DSS changes policy following death of 5-month-old boy

Bryson Webb (Source: Facebook)
Bryson Webb (Source: Facebook)

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The SC Department of Social Services Director said Wednesday the agency will require DSS staff to notify law enforcement if caseworkers are having problems making contact with a family.

The announcement comes after DSS was notified about a mother who wasn't providing proper medical care for her son who was born premature and with a heart condition.

Five-month-old Bryson Webb died at a hospital April 22 due to breathing complications, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said.

DSS said they tried to locate the mother after medical professionals reported the case but a caseworker never made physical contact until April 25.

"The Department of Social services began investigating this case immediately, which involved having a caseworker physically attempt to locate this family five different times, including at night and on the weekends," DSS Director Lillian Koller said in a statement Wednesday. "Despite the very best efforts of DSS, there are tragic cases where the system as a whole is not able to prevent a child from being harmed by their own parents. We are always looking for ways to improve our policies to protect children and families in the best and most effective ways possible - which is why effective immediately, we are adding a requirement that if our staff cannot locate a child or family within 72 hours, they must contact law enforcement for assistance."

Between March 4 and April 22, DSS caseworkers attempted to see the child and family by going to the home address at least 5 different times, Koller said.

"On several home visits, the caseworker left contact information and this contact information had been removed upon returning to the residence, suggesting the parent had retrieved the messages," Koller said. "DSS investigation is ongoing and it indicates that this family might not have had a permanent address and that there was an unsettled family situation, including an arrest for a domestic violence incident."

On Tuesday, Jennifer Coles, 28, was arrested and charged with unlawful neglect towards a child. Her bond was set at $10,000.

Richland County sheriff's investigators are still working to determine if Coles will face additional charges and if any other adults contributed to Bryson's death.

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