Guardians say Moore County DSS could be to blame for toddler's death
Posted February 22
Updated February 23
Carthage, N.C. — The drowning of a Moore County toddler has prompted policy change in hopes of preventing another tragedy.
The Moore County Department of Social Services held a meeting Wednesday focused on the case of Rylan Ott. In April 2016, the toddler was found unresponsive in a pond near his home after his mother had recently regained custody of the boy.
The Board of Directors were in a closed door session Wednesday afternoon, reviewing the results of an independent investigation into what happened to the 23-month old.
The Board met for about an hour before going into the closed door session. In November, they ordered a three member panel to conduct an investigation into the case. The toddler was taken away from his mother, Samantha Bryant, in October of 2015 because of a drunken fight with her boyfriend.
But in December of 2015, District Court Judge Scott Etheridge ruled that Bryant met all the standards needed to have her child returned. In April of 2016, the 23-month old wandered away from his mother's home and was found drowned in a pond half a mile away.
Pamela Reed was the guardian ad Litem assigned to the toddler's case. She said the social worker handling the case stopped the visit to Bryant's home but failed to conduct a supervised visit with the child and his mother in Moore County. She said the system put in place to protect children failed.
"Never once observed with her children," Reed said. "Had they done that, they would have seen the same things that I saw. They would have seen the same things that the foster family saw. And that child should not have been returned when he was."
Reed said if the District Court Judge who ordered the release of the child would have been give a full report of the mother's erratic behavior during visitations, he would have never ordered the child be returned.
The DSS Investigative Panel Review said Wednesday night that there "were significant failures and omissions occurring at critical decision points" in the case and that the issue of caseload size and staff vacancies contributed significantly to the omissions and errors within the department.
The panel recommended the need for additional social work staff, increased supervision, improved documentation practices, routine record monitoring and revised written policies.