Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams, has directed the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), to cut ties with Jamaica Relief Ministries (JRM), an entity operating a children’s home in the western end of the island and which has ties with the Carl Robanske-headed Embracing Orphans.
The directive from Williams follows a damning report from the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), of its investigation into questionable happenings at the CPFSA, including the relationship between the chief executive officer (CEO) of the CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey and Robanske, and the relationship between JRM and Embracing Orphans.
Robanske had his teaching license suspended in the United States over his inappropriate interactions with a minor.
The OCA’s probe found that the operators of Embracing Orphans and JRM are more than just casual acquaintances.
Williams, in a statement Wednesday, noted that the OCA, in the report on its investigations, confirmed that: “JRM is an entity that is closely associated with Embracing Orphans, the principals know each other and they have traditionally partnered with each other on projects which target children in Jamaica. The degrees of separation from Embracing Orphans are therefore not too far removed…”
Embracing Orphans operated Father’s House where wards of the state are housed.
Meanwhile, Williams said a staff audit assessment will be undertaken to build the skills of social workers and others in the child protection sector.
“Qualification requirements will be adjusted for new entrants into the sector in accordance with the higher standards and duty of care needed in the sector,” the minister said.
And, she said her ministry will work with international partner, UNICEF, that recently completed an evaluation of Jamaica’s child protection system. Chief among UNICEF’s findings is the need for stronger monitoring of the operations of the child protection system, increased accountability of key stakeholders and improved enforcement capacity.
“As such, UNICEF’s calls for an independent accountability and oversight mechanism for the operations of the child protection system aligns well with the intent of the government,” said Williams.
She also disclosed that a Cabinet submission is being prepared to seek approval to amend the laws to transition the CPFSA from being an executive agency guided by an advisory board that can only provide non-binding advice to the management of the CPFSA, to an entity with a board of directors that can provide stronger governance.