After NC child drowns in pond, social services chief resigns

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2017 11:37 AM

CARTHAGE, N.C. (AP) — The director of a county social services department in North Carolina has resigned following the death of a toddler who was under the agency's supervision when he drowned in a pond.

The Fayetteville Observer reports (Http://bit.ly/2m2i7ru) John Benton, the director of the Moore County Department of Social Services, resigned Thursday following an internal investigation into the death of 23-month-old Rylan Ott, who wandered away from home in April and drowned. His resignation is effective immediately.

The investigation found that DSS generally followed laws and policies but there were "significant failures and omissions" at critical decision points. It found that caseload size and staff vacancies contributed to the problems.

State standards call for no more than 10 cases for each DSS Child Protective Services investigator. Moore County's investigators were handling about three times that many cases, the investigative report shows.

The report also shows that DSS faced a child welfare social worker vacancy rate of 53 percent in 2016 with an even higher rate the year before.

State records show that 17 of 21 child social worker positions became vacant in 2015, most through voluntary resignations. That was the highest turnover rate of any medium to large DSS agency in the state, the newspaper reported.

The report's six recommendations include hiring more social work staff. The new DSS budget adds two positions.

Rylan entered the Moore County DSS system on Oct. 25, 2015, the day that Rylan's mother and her boyfriend got into a fight that involved alcohol and drugs, the newspaper reported.

DSS placed Rylan and his older sister with temporary parents in a home on Fort Bragg. On Dec. 17, 2015, Moore County Judge Scott Etheridge ruled that DSS had demonstrated minimum safe standards had been met and ordered that Rylan be returned to his mother. The toddler died four months later.

Rylan's mother, Samantha Nacole Bryant of Carthage, is awaiting trial on charges that include felony child abuse and involuntary manslaughter.

Pam Reed, a former volunteer for Guardian Ad Litem who tried to warn authorities about Rylan's situation, resigned her position shortly after Etheridge's ruling to give Rylan back to his mother.

After Thursday's meeting, Reed said Benton, DSS supervisors and others failed Rylan.

"I certainly don't take pleasure in anybody losing their job," Reed said. "However, ultimately management is responsible for what's going on in their organization."

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Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com