Despite questions from Beacon Hill lawmakers on Tuesday, agency heads had little new insights to offer about how David Almond, the 14-year-old Fall River boy with autism spectrum disorder who died last October while living with his dad and his dad’s girlfriend, came to be in the couple’s care in the first place.

“That is the unanswered question that the [Office of the Child Advocate] has struggled with,” said Maria Mossaides, director of the OCA, early in the virtual hearing.

At a later point during the Joint hearing of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, Abington Rep. Alyson Sullivan asked Linda Spears, commissioner of Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families, why the agency did not conduct any of the required in-person, unannounced visits to Almond’s house once the state distributed the appropriate personal protective equipment to its workers.

“That’s a great question," Spears responded. "I wish I knew the answer."

The hearing came two months after Mossaides released an investigative report detailing what she called a “multi-systemic failure” of the state’s safeguards that allowed Almond to return to his father and never be seen in-person by the Department of Children and Families again.

The pandemic, that report said, added pressure and confusion to the inherently difficult task of balancing health concerns with concerns for vulnerable charges in agency care.

Officials have said that the two senior DCF decision-makers in the agency’s Fall River office refused to answer investigators' questions about why they pushed to reunify.

At various points during Tuesday’s hearing, lawmakers asked Mossaides, Spears and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders whether the close working relationship between Mossaides’ and Spears’ agencies prevented a true and independent review.

All three women implied that the answer was “no.”

Mossaides told lawmakers that even though the pandemic created barriers to in-person visits that the couple exploited, DCF did not appropriately take children’s disabilities into account — like Almond’s autism spectrum disorder — when determining whether they were high risk for the purpose of requiring in-person visits.

As a result, DCF did not identify the Almond family as being high risk for future abuse or neglect, “which would have required in-person home visits during the pandemic,” Mossaides said.

At the same time, Spears said repeatedly that in-person visits should have occurred in the Almond case.

“There should have been three in-person visits with this family. Each time there was supposed to be an in-person visit, the family reported having COVID, having someone on quarantine related to COVID, etc., and visits were not held because of those reasons,” Spears said, adding that, in retrospect, the family's reports were not accurate.

Both the father, John Almond, and the girlfriend, Jaclyn Coleman, have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and assault and battery on an elderly or disabled person in connection with Almond’s death.

The OCA’s report revealed the two were in DCF custody for part of their respective childhoods. John Almond's mother — who lived with the couple and David, along with David's brother and half-sibling — had her own parental rights terminated in the past.

As a result of the Almond case, Spears said that DCF was making several changes, including developing new safety and risk assessment tools to help DCF workers determine whether a potential reunification should move forward.

Spears said the agency is also evaluating all pending reunification cases.

She expects that every child under DCF care will have been seen in-person by a DCF social worker by the end of the month.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misstated who was living in the household with David Almond.