NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Not even two years old at her death, Nashville’s medical examiner says 23-month-old Ariel Rose died from accidental fentanyl toxicity.
“She had the biggest smile that you could even imagine,” remembered her uncle Michael Rose. “Everything made her happy, [and] anything could make her happy.”
In November, Ariel’s uncle and grandfather spoke to News 2 about how they tried to get her into the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services custody after seeing her in a homeless encampment.
“She was surrounded by drugs,” Michael said on the day they buried Ariel. “You open up the tarp and there is a bunch of trash laying around feces. It’s just disgusting.”
However, despite multiple calls, they said DCS never called them back.
“It’s like talking to a brick wall when it comes to DCS,” Michael said.
DCS did not respond to a request for comment on the medical examiner’s report, but after Ariel’s death, officials said they can’t identify people who report child abuse or neglect.
The department also added, “It is the practice for DCS to petition the court when parents cannot care for their children and they are not safe. The court must then determine custodial matters.”
However, this isn’t the only time in recent months a family member has blamed DCS for a child’s death.
The grandmother of a child with cerebral palsy said she reached out to the department after seeing the conditions her grandson was living in.
“We’ve tried – family members, friends, schools and hospitals have been trying for years to get DCS to step in and either take him or get my daughter some help, and it’s not helped,” Dawn Maddox said.
To get answers and hold people accountable for the death of his granddaughter, Mickey Rose has hired Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC to represent him.
While not specifically mentioning DCS or any other person or organization in an interview, Gerard Stranch said he and his team are going to be looking at Ariel’s case from all sides and hope their efforts bring about lasting change.
“We are hoping Ariel’s death can not just serve as a catalyst to drive people out of the market that are supporting and facilitating illegal drug markets, but also can lead to larger legislative and other changes to prevent something like this from occurring again,” Stranch said.
No one has been charged in connection with Ariel’s death at this time.
A spokesperson for the governor said since the scathing report of DCS came out, 52 new caseworkers have started at the department and more announcements will come in the annual State of the State address.