The children were confined in dog crates, forced to perform sex acts, and threatened with death if they told anyone, lawyers and victims allege.
Foster parents Raymond and Susan Blouin allegedly abused countless boys and girls between 1987 and 2004, when the state finally removed the last child from their Oxford home and banned the couple from taking more. They were eventually placed by the Department of Children and Families on a Registry of Alleged Perpetrators and were charged criminally, but faced few consequences. Prosecutors filed additional criminal charges four years ago.
Four of the victims say their foster parents were not the only ones to blame for the horrendous abuse: state social workers received at least 14 child abuse complaints alleging the couple was seriously abusing the children. And the state Department of Children and Family Services, then known as the Department of Social Services, substantiated charges at least nine times.
The former foster children are now suing the Blouins, Susan Blouin’s sometime boyfriend, DCF, and 17 current and former state social workers, supervisors, and investigators, alleging they knew or should have known that the children were in danger in the home. Even after a young foster teenager with cerebral palsy died in the Blouins’ care in 1997, according to the lawsuit, children continued to be placed in the home.
“We believe that this is the worst, most pervasive case of child abuse in Massachusetts history,” said Erica Brody, a lawyer who represents the four victims. “It was a complete breakdown of our child care system. . . . For years, DCF ignored their cries for help, giving the green light for the sexual and physical torture to continue.”
The lawsuit, filed in Middlesex Superior Court, alleges sexual and physical abuse of four children over a decade. The suit also accuses DCF of negligent supervision, and alleges civil rights violations by social workers.
The alleged victims are seeking money damages to pay for treatment of “physical and psychological” injuries, pain, and suffering. But more than money, Brody said, they want answers: how could DCF have let this happen?
The Blouins and Susan Blouin’s boyfriend, Philip Paquette, were charged with child abuse in 2003 and 2004. Raymond Blouin pleaded guilty and received two years’ probation. Paquette and Susan Blouin received pre-trial probation and the cases were dismissed within a year.
In 2019, after two of the victims came forward, the three were charged again. The Blouins are now facing one count of assault and battery on a child. Paquette was indicted on a charge of child rape. The charges are pending.
The Department of Children and Family Services readily acknowledges the “horrific” abuse that took place in the home of the Blouins. But their lawyers argued the social workers did nothing wrong.
”Social work is not an exact science,” wrote lawyers from the attorney general’s office representing the social workers, “and even good social work will sometimes fall short of DCF’s critical goal of keeping children in the commonwealth safe from harm. It removed the children remaining in the home as soon as it became lawfully possible to do so.”
Lawyers for DCF and the state workers also said the suit is invalid because the alleged offenses took place so long ago.
On Friday, the $40 million lawsuit, originally filed in 2019, is going before a mediator, who will try to help the sides reach a settlement. A judge has already rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the case. DCF’s lawyers have appealed the judge’s decision.
Lawsuits against state officials for failing to protect children are difficult to win because state law contains protections that shield employees and state agencies from culpability, according to Carmen Durso, a lawyer who specializes in representing survivors of sexual abuse.
“The purpose of these agencies is to protect children from exactly the kind of thing that happened here,” Durso said. “When they fail to do that they should be held responsible,” but the law makes that difficult.
Brody argues that the Blouin case may be the exception: “For more than a decade, DCF knowingly and repeatedly delivered more than 40 foster children to a house of horrors where they were locked in dog cages, raped, and brutally beaten on a regular basis. These vulnerable children kept telling DCF they were being abused.”
A spokesman for Attorney General Andrea Campbell, who just took over in January, declined comment and referred a reporter to DCF. A DCF spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The Blouins have consistently denied the charges. Paquette never responded to the complaint.
Susan Blouin’s lawyer, Elizabeth Halloran, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither the Blouins nor Paquette could be reached for comment.
At first glance, the Blouins seemed the embodiment of compassion. She was a neonatal nurse and she and her husband were EMTs. He worked at a Keebler cookie factory. They bred English bulldogs. When she first applied to become a foster mother, she asked that the most difficult children be placed in their care.
“I would like a young child, one that has been sexually abused or neglected,” Susan Blouin wrote to state social workers in the 1980s.
By 1995, DCF was sending more and more children to the Blouins “to experience a safe and health family setting,” as one social worker put it.
But the reality could scarcely have been more different, the lawsuit alleges. Victims say they were beaten, sexually abused, and viciously belittled. They had their wrists and ankles bound with duct tape; they were locked in their rooms with no access to a toilet; and they were whipped with belts, dog leashes, and metal spoons while naked, the complaint alleges. Susan Blouin allegedly used racial epithets toward children who were Black, the complaint says.
For years, the now-adult victims tried unsuccessfully to get their records from DCF. Eventually, Brody was able to collect some records but many of them, she was told, had been destroyed.
The lawsuit alleges that numerous state officials missed glaring warning signs that children were in danger. Some children showed up at school with bruises in the shape of a handprint. A 5-year-old girl, who came to school with multiple bruises on her arm, told officials that Susan Blouin hit her because she wouldn’t eat her dinner.
Some victims never recovered from the trauma, including one who died of an overdose in 2022, leaving behind two young daughters. Her surrogate mother, who cared for her for 20 years after she left the Blouin household at age 15, said in court documents that the scars from the young woman’s time with the Blouins were obvious.
“When she came to live with us, she was unlike any child I have ever seen,” said the mother. “She walked around like she was terrified. She never smiled. She suffered from nightmares and started using drugs to numb the pain. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life watching [her] fight the demons that haunted her from living in the Blouin home.”
“I blame DCF and the Blouins for what happened to my daughter,” said the surrogate mother.
The sister of the teen with cerebral palsy who died at the Blouins’ home in 1997 wrote that the couple’s cruelty knew no bounds — and yet no one stopped them for years.
“I remember that for two or three days straight she was screaming and wouldn’t stop crying,” she wrote in a recent statement provided to the Globe. “I remember she was on the floor and I remember telling Raymond and Susan that her face was turning blue. They blamed me for it. Raymond was an EMT and Susan was a registered nurse. There is no way they didn’t know that this was an emergency. They just didn’t care about her. (She) died a few days later.”
The victims want an investigation into the teenager’s death in 1997.
Andrea Estes can be reached at email@example.com .