‘Uncle Carl’

For
some of the wards of the transitional facility in St James named The Father’s House, American educator ‘Uncle Carl’ (Carl Robankse) was a benefactor who would take them to places including top resorts and attractions, pay their school fees and other bills.

For other wards of the facility, operated by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), Uncle Carl, the head of the US-based charity Embracing Orphans, was a predator who made sexually suggestive comments to them and made them uncomfortable with the images and offers he sent them.

But, based on a report from the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, Robankse — whose 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 — was allowed to maintain contact the wards of the State for three years after the CPFSA was made aware of the allegations against him.

The OCA reports that, “Embracing Orphans describes the beginnings of its involvement in Jamaica in terms which hint more of romanticism, blind opportunity and chance as ordained by Divinity, rather than any definitive strategy save for the explicit condition that attachment to an orphanage would be desirable.

“In the Our Story portion of its website its start is described thus, ‘In December of 2007 founder and executive director, Carl Robanske, asked God where he could serve. Robanske had served through missions in several other countries and awaited an answer from God via the cheapest international plane ticket in the Caribbean or Central America. Jamaica was the answer and Robanske disagreed with God, challenging God with the need for a cheap hotel, a place to serve such as an orphanage, and confirmation that there was need at the location.

‘God answered all of these challenges and the following week Robanske was serving in Jamaica. God started the dream in Robanske on that trip and within three months the work toward a proper non-profit began’,” the OCA noted.

Robanske was paid a salary of US$46,600 and the charity reported its sole income of grants and contributions totalling US$254,399 in 2020 almost seven per cent more than the $238,044 it collected in 2019 based mainly on its advertisements about its work in Jamaica.

But one resident of The Father’s House, described as Resident A, recounted to the OCA a series of questionable interactions with the man they called Uncle Carl.

According to Resident A, Uncle Carl would take them to places such as Dunn’s River Falls; Cool Runnings; and Verney House, which is a guest house, where they would use the pool and eat cakes and ice cream.

She reported that on one occasion the residents, along with members of staff of the facility, went with Robanske to Dunn’s River.

Resident A said on one occasion, while she was in the water, he had another resident of The Father’s House on his back and he came towards her.

“He came close to me in the water and pulled me closer to him and told me to feel his penis. She says that she looked down and did in fact see his erect penis but she did not touch it. She says she had no difficulty seeing it because, though she does not remember the exact time of day, it was after midday and it was a sunny day.

“She says she pushed him away with her foot and he again came close to her at which time he asked her if his ‘penis was bigger than [her] boyfriend’s’,” Resident A told OCA investigators.

She also alleged that he touched her buttocks while they were in the water and that he was “very careful and skilful in the way he touched me so no one would notice what was happening”.

She also reports that Robanske told her to keep what happened a secret. She says that, though she felt assaulted by him, she did not object or raise an alarm because “I felt like he had to have his way with me because he was paying my school fees/scholarship and I had gone through so much in life and I did not want to jeopardise my scholarship,” Resident A told the OCA investigators.

Resident A also told the OCA that Robanske maintained contact with her via Facebook
Messenger when he returned overseas, even after the Dunn’s River incident. She alleges that in some of these conversations he spoke about wanting to have a threesome with her and the same resident who was on his back in the water when they were at Dunn’s River and a third resident of the facility. He also explained in detail what he wanted to do with them.

She said these messages via Messenger continued even after she had transitioned out of The Father’s House and was living elsewhere, right up until early 2021.

“However, his messages stopped since the early part of 2021 when the news media reported about Carl Robanske,” said Resident A, whose account was supported by her boyfriend, who provided the OCA with screenshots of some of the messages.

She has also indicated that, though she did not actually delete any of the messages he sent to her, she noticed that in early 2021 after Nationwide News Network broke the story “the messages he sent me also disappeared from my Facebook Messenger as I did not see the messages when I went and checked”.

In the meantime, another ward of the State, described by the OCA as Resident C, reported that shortly after she had become a resident of The Father’s House and was 17 years old, she went on a trip to the beach with other residents of the home.

She reported that while in the water with her and other residents, she noticed that Robanske was “backing his fist” [masturbating] in front of them.

Resident C is also said to have reported to the interim manager of the facility that on another occasion Uncle Carl took them on a trip to Dunn’s River Falls. When they were getting ready to leave Dunn’s River, herself and another of the girls were going to shower before leaving and Uncle Carl offered to help by holding their bags and guarding the door while they were showering.

Resident C alleged that while in the shower she “looked back and realised that Uncle Carl was peeping through a crack in the door” at her naked body. She further asserts that when he realised that she had seen him, he indicated that “she should turn around to face him”.

The OCA report also indicated that approximately one week after Resident C made her report to officials of the facility Uncle Carl sent more than $70,000 to one of the residents’ bank accounts to treat all the residents to a day at Mystic Mountain in St Ann.

“Taken by itself, if this report is accurate, it is not overwhelmingly significant. Within the context of the previously discussed circumstances, however, and the attachment to Robanske that some of the residents seem to have alongside their willingness to defend him, its significance becomes enhanced,” said the OCA report.

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