History of Adoption and Fostering in Australia

Shurlee Swain

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:
History of Adoption and Fostering in Australia

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Known initially as boarding-out, foster care was the preferred method of care for neglected children in the second half of the 19th century, spreading from its beginnings in South Australia in 1866. The model selected was a variant of that advocated in the United Kingdom by women such as Florence Davenport-Hill in which children were placed in respectable working-class homes supervised by voluntary ladies committees. The degree to which the system was controlled by women varied, but by the early years of the 20th century control was centralized in the variously named state children’s departments. Although boarding-out was also implemented by some nongovernment child rescue organizations, many large institutions remained. These institutions assumed an increasing importance from the late 1920s when the system went into decline. Foster care was revived in the postwar period, and again from the 1970s, and it remains the primary form of out-of-home care, catering for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Informal adoption has a longer history. From the earliest days of white settlement the term was used to describe various arrangements in which children, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, were placed outside their families. State children’s departments described placements without payment as adoption. There was also a thriving private market primarily catering for children born to single mothers. The first adoption legislation was passed in Western Australia in 1896, but the remaining states did not act until the 1920s, introducing the beginnings of the closed adoption that reached its peak in the period 1940–1975. New baby adoption dropped dramatically from the mid-1970s, with the greater tolerance of and support for single mothers. A strong adoption reform movement saw secrecy provisions reversed and persuaded professionals to rethink their practice. The demand for children then focused on inter-country adoption, which continues to be the major source in Australia today.

Article.  8625 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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