LOWELL, Mass — Four former foster children who were allegedly physically, psychologically and emotionally abused under the care of an Oxford couple reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the state of Massachusetts, whom they also blame for their time in the “House of Horrors,” according to their legal team.
The plaintiffs reached a $7 million settlement after suing the Department of Children and Families Services and 17 DCF employees, claiming their constitutional rights were violated due to the organization’s indifference to the children’s torture at the hands of Raymond and Susan Blouin, the law firm of Brody, Hardoon, Perkins and Kesten said in a statement Friday.
The lawsuit, filed in Middlesex Superior Court, says the children were locked in dog crates, forced to perform sex acts, submerged in ice paths to the point of drowning and threatened with death while under the care of the Blouins. The plaintiffs also allege that DCF, then known as the Department of Social Services, ignored 14 reports of abuse and was “deliberately indifferent to the ongoing abuse.”
The Blouins allegedly abused many children between 1987 and 2004, when the state finally removed the last child from their care and banned the couple from taking more, The Boston Globe reports. The victims also sued the Blouins, who have continually denied any and all allegations, the Globe reports.
Susan Blouin has been charged with 12 counts of child abuse.
According to the Globe, the Blouins continued to have children placed under their care even after a young teen with cerebral palsy died while living with them in 1997.
John Williams, one of the plaintiffs in the case, says he “lost his whole childhood” when DCF placed him in the Blouin’s home.
“DCF took me out of my home and was supposed to put me in a nurturing one. Instead, DCF put me and my precious little brother into a home that had a well-known history of abusing children. DCF was created to protect kids like me from being endangered. It turned out DCF did just the opposite. It is an agency desperately in need of reform. It is a horrible weight to carry around with you to know that what happened to us was 100% preventable,” John Williams said.
Plaintiff Nathan Williams blamed DCF for the “sadistic torture” the kids endured.
“This settlement I believe is a step in the right direction as we will never get our childhoods back, but we can finally feel something we never have gotten to feel - secure,” Nathan Williams said.
The Blouins and Susan Blouin’s occasional boyfriend, Philip Paquette, were charged with child abuse in 2003 and 2004, according to the Globe. While 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.
After two victims came forward in 2019, the three were charged again. The Blouins face one count of assault and battery on a child while Paquette was indicted on a charge of child rape. Those charges are pending, the Globe reports.
“This was a complete failure of the foster care system,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Erica L. Brody, “No amount of money can compensate our clients for what they have suffered, but by reaching this settlement the state is acknowledging its culpability in allowing foster children to be tortured for years in the Blouin home. Until now, it has been nearly impossible to hold state employees liable for ignoring the safety of foster children. This case is precedent-setting in Massachusetts and across the country: state social workers who turn a blind eye to the suffering of foster children will be held liable for violating the United States Constitution. We are grateful to Attorney General Campbell for listening to our clients and acknowledging their pain. Our clients remain committed to advocating for reforms at DCF to make it a safer agency for all children.”
In a statement, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) said the following:
There is no amount that can remedy the trauma endured by the now adults who lived in the Blouin home nearly 20 years ago. The Department of Children and Families hopes the resolution of this case is a source of strength and comfort to all involved
DCF also says they’ve updated its policies to align with current best practices for child welfare research. The most recent overhaul includes a new Safe and Supported Placement policy, which restructures the roles of social workers who work with foster families so each family has one dedicated support worker at their area office.
Foster home licensing is also conducted by a separate worker based at the DCF Regional Office, which allows for more attention from DCF staff tailored to the needs of each family and child in foster care, according to officials. The previous policy had social workers working with both families and conducting licensing studies.
To learn more about new policies implemented at DCF, click here.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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