The first complaint came in 2007 after Susan Blouin had been charged with 12 counts of child abuse and barred from hosting foster children in her Oxford home. The new foster mother of one of her alleged victims urged the Board of Registration in Nursing to revoke Blouin’s nursing license.
Ten years later, when the board hadn’t taken action, the former foster child himself filed a complaint, threatening to go public if officials did not take action against Blouin, whom he described as “a threat to all children near her.”
“I find it profound and criminal how this woman is able to (be a) nurse when she has destroyed numerous foster children’s lives,” he wrote to the nursing board.
Yet board officials never even interviewed the complainants before dismissing their concerns. And Blouin continued her work as a neonatal nurse at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton. Not until 2019, when more criminal charges were filed against Blouin and her husband, did the nursing board finally take action.
Now, as the state Department of Children and Families faces a lawsuit from four of Blouin’s alleged victims for failing to protect them, some say that state nursing officials share the blame in failing to hold Susan Blouin accountable, endangering the public for years.
Victims of Blouin’s alleged abuse were “appalled to learn that two different complaints to the nursing board were never investigated. What is a licensing board for if not to investigate complaints?” said Erica Brody, attorney for the four former foster children who are suing DCF, along with 17 individual social workers.
The foster mother of the alleged victim, who is not being identified to protect the victim’s privacy, said she was never even interviewed about her complaint.
“I didn’t understand why she continued to have a nurse’s license,” said the woman, who took in the foster child and his brother after they left the Blouin household in 2004. The former foster child, who had lived in what Brody called a “house of horrors” for six years, said he was choked, hit with belts, and locked in dog crates.
The state nursing board acknowledged receiving the two complaints and said it investigated both, “resulting in no further action against the licensee,” according to a written statement that offered no further explanation.
Board officials also confirmed that they summarily suspended her two nursing licenses — registered nurse and licensed practical nurse — after Blouin was charged in 2019. The board said it is moving to prevent her from ever renewing her license, but is awaiting the outcome of the pending criminal charges, the statement said.
Blouin and her husband, Raymond Blouin, allegedly abused countless foster children between 1987 and 2004, hitting and caging them, forcing them to perform sex acts, and threatening them with death if they told anyone. Phil Paquette, a sometime boyfriend of Susan Blouin, was also charged with child abuse involving the foster children.
But all three have faced relatively few consequences. Raymond Blouin pleaded guilty in 2003 to assault and battery on a person over 14 and assault and battery against a child and received two years’ probation. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender. Paquette received pre-trial probation in 2005 and the case against him was dismissed after six months.
The foster mother who complained in 2007 said her complaint was closed after the board ran a criminal record check and found no convictions in the public record. In fact, Susan Blouin had been charged in 2004 with four counts of reckless endangerment of a child, four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and four counts of assault and battery.
But she successfully requested that her record be sealed after being sentenced to one year’s pre-trial probation in April 2005, which meant the case would be dismissed as long as she did not commit another crime during her probation. A DCF social worker agreed with the sentence, saying it would be better if the children did not have to testify.
In November 2004, she was also placed on the Registry of Alleged Perpetrators List by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, then known as the Department of Social Services, meaning that no more foster children would be sent to her home.
But the nursing board took no action against Blouin even though, under its rules, the nursing board is allowed to summarily suspend a license for any reason if the board deems the licensee presents an “immediate and serious” public health threat. The board does not have to wait for a criminal conviction.
The 2017 complaint to the nursing board was closed, according to a terse note sent to the former foster child who complained, because the “investigation found no jurisdiction over the concerns detailed in your complaint.”
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.
A spokesperson for St. Elizabeth’s, where she was working at the time, told media outlets in 2019 that Susan Blouin had been terminated. A spokesperson for UMass Memorial this week said only that Blouin hasn’t worked there in more than a decade.
“It’s an outrage that even though DCF determined [Susan Blouin] had tortured children, it didn’t alert all Massachusetts agencies that this person should not be licensed and have access to vulnerable kids,” said Brody.
Sarah Fournier, a former foster child who lived with her brother in the Blouin home for a brief but traumatic period in 1990, said she was giving birth to a son at UMass Memorial in 2005 when she saw Blouin working in the neonatal ICU and froze.
“My brother came to see my baby,” Fournier said. “He looked and saw her first. He recognized her and then I did. I ran to my nurse and told them — she’s not allowed to touch my child or go near him! Put that in my file. I was still terrified of her.”
Long after Fournier had left the Blouin home, her biological mother received threatening phone calls that were traced back to the Blouin home, according to a police report.
“I’m gonna get you, you whore,” said a woman, identified by Fournier’s mother as Susan Blouin, according to the police report. The pair were charged with five counts of threatening and harassing phone calls, but the case was dismissed.
The $40 million lawsuit, filed in Middlesex Superior Court, alleges sexual and physical abuse of the four children over a decade. The suit also accuses DCF of negligent supervision, and alleges civil rights violations by social workers. The suit also targets the Blouins and Paquette.
The Department of Children and Family Services readily acknowledged 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.”
The Blouins have consistently denied the charges. Paquette never responded to the complaint.
Susan Blouin’s lawyers declined comment. Neither the Blouins nor Paquette could be reached for comment.
This is not the first time that state licensing boards have faced criticism for failing to act against licensees charged with abuse. In 2019, after the former executive director of the Board of State Examiners of Electricians discovered that a Level 3 sex offender was working as a licensed electrician, officials discovered that several dozen convicted sex offenders held licenses for a variety of trades.
In 2020, the massage board came under scrutiny after applicants with phony or questionable credentials were able to get Massachusetts massage therapist licenses.
But those boards are overseen by the Division of Occupational Licensure, while the nursing board falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health.
Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.