DSS Baby Death Investigation Violated DSS Policy

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) - After the death of 5 month old Bryson Webb, and a press conference by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, The South Carolina Department of Social Services provided News19 with details about their investigation into allegations of abuse.

"On Tuesday April 22, Bryson lost his life because the monitor that was his lifeline wasn't hooked up," Lott said detailing the case last week.

Lott said DSS knew the boys mother was putting him in danger after a medical professional called to say Bryson was not wearing a heart monitor he needed.

"This was basically non-compliant from day one," Watts said. "The use of this monitor was very sporadic."

The agency charged with protecting kids said they tried to find the family at least five times.

The sheriff said during that time, DSS never called him to help.

"We've been able to find her," Lott said referencing the boys mother, Jennifer Coles, who was arrested on neglect charges.

After the press conference, DSS sent an email to News19 saying it was changing its policy immediately. They said if they could not locate family within 72 hours, they must contact law enforcement for assistance.

We found in the agency's policy manual already had a 72 hour policy already on the books.

The policy says "If personal contact has not been made by the third day or 72 hours of a receipt of a report, a staffing with the supervisor is required to consider necessary actions to locate the child and/or the child's family."

"Personally I wish they would have done more," Lott said of the DSS effort.

DSS also told us "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."

The DSS policy manual though says not to do that.

It says, in bold, "Do not leave notes for the family if they are not home. Notes raise anxiety, can make the situation unstable and possibly increase concerns for child safety."

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