RHEA R.  & others 
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.
Heard: September 12, 2019.
Governmental Immunity. Negligence, Governmental immunity.
Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on
July 27, 2016. The case was heard by John T. Lu, J., on a
motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Gregory A. Hession for the plaintiffs.
Gregory Schmidt, Special Assistant Attorney General, for the
Present: Green, C.J., Milkey, & Wendlandt, JJ.
the Department of Children and Families (department or DCF)
placed a foster child in the plaintiffs' home, the foster
child sexually assaulted the family's young daughter.
Under the written foster care agreement between the
department and the plaintiff parents, the department had
agreed to provide them with sufficient information about any
child proposed for placement to enable them
"knowledgeably [to] determine whether or not to accept
the child." As the parents later discovered, however,
the department was aware at the time it placed the child in
the plaintiffs' home that the child had a history as both
a victim and a perpetrator of sexual abuse, but did not
disclose that information to the parents before placing him
in their home. The plaintiffs filed a complaint against the
department, claiming negligence and breach of contract. At
issue on appeal is a judgment of the Superior Court
dismissing the plaintiffs' complaint on the ground that
their claims are barred by sovereign immunity, G. L. c. 258,
§ 10 (j) (§ 10 [j]) . We reverse.
case comes before us on the plaintiffs' appeal from a
judgment of dismissal, entered on the department's motion
for judgment on the pleadings. We accordingly summarize the
facts alleged in the plaintiffs' complaint, which we
(like the motion judge) take as true for purposes of our
evaluation of the department's claim of immunity. See
Minaya v. Massachusetts Credit Union
Share Ins. Corp., 392 Mass. 904, 905 (1984).
plaintiffs are two parents and their minor daughter. The
parents have taken in hundreds of foster children under
contract with the department since 1999. The written foster
care agreement between the parents and the department, which
is signed by both parents and (on behalf of the department)
by the parents' department family resource worker, sets
out in considerable detail the parents' and the
department's respective responsibilities, imposing twenty
specific obligations on the department and thirty-three
specific obligations on the parents. Among the provisions of
the agreement (and among the specific obligations undertaken
by the department) is the following:
"THE DEPARTMENT . . . AGREES TO:
1. provide the family with sufficient information about a
child who is in [the department's] care or custody, prior
to placement, so that she or he can knowledgeably determine
whether or not to accept the child, and to provide the
foster/pre-adoptive family with sufficient information on an
ongoing basis about the child who is in [the
department's] care or custody to enable the
foster/pre-adoptive family to provide adequate care to that
child and to meet the individual needs of that
2013, the department telephoned the mother to ask if it could
place a twelve year old boy, to whom we shall refer as Frank,
in her home for a few days. The only information about Frank
furnished to the mother was that his grandmother had passed
away and his aunt did not have legal custody. At the time of
the department's request, the parents were not taking any
new foster child placements and had notified their foster
care supervisor of that decision. After a second request by
the department (based on its expressed desire to avoid
requiring Frank to change schools before the end of the
school year), the mother "reluctantly" agreed to
accept the placement, but stated to both Frank's
caseworker and the parents' foster care supervisor that
they would not keep him for the summer.
to Frank's placement in the parents' home, the mother
requested additional information about him from Frank's
caseworker but did not receive any, despite the
department's awareness that Frank had a history of sexual
abuse. Had the parents known the information
that was known to the department regarding ...