Foster Care—Philosophies, Rhetoric and Practices

  • Nell MusgroveEmail author
  • Deidre Michell
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series (PSHC)


In this chapter, Musgrove and Michell examine the philosophical and ideological motivations for implementing foster care as the core method of providing for children within Australian child welfare systems from around the 1870s, arguing for the importance of understanding this period in a transnational context. The chapter goes on to show how welfare authorities’ assessments of families as ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ could determine whether or not parents were separated from their children, and demonstrates that assessments of character profoundly shaped people’s journeys through the system well into the twentieth century. The chapter extends this discussion of ‘character’ to its consequence: stigma. In discussing stigma, the chapter exposes the way child welfare systems criminalised and stigmatised children, demonstrating the huge toll this took on people’s lives.


  1. Abrams, Lynn. The Orphan Country: Children of Scotland’s Broken Homes from 1845 to the Present Day. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1998.Google Scholar
  2. Ackroyd, Peter. Charlie Chaplin. London: Chatto & Windus, 2014.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, Stephanie. “Children Charged with Needing Protection Call for Apology.” ABC News, 13 February 2018, 2017.Google Scholar
  4. Barbalet, Margaret. Far from a Low Gutter Girl: The Forgotten World of State Wards: South Australia 1887–1940. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1983.Google Scholar
  5. Barnes, John. “James, John Stanley (1843–1896).” Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 2010.
  6. Behlmer, George. Friends of the Family: The English Home and Its Guardians, 1850–1940. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  7. “Boarding-Out of Orphans.” Argus (Melbourne), 28 July 1876, 7.Google Scholar
  8. “The Boarding-Out System in Victoria.” South Australian Register (Adelaide), 4 February 1873, 4.Google Scholar
  9. Briggs, Freda, and Susan Hunt. “Foster Care from a Historical Perspective.” Children Australia 40, no. 4 (2015): 316–26.Google Scholar
  10. Brothe, Crystal. “You Ain’t Never Gonna Be Better Than Me.” In Those Winter Sundays: Female Academics and Their Working Class Parents, edited by K. Welsch, 11–20. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005.Google Scholar
  11. Chaplin, Charles. My Autobiography. London: The Bodley Head, 1964.Google Scholar
  12. Children’s Welfare Department, Victoria. Children’s Welfare Department and Reformatory Schools: Reports of the Secretary and Inspector, 1925–60.Google Scholar
  13. Department for Neglected Children and Reformatory Schools, Victoria. Department for Neglected Children and Reformatory Schools: Report of the Secretary and Inspector, 1896–1913.Google Scholar
  14. Exon, Edwin. “The Boarding Out of the Orphans.” Argus (Melbourne), 31 August 1876, 6.Google Scholar
  15. Fawcett, Henry. Pauperism: Its Causes and Remedies. London and New York: Macmillan and Co., 1871.Google Scholar
  16. Ferguson, Harry. “Abused and Looked After Children as ‘Moral Dirt’: Child Abuse and Institutional Care in Historical Perspective.” Journal of Social Policy 36, no. 1 (2007): 123–39.Google Scholar
  17. Fraser, Rosalie. Shadow Child: A Memoir of the Stolen Generation. Alexandria, NSW: Hale & Iremonger Pty Ltd, 1998.Google Scholar
  18. Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1963.Google Scholar
  19. Greer, Germaine. Dadd, We Hardly Knew You. London: Penguin, 1999.Google Scholar
  20. Harvey, Elizabeth. “‘Layered Networks’: Imperial Philanthropy in Birmingha, and Sydney, 1860–1914.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwelath History 41, no. 1 (2013): 120–42.Google Scholar
  21. Hill, Florence. Children of the State: The Training of Juvenile Paupers. London: Macmillan and Co., 1868.Google Scholar
  22. Hill, Florence. “State Children: To the Editor.” Adelaide Observer (Adelaide), 13 February 1886, 14.Google Scholar
  23. Hill, Rosamond, and Florence Hill. What We Saw in Australia. Digitsed by the Internet Archive in 2007 with Funding from Microsoft Corporation., 1875.
  24. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. “Bringing Them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families.” Sydney: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997.Google Scholar
  25. Industrial and Reformatory Schools Department, Victoria. Industrial and Reformatory Schools Department: Reports of the Inspector, 1875.Google Scholar
  26. Industrial and Reformatory Schools Office, Victoria. Industrial and Reformatory Schools Department: Reports of the Inspector, 1874.Google Scholar
  27. Jacobsen, Walter. Dussa and the Maiden’s Prayer. Melbourne: The Law Printer, 1994.Google Scholar
  28. Kidd, Alan. State, Society and the Poor in Nineteenth Century England. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999.Google Scholar
  29. Lake, Marilyn. “State Socialism for Australian Mothers: Andrew Fisher’s Radical Maternalism in Its International and Local Contexts.” Labour History, no. 102 (2012): 102–56. Google Scholar
  30. Lees, Lynn Hollen. The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People, 1700–1948. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  31. Long History of Foster Care Oral History Project. “Jannelle.” 2015.Google Scholar
  32. “Making Good Citizens: Rival Systems, the Inter-state Congress.” Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 May 1909, 9.Google Scholar
  33. Mayo, Mary E. “A Suggestion with Regard to the Training of Pauper Children.” Reprinted from the Guardian 1878. Our Waifs and Strays, October 1883, 3.Google Scholar
  34. Meehan, Donna. It Is No Secret. Milsons Point, NSW: Random House, 2000.Google Scholar
  35. Meekins, Ki. Red Tape Rape: The Story of Ki Meekins. Adelaide, 2008.Google Scholar
  36. Michell, Deidre. “Two Mothers—Twice the Blessing or Was I Cursed?” Women-Church 31 (Spring 2002): 11–16.Google Scholar
  37. Michell, Dee, and Claudine Scalzi. “I Want to Be Someone, I Want to Make a Difference: Young Care Leavers Preparing for the Future in South Australia.” In Young People Transitioning from Out-of-Home Car, edited by Philip Mendes and Pamela Snow. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.Google Scholar
  38. Miller, Alice. The Truth Will Set You Free. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2001.Google Scholar
  39. Mullighan, E. P. “Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry: Allegations of Sexual Abuse and Death from Criminal Conduct.” Adelaide, SA, 2008.Google Scholar
  40. Musgrove, Nell. The Scars Remain: A Long History of Forgotten Australians and Children’s Institutions. Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2013.Google Scholar
  41. New South Wales. Act for the Relief of Destitute Children 1866.Google Scholar
  42. Nyland, Margaret. “The Life They Deserve: Child Protection Systems Royal Commission Report,” 78–149. Adelaide, SA: Child Protection Systems Royal Commission, 2016.Google Scholar
  43. O’Brien, Anne. Poverty’s Prison: The Poor in New South Wales 1880–1918. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  44. “The Orphan Asylum.” Argus (Melbourne), 7 September 1855, 5.Google Scholar
  45. Owen, Jan. Every Childhood Lasts a Lifetime: Personal Stories from the Frontline of Family Breakdown. Brisbane, QLD: Australian Association of Young People in Care, 1996.Google Scholar
  46. Palmer, Sheridan. Hegel’s Owl: The Life of Bernard Smith. Sydney: Power Publications, 2016.Google Scholar
  47. Parry, Naomi. “‘Such a Longing’: Black and White Children in Welfare in New South Wales and Tasmania, 1880–1940.” PhD Thesis, University of New South Wales, 2007.Google Scholar
  48. Perkins, Miki. “Criminal Records That Branded Children and Babies as Criminals to Be Expunged.” The Age, 2017.Google Scholar
  49. Public Record Office Victoria, VA 475 Chief Secretary’s Department, VPRS 4527/P0 Ward Registers.Google Scholar
  50. Public Record Office Victoria, VA 475 Chief Secretary’s Department, Chief Secretary’s Inward Registered Correspondence II & III, VPRS 3991 & 3992.Google Scholar
  51. Queensland Parliamentary Debates, 19 August 1875.Google Scholar
  52. Scrivener, Gladys. “Parental Imposition or Police Coercion? The Role of Parents and Police in Committals to the Industrial Schools in New South Wales, 1867–1905.” Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society 86, no. 1 (2000): 23–38.Google Scholar
  53. Senate Community Affairs References Committee. “Protecting Vulnerable Children: A National Challenge.” Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2005.Google Scholar
  54. Smith, Bernard. The Boy Adeodatus. Ringwood, VIC: Penguin, 1984.Google Scholar
  55. South Australia, Act to Amend the Law Relating to State Children, and for Other Purposes 1895.Google Scholar
  56. Swain, Shurlee. “‘I Am Directed to Remind You of Your Duty to Your Family’: Public Surveillance of Mothering in Victoria, Australia, 1920–40.” Women’s History Review 8, no. 2 (1999): 247–59.Google Scholar
  57. Swain, Shurlee. “Florence and Rosamond Davenport Hill and the Development of Boarding Out in England and Australia: A Study in Cultural Transmission.” Women’s History Review 23, no. 5 (2014): 744–59.Google Scholar
  58. Swain, Shurlee, and Margot Hillel. Child, Nation, Race and Empire: Child Resuce Discourse, England, Canada and Australia, 1850–1915. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  59. “Untitled.” Argus (Melbourne), 14 June 1870, 4.Google Scholar
  60. Vagabond, A. “Boarding Out in Practice.” Argus (Melbourne), 25 November 1876, 4.Google Scholar
  61. Western Australia. Child Welfare Act 1947.Google Scholar
  62. Woor-Dungin Criminal Record Discrimination Project Interviews. “Uncle Larry Walsh.”
  63. Yeo, Eileen Janes. The Contest for Social Science: Relations and Representations of Gender and Class. London: Rivers Oram Press, 1996.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Catholic UniversityFitzroyAustralia
  2. 2.University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations