Boarding out was the term originally used to describe foster care. Tasmania was one of the first colonies to introduce boarding out.
Nineteenth century reformers advocated boarding out because it provided more of a family life than the big institutions. However, Tasmania's first boarding out scheme was a cost cutting measure. The government introduced it in 1844, when the Convict Department took over Queen's Asylum and then refused to accept destitute or orphaned children who did not have convict parents. Instead, the government paid families £10 a year to take these children in. The local Police Magistrate supervised the scheme and was supposed to make sure that the children were properly looked after. Joan Brown points out that this was purely a cost cutting measure. The proof is that, in 1846, when the Convict Department agreed to accept the children into Queen's Asylum again, the government removed them from the families and placed them there.
In 1862, the government began giving food and other assistance to destitute people not living in an institution, a system known as outdoor relief. William Tarleton, the Police Magistrate, administered it with the help of a small number of staff in the Office of the Inspector of Police. Some of the assistance went to children waiting for a place in an institution. Instead of placing them in one, Tarleton set aside a small sum of money to pay people in the country to look after them.
Tarleton faced opposition to the boarding out scheme from the Surgeon-Superintendent of Queen's Orphan Asylum. According to Joan Brown he dealt with it by stating that:
There can be no doubt that this mode of dealing with children if carried out under proper conditions, most nearly approaches ordinary home life, and affords the best substitute for true parental training. If entrusted at an early age to the care of kind and well conducted persons, children will soon regard them in the light of parents, whilst the latter, on the other hand, performing constantly towards the children all the offices of a parent, learn to take a warm interest in them, and thus a bond of mutual affection springs up which goes far to replace the want of real parental love. In the free atmosphere of a respectable household, where there is no daily round of depressing montonous discipline, but where unrestricted association of brothers and sisters, and friendly intercourse with school fellows and neighbours are permitted, the healthy growth of natural ties and domestic affections is promoted, and the children are surrounded by humanising influences of infinite value which are not brought to bear on them under any other system or in any institution.
In 1873, the Public Charities Act provided for a boarding out system to be run by the Charitable Grants Department, also established by the Act. By then, 45 children were already boarded out. When Rosamund and Florence Hill visited Tasmania in October that year, they said that the system was 'working well'.
In 1880, the Benevolent Society took the boarding out system over. The following year, the Charitable Grants Department resumed control again. From then on, they managed it with the assistance of boarding out committees. In 1896, following the passage of the Youthful Offenders, Destitute and Neglected Children's Act, the Neglected Children's Department took over its management.
The term boarding out eventually changed to foster care but it persisted into the late 1960s.
1844 - c. 1970 Boarding Out
c. 1955 - Foster Care
Sources used to compile this entry: 'The Benevolent Society', The Mercury, 28 January 1881, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8992927; 'Picnic at South Arm for boarded out children and foster mothers', Illustrated Tasmanian Mail, 27 January 1926, pp. 42-43; Brown, Joan C., 'Poverty is not a crime': the development of social services in Tasmania, 1803-1900, Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Hobart, 1972, 192 pp; Evans, Caroline, Protecting the Innocent: Tasmania's Neglected Children, Their Parents and State Care, 1890-1918, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1999, 251 pp, http://eprints.utas.edu.au/14453/; Evans, Caroline, 'Declining Volunteerism in Tasmania's Neglected Children's Department, 1896-1918', Tasmanian Historical Studies, vol. 16, Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2011, pp. 73-88; Hill, Rosamund Davenport and Hill Florence Davenport, What we saw in Australia, Macmillan and Co, London, 1875, 438 pp, http://archive.org/details/whatwesawinaustr00hilliala.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 19 October 2011, Last modified: 2 March 2015