(CMR) An investigation into the Children and Youth Services (CAYS) Foundation has been launched, and the employee making the complaint to the Ministry of Community Affairs has been placed on administrative leave. CAYS manages the two residential homes in the Cayman Islands, The Frances Bodden Girls Children to have complaints formally investigated. However, the investigation is being carried out by parties who have been complained against.
Numerous exclusive CMR sources have long complained about the management and what they contend is unacceptable management practices along with staff infractions that have gone unchallenged. After an extensive investigation, CMR is now able to present our findings and report on what allegations have been made.
Management Fraternization and Questionable Background
Sydney Emanuel Williams is the General Manager of the CAYS Foundation. He started his employment in 2011 as the General Manager at the Bonaventure Boys' Homemaking a salary of CI$5,921.75 per month. He has since been promoted to General Manager of CAYS Foundations and is responsible for the operation of both homes and now commands a salary of CI$8,000 per month plus $125 for mileage.
From the onset, there have been numerous concerns about him being a fit and proper person for the position given the fact that he has several felony convictions in the United States. In the past, those concerns have been brought to both high-ranking chief officers in government as well as PPM politicians and political candidates but to no avail. According to numerous sources. the response was to get upset at those attempting to highlight the issue. In fact, Williams penned a cover note in May 2011, providing an explanation of his criminal history. The letter was written before he was offered the job and his contract of employment signed. He states that he had only two charges from youth which include possession of a controlled substance and grand larceny. There is no indication of what the controlled substance was, and at no point does Williams provide those details.
However, a September 7, 2011, Virginia criminal record search produced two pages of charges and indicates that there were additional charges not mentioned in that cover letter that includes misdemeanor embezzlement, misdemeanor concealment (weapon) and burglary with forced entry into a residence. The number of offenses range from 1982 – 1987 and by our interpretation of the record represents seven separate offenses. It is unclear if he provided those records himself with the cover note dated May 20, 2011. However, one CMR source recalled the following details:
“To the best of my knowledge; the criminal records were obtained by someone, who sent them to the then Chief Officer: Doreen Whittaker. The Chief Officer brought the concerns to Sydney's attention. Sydney then provided the explanation (document attached to Criminal Records) as his defense hence, the explanation was attached to Criminal Records.”
The criminal records were printed on September 6, 2011. Mr. Turner, Captain of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, signed the release on September 7, 2011. That document was notarized by Virginia Gunn on November 30, 2014. This was around the time that Williams was promoted as general manager of CAYS Foundation.
Despite these initial and ongoing concerns, the civil service was willing to take a chance on this foreign worker with no ties to Cayman and offered him the lead management role in an organization overseeing at-risk youth. His wife, Floretta Trammell Williams, was permitted to enter the Cayman Islands as a dependent pursuant to section 12 of his contract of employment. Since then, allegations that his management skills being sub-par have run the gamut and there have been numerous complaints about fraternization and nepotism among staff members.
Williams is currently off-island claiming to have a family emergency. He has never submitted the proper employee leave forms per his contract of employment. As a result when contacted CAYS Foundation staff has no idea when he will be returning to the island.
There are reports of Williams threatening staff and using expletives towards staff during their weekly Tuesday meetings.
He is said to spend a considerable amount of his time at the local cigar bar. Many have complained over the years but their concerns fell on deaf ears allegedly because of this close relationship with certain board members. It is even alleged he started to attend church services with them “in order to concrete his connection” with them.
Even politicians have been unwilling to address this issue it appears. CMR research indicates that no less than four of them have been informed over the years about the numerous concerns. Every time, a complaint was made, by social workers, Heads of Departments and other agencies who tried to work with him, no actions were taken. In fact, persons were told to “leave him alone” by senior ministry staff.
At some point, Williams hired his wife as a night shift supervisor/team leader at Bonaventure Home. This position, from all accounts, was created specifically for her. CMR understands that his contract is not being renewed as of December 31, 2019 and her position will be made redundant after she leaves. Ironically, just today another young worker inquired about the possibility of obtaining that senior role and was advised it would no longer exist. Her salary is at CI$3,190.00 per month.
There are other clear instances of questionable decisions involving alleged nepotism in the organization. Mostly between the multiple spouses that are employed with the organization.
There are several other foreign husband-wife teams that have been hired into the organization that includes managers and line staff. Denise Williams-Watson is the manager for Frances Bodden and her husband, O'Neil Watson worked as a line staff at Bonaventure. Tamara Williams is the senior counselor at Frances Bodden and her husband was also at Frances Bodden under her as a team leader. He was recently promoted and transferred to Bonaventure. Essentially, she would have been one of his supervisors. We understand, that he was just transferred last week after this investigation was launched. This type of hiring practice had lead to complaints from both residents in the homes, parents, former employees and community workers.
One of these spouses was hired after he was forced to resign from Her Majesty's Prison after a young lady was murdered on the prison farm back in 2009. Allegedly he was in charge of supervising prison inmates on the date of the murder. He was subsequently hired as a Youth Support Worker and was promoted to Team Leader with the CAYS Foundation. On the first of November he was promoted to Senior Counsellor at Bonaventure. Co-workers alleged he is not qualified and “can barely read and write.”
Everyone works on shifts with rotations. However, the general manager's wife has never worked weekends – she works night shifts. On weekends, regular staff work during the night.
There are also allegations of several staff employees having sex at the home with members of management and other employees in the special unit group room, laundry room and storeroom.CMR has chosen not to name the specific employees allegedly involved in those sexual relationships. Former residences are fully aware of these actions. In fact, one such female employee was promoted to case manager AFTER being found having sex in the laundry room.
Favoritism towards ex-pat staff
Of the 16 staff members, only two are Caymanian and three persons now have residency. There are numerous complaints of discrimination against the local staff and inconsistencies in how employees are handled. Is it alleged that Caymanians would be terminated for the most basic infractions whilst foreign contract workers received favorable treatment even in light of rather serious breaches.
For example, foreign workers have had alcohol on the premises with no action taken against them. CMR understands that no alcohol or any form of unauthorized drugs are permitted on the premises by employees for any reason. This was brought on the premises by Denise Watson, the manager and was placed in the pantry for weeks. A former resident and employees observed her bringing the alcohol there. In fact, the former resident “you're not supposed to have alcohol in the house.” and was responded to with a smile.
On the other hand, if a Caymanian staff member makes a social media post that management assumes is about them they are written up without hesitation.
Treatment of residents
There have been reported instances of staff members speaking to residents in an unprofessional and potentially harmful manner. The manager of Frances Bodden, Denise Williams-Watson, was told of concern of one of the residents being approached by men when off-site. When the young lady informed her that adult males were pulling over their vehicles and telling her:
“Your pum pum phat”
Wiliams-Watson responded by visibly laughing.
Finding this comment about the young lady's private parts amusing was observed by other staff members and the residences. According to eyewitnesses, it was seen as extremely embarrassing for the young girl and others. Treatment of residents has been a concern for some time. Several residents have reached out to CMR indicating poor treatment and sometimes favoritism for some residents.
A male line staff worker appeared to have taken a certain liking towards one of the residences and gifted her a laptop. Workers are not supposed to give any residents gifts without receiving prior management approval. There is also photographic evidence of him picking her up from school and giving her a ride in his private vehicle along with her boyfriend. This employee was transferred to Bonaventure home in October 2018 after the report was made. These are clear breaches of well-established child safeguarding standards.
There was another incident where two young boys disappeared whilst at church. They were later found in the bathroom with one of them having their pants pulled down. The manager, Williams-Watson, did not further investigate the matter nor did she have the children medically examined or attended to. Three days later the overseeing staff member was instructed to write a report.
After the drowning death of 14-year-old Risco Batten, a revised policy was implemented that required water safety training. However, those staff members are still not trained and being permitted to take staff to water events. We understand that only three staff members at the girls' home can actually swim.
There is a general sense that the vast majority of the employees do not care about the residents at all and will treat them with minimal respect. Rayle Roberts was recently hired as DCFS Deputy Director and visited the facility. Of course, in preparation for his visit, certain things were done that ordinarily would not be. For example, a resident that resides in a room that has a mold issue was finally moved and the room was painted over to cover up the mold.
Residents are threatened if they report anything or inform their parents they will be penalized and treated unfairly and intimated. Some have been told that they will be sent to overseas facilities where they will be unable to see their families. As of this writing of this article, we are aware that even today former residents were called and inquired if they had been speaking to anyone.
There's also a reported instance of an employee assaulting a resident and it was kept quiet. Not report to the authorities because she “is one of the general manager's favorites”.
Another staff member was found to be transporting residents under the influence. At least in that case she was terminated and sent home.
There have been numerous donations that have mysteriously disappeared or allegedly been misappropriated. A trampoline by a corporate donor has never been installed and made available for the residents. A $500 cheque specifically donated last year to fix a swing has never been utilized for that purpose. There are allegations of management abusing donations for their own personal gain. Despite the general manager and his wife making a combined $11,000 per month it is alleged, they eat all three meals at the residences. Restaurants used to donate food for the homes and Williams is said to have made requests for high-end items such as steaks and seafood etc. Those restaurants have since stopped those donations as a result.
Some employees are permitted to use the kitchen to cook their own personal meals to take home with them.
In December 2002, the Children and Youth Services (CAYS) Foundation was established as a private Government-owned company mandated to manage and operate two Residential Homes. Caymanian youth are placed in the homes through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) via Court Orders.
CMR visited the CAYS Foundation website today and discovered that most of the website is empty and still contains the written sample text from the template used to create it. In fact, some places on the website have the name of Frances Bodden Children's Home incorrect and still refer to it as the Frances Bodden Girls Home.
According to their website, the underlying aim of CAYS Foundation’s service methodology is to provide treatment for broken lives by maintaining a 24 hour, outcomes-driven therapeutic approach.
There appears to be a number of serious concerns about how the CAYS Foundation is being operated. Complaints have allegedly fallen on deaf ears for years. However, now that the complaints are being “investigated” they are being investigated by a manager in the boys' home until the general manager returns. The investigation is not aimed at seeking the truth but instead, a cover-up is already underway. If we allow grave offenses of this magnitude to go unchecked what does it say about us as a country?
This appears to be highly inconsistent with how a proper investigation should be carried out. People complained about show have no part in the investigation. Why is the person who lodged this formal complaint now being penalized with a suspension?
Is there any real hope for the CAYS Foundation with many issues? Is there any real hope for the high-risk youth of the Cayman Islands who are being housed in these homes?