Ministers misled by CPFSA, children’s advocate reports

THE Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) has concluded that the then Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams and the then minister of state in that ministry Robert Morgan were duped into making incorrect statements in their initial reactions to reports that an American, who found himself in trouble for inappropriate contact with a minor in the US, had access to children in State care in Jamaica.

In a report expected to be tabled in Parliament today, the OCA said incorrect information by the two ministers was based on what they were told.

Williams and Morgan both gave media interviews after Nationwide News Network (NNN) broke the story that US educator Carl Robanske had his certificate suspended after it was confirmed that on more than one occasion in 2014 he contacted a female minor after school and engaged in a sexually inappropriate conversation.

The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), then the Child Development Agency, had entered into a partnership with Robanske in 2009 through the US-based charity that he led, Embracing Orphans, and in 2013 the charity established a transitional facility for wards of the State, dubbed The Father’s House, in 2013.

Despite the suspension of Robanske’s education licence in 2016, the CPFSA continued the relationship with him and this was not terminated until after the Nationwide story in March 2021.

In a radio interview Morgan, who had responsibility for children at the time, said: “Based on what I have been advised by the CPFSA, he [Robanske] has not had interactions with children under the age of 18.”

According to the OCA, its probe revealed that this was not true and that the “CPFSA was very much aware of this inaccuracy, yet it allowed the honourable minister to publicly fall into error”.

In the case of Williams, the OCA said she was quoted in a news report declaring that the ministry had terminated its relationship with the Robanske-led Embracing Orphans and he would be vacating the Montego Bay premises within 90 days.

The report noted the minister’s statement was based on written correspondence from the CPFSA under the signature of its CEO Rosalee Gage-Grey.

“The OCA’s investigations have confirmed that on April 14, 2021 the CPFSA had not in fact completely severed ties with Embracing Orphans. It has also been established that the premises at which The Father’s House is located had not been vacated by the CPFSA within the 90-day window… referenced by the honourable minister,” said the report.

“Regrettably, though, through no identifiable fault of their own, they both fell into error with regard to public pronouncements that they made while commenting in the media on the Robanske situation. In each instance there was a clear misrepresentation by the CEO of the CPFSA (either written or via oral utterances) upon which the minister(s) relied for their own pronouncements,” the report said.

— Arthur Hall

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