Moore County DSS discusses independent investigation into toddler drowning

CARTHAGE, N.C. (WNCN) — Investigators reviewing a Moore County social services case that led to a toddler’s drowning death said there were “significant failures and omissions occurring at critical decision points.”

Large caseloads and staff vacancies contributed to the problem, the investigators said.

The investigators made the assertions in an executive summary released after The county’s Department of Social Services board met Wednesday afternoon to review an independent investigation into the drowning of Ryan Ott.

Rylan Ott’s mother is charged in the 23-month-old boy’s death and social services are under fire for letting Samantha Nacole Bryant have custody of her son.

The mother, Samantha Nacole Bryant
The mother, Samantha Nacole Bryant

Rylan was removed from Bryant’s custody in October 2015.

His guardian ad Litem and the temporary parents argued against DSS returning the boy to his mother, but in December of that year a judge ruled that Bryant regain custody.

Four months later, in April 2016, Rylan wandered away from his mom and drowned in a nearby pond.

In November 2016, the county hired three independent investigators to look into how the department handled the case.

“Child Protective Services is supposed to be the safety net for these kids when they’re brought into this crisis mode. And, they put a toddler back because they didn’t have time to drive him to visits,” said Pamela Reed, who worked on Rylan’s case.

The board reviewed the findings in a closed session and afterward said it would meet again next Thursday to do the same thing.

The executive summary was handed to reporters after the board left closed session. It said: “While law and policy were generally followed, (there) were significant failures and omissions occurring at critical decision points.”

The summary said caseload size and vacancies were contributing factors.

“The cumulative effect of these omissions increased the probability of negative outcomes for the client,” the summary states.

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