Every so often there is a traumatic event that inspires lawmakers to reform or shape legislation. These events blaze headlines and highlight issues pertaining to laws or systems that many people were not previously aware of. The death of North Carolina toddler, Ryland Ott, was one of many horrific events that have invoked change in the state's current laws. A new law dedicated to the toddler, known as “Rylan's law,” will drastically affect the handling and mitigation of all North Carolina child custody cases to come.
According to recent reports, Rylan's death in April of last year could have easily been prevented. Police reports indicate that the toddler wandered away from his home in Carthage by himself before drowning in a nearby pond. He died just two weeks before his second birthday. Authorities claim that if he had been properly supervised by his mother, this could have been prevented.
Rylan's mother, Samantha Bryant, had several prior run-ins with law enforcement. In 2015, Bryant and her drunken boyfriend got into an altercation that involved firearms in the presence of Rylan and his older sister Brittany. When the police arrived on the scene, the two children were hiding in the closet. Samantha and her boyfriend were arrested and charged with child abuse and “fighting with firearms in the presence of minors.” As a result of this debacle, Samantha was placed in a mental health ward for a few days while the children were placed in foster care and assigned to foster parents.
However, Samantha was given a second chance by a judge. Even though the mother of two had a misdemeanor charge of child abuse, authorities decided that the charge would be dropped and she would get her children back under the condition that she stayed out of trouble. Four months after this decision, Rylan died.
Many people, including political figures and residents alike, agreed that the decision to return the children to their mother was made prematurely. State Senator Tama Barringer has been vocal about the mistake carried out by authorities.
“We missed an opportunity,” Barringer said. “We could have possibly helped the birth mother but we could definitely have saved the child.”
Legislators hope that Rylan's law will protect children who find themselves in the same circumstances as the toddler was. The newly enacted law requires social service workers to take more precautions before returning children who were placed in foster care back to their home. Now, employees are expected to observe at least two visits between children and parents before informing a judge of who should have custody of the children.
In addition to these major revisions in the social services system, the law also requires the state to hire a contractor to review cases, which shortens the time period for parents to appeal to a custody decision and it allows for youth in foster care to obtain a driver's license.
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Child custody cases are difficult and emotionally taxing. Let us help you understand how to navigate through this complex area of family law. Contact Caulder & Valentine today for a consultation.