Editor's Note: Some details in this story are disturbing.
BOSTON — The state's child welfare agency is facing questions about whether it did enough to protect a 7-year-old boy from the Worcester County town of Hardwick who's now hospitalized in a coma.
The Department of Children and Families acknowledges that it had been involved with the boy's family since February.
The boy's father, Randall Lints, is charged with child abuse and is being held without bail. He's scheduled to be back in court next week.
WBUR spoke with the boy's mother, Amber Loiselle, who's waiting to find out whether her son Jack survives. Loiselle says Jack has been in a coma since July 14, when Lints called 911 to report finding him unresponsive.
"He has most beautiful soft blonde hair. He was squeezing my hand. I just know that he's going to come back," an emotional Loiselle said Thursday.
After Lints called 911, police and medical personnel found signs of starvation, dehydration, bruises and burns. Lints, who was granted sole custody of the child last year, was arrested and charged on Wednesday with assault and battery and reckless endangerment.
On Wednesday, Loiselle had accused DCF of clear negligence. On Thursday, she was taking pains not to talk about DCF or the boy's father, since the matter is also in family court.
When asked if the boy had been in the care of DCF, Loiselle said: "I am not at liberty to discuss any of that information because it is a private family matter, so my lawyer advised me not to speak anything about it."
Meanwhile, the DCF, which declined to comment on the case 10 days after the 911 call, acknowledged Thursday that indeed DCF had been "actively engaged" with both the boy and his father since February, and they had seen them three times this month, while the boy continued to lose some 25 percent of his weight, according to a hospital pediatrician.
When asked if she felt the DCF didn't do their job, Loiselle said, "That's something I can't talk about right now."
She added: "My personal feelings are that I'm upset that this happened to my son and that ... something could have been done."
According to sources familiar with the case, the report that triggered DCF's involvement came from Jack's elementary school. Under the law, schools are mandated to report reasonable suspicion that a child is suffering from abuse or neglect. There were also indications at school that the boy was stealing food.
A police report estimated his weight had dropped from 50 pounds to 38 and that his father withheld food and drink. The report also indicated the boy suffered from bleach burns, the result of the father's forcing his son to wash the floors, because, according to one source, the boy was apparently urinating on himself.
Yet DCF says that one of its social workers saw the child on June 29.
Until he was arrested, Lints lived with his girlfriend, her three young children and Jack. He separated from Loiselle before their son was born and later contested paternity.
His criminal record, according to a law enforcement source, indicates that Jack's mother sought a restraining order against Lints nine days after Jack was born. Loiselle confirmed there was a restraining order in place, saying it was "for violence, for threatening to hurt me."
A dangerousness hearing scheduled for Friday was rescheduled until next week because Lints' first attorney is no longer representing him.
The reason is sobering. John Madaio is not on the list of attorneys qualified to represent defendants in murder cases. Lints' new attorney is.
DCF stated Thursday night that it "immediately took custody of the child" on July 14. That, of course, was after the child fell into a coma.
This article was originally published on July 24, 2015.
This segment aired on July 24, 2015.