Hardwick boy in coma moved to long-term rehab facility
State reviewing its handling of 7-year-old under DCF watch
The 7-year-old Hardwick boy who fell into a coma last month after his father allegedly starved and dehydrated him remains unresponsive and is being moved to a long-term rehabilitation facility, state officials said Wednesday.
The boy was hospitalized in mid-July with extensive bruising and burns on his feet. He weighed just 38 pounds, authorities said, after losing approximately 12 to 15 pounds in recent months.
His father, Randall Lints, 26, is accused of assaulting the child, and is being held without bail. Lints has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The state’s Department of Children & Families said Wednesday it remained “deeply concerned” about the child’s well-being and is carefully reviewing whether the case was properly handled. The agency provided services to the family since February and had visited the home just two weeks before the child was hospitalized.
“The complex and distressing circumstances surrounding what happened to this child warrants no less than a full, comprehensive review,” said Andrea Grossman, an agency spokeswoman.
Lints and his son were seen three times in July by staff from an authorized service provider, and several people who worked with the family told police they had been concerned about the child’s nutrition. The boy was taken to the hospital July 14 with life-threatening injuries.
On Wednesday, the Boston Herald reported that school officials in Hardwick had repeatedly raised concerns about the boy to DCF throughout the last school year.
“The school department had on a number of occasions requested the help of the Department of Children and Families,” Maureen Marshall, superintendent of the Quabbin Regional School District, told the newspaper.
Marshall could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
At the State House, Governor Charlie Baker told reporters he would withhold judgment on how DCF handled the case until the review is complete.
“I want to see the timeline,” he said. “I want to see the facts.”
The report is expected to be released around Sept. 24. The state’s child advocate is also reviewing the case.
Baker said he has been troubled from the start by the “number of eyes that were on this child, and how this all happened.”
Several social service groups were involved with the family, including Catholic Charities and LUK Inc. in Fitchburg. According to a person with direct knowledge of the case, seven specialists, including two parenting experts, clinicians, and a pediatrician, had worked with the family in recent months.
Despite concerns about the child’s health and an awareness that Lints was extremely strict with his son, the boy had remained in his father’s care. At the hospital, a doctor said the boy’s condition suggested “a sustained pattern of calorie deprivation and an acute event of water deprivation,” according to court records.
Police said that Lints did not allow his son to be in the living room with three other children in the home, and had placed an alarm on the boy’s bedroom door to alert him if he left, according to the records. He was forced to stay in his room for long stretches and had few toys to play with, police said.
According to his girlfriend, Lints strictly limited the boy’s fluid intake to prevent him from wetting his pants. When his son had an accident, Lints would make him clean the floors by hand as punishment. Doctors said the boy’s knees and hands were injured from exposure to bleach.
The boy had severe behavioral problems. He had been living with his grandmother until June 2014, when Lints was granted sole custody.