliance that one should be able to confidently place on an office holder at that level.”

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