Enraged minister tells CPFSA boss to step aside

Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) boss Rosalee Gage-Grey has been told to step aside while the body that appoints, disciplines or axes public servants completes an assessment of the damaging report on the relationship between the agency and disgraced American educator Carl Robanske, which Education and Youth Minister Fayval Williams says has left her incensed.

At the same time, Williams told Parliament on Tuesday that she has sent the report to the police to determine whether charges can be laid against anyone involved in the saga that has stunned the nation.

“The Government has taken the first steps that it can take. This is a damning report. I am enraged when I consider that, hearing the report, the explicit directives were given. There was constant follow-up. The situation is untenable; it cannot be defended. At the same time, I acknowledge that there has to be due process,” Williams said.

The report, done by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, revealed that Robanske, who heads the US-based charity Embracing Orphans, had inappropriate interactions with Jamaican wards of the State.

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

Robanske’s education licence was suspended in the United States in December 2016 after he was found culpable of professional misconduct and to have a high probability of repeating sexual misconduct with a minor. However, he was allowed to maintain contact with the wards of the State for three years after the CPFSA was made aware of the allegations against him.

On Tuesday, Williams noted that the permanent secretary in the ministry and the Public Service Commission (PSC) have constituted authority to assess the matter and make the right decision.

She said that the permanent secretary has already written a letter to the PSC on the issue and she has asked the permanent secretary to use her administrative powers within the ambit of the law.

“I have also forwarded the OCA’s report to the police for further investigation, to see whether charges can be made against anyone who is found to have abused or facilitated the abuse of children,” added Williams.

According to Williams, while she has accepted the OCA report and the recommendations in the document, it is not in the best interest of children in State care for Gage-Grey to remain as head of the agency while further investigations take place.

“I call on her to step aside, at least while the PSC completes its deliberations. We have to send a clear signal of zero tolerance for the care of children. It is only decent for that to happen,” she said, to much desk pounding.

“In plain and simple English, I was misled by the CEO of the CPFSA by a failure to report facts to me, despite the many times the CEO reported in our weekly meeting. I say again, the situation is untenable; it cannot be defended. Our duty of care of children in the care of the State can’t just be an assessment that the matter did not rise to the level of criminality,” she added.

Following Williams’ presentation, Opposition spokeswoman on education Dr Angela Brown Burke asked what measures will be implemented to ensure that there is not a recurrence.

“We also require some kind of analysis as to the failure in the system that could have led to the issue, so that we could have a conversation as to how to prevent this. Are we looking to see how we will strengthen the system? It is not just about saying, ‘Hey, I did all I could, and my hands are clean’. It is also about making sure that there is a system that can catch them much earlier,”she said.

In response, Williams reiterated that the permanent secretary and PSC are the entities with the authority to take action.

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