Human rights organisation Stand Up for Jamaica is peeved by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency's (CPFSA) relationship with American educator Carl Robankse and the leeway that its boss Rosalee Gage-Grey has received since the troubling situation has been made public.
As reported by the Jamaica Observer last week, "Uncle Carl", the head of the US-based charity Embracing Orphans, is accused of making sexually suggestive comments to wards of the State and sending them images and offers which made them uncomfortable.
"The call for the CPFSA boss to step aside while there is an ongoing investigation needs to be mandatory and not a choice as it seems to be. The Government needs to take a stronger stance in the matter and remove all those responsible for the gross disservice meted out on our children, not just from CPFSA, but from the agencies supervising them. The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children, as said by Nelson Mandela," Carla Gullotta, executive director for Stand Up for Jamaica told the Sunday Observer.
"There is no one else in the society which is in more need or vulnerable than children, especially those who have been abandoned. This is why the recent reports of the relationship between the CPSFA boss, Rosalee Gage-Grey, and Carl Robanske is so horrendous. This isn't the first report of its kind as there was one years ago despite protests from NGOs [non-governmental organisations] that have gone unnoticed," she continued.
Education and Youth Minister Fayval Williams told Parliament last 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. Williams also noted that Gage-Grey was told to step aside.
"I call on her to step aside, at least while the PSC [Public Service Commission] 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.
Based on the 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 with the wards of the State for three years after the CPFSA was made aware of the allegations against him.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), it is noted that children have a right to protection from harmful influences.
Citing the covention, Gullotta lamented that the fact that there have been previous reports of misconduct on the part of Robanske, "there should have been sufficient reason for the CPFSA boss to put an immediate stop between herself and the organisation she represents that should support and protect the innocence and safety of these children. Instead, according to the OCA reports, there are clear instances of deception on the part of Mrs Gage-Grey, which indicates that the protection of the former warders were not foremost in her thought process."
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.
Gullotta continued, "Is this a case of not wanting to bite the hand that feeds? Could other alternatives for transitional housing not have been found for these youngsters? Are proper checks or thorough due diligence procedures not being conducted at the level of utmost importance?"
Seeing that those precious lives are already at risk as a result of "not being blessed with stable homes and families" and their development is already being impeded by the fact that "they already came under abuse and had instability" to start their fragile life with, Gulotta stressed that the general public needs answers.
"These reports have been turned over to the Ministry of Education, which has not taken decisive action to date, at least to monitor and verify the unacceptable conduct of CPFSA. What is the Government doing? What can we as a society do to stem the systemic lack of accountability?" she told the Sunday Observer.
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