Landscape view of Kennerley Boys' Home PH30-1-9326 Jan 1880 Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

Adoptions, fostering and out-of-home care

Everybody’s childhood story is different. Yours might involve several families, or living with other children in out-of-home care. 

This guide is aimed at assisting people who are seeking information and records documenting the circumstances of their own childhood, or the childhood of a close relative. It particularly aims at assisting Forgotten Australians - those who grew up in care homes and orphanages, or with foster carers, as well as those who have a first family and an adopted family. It will focus on the years from 1920 onwards in Tasmania.

This guide will assist you by:
  • explaining the processes around accessing State and Non-State records on childhood, fostering and adoptions
  • highlighting some of the main resources available
  • providing an overview of the services we provide to help you find information about your past
  • detailing some useful contacts and support services available from other organisations.

If you are researching adoption and welfare support before the year 1920, you may like to consult our guide on Life as a Child in Care

We also have a guide on Child Migrants.

For detailed information and support services, we recommend that you contact the Find & Connect organisation.

Different sorts of records

There are a variety of ways in which children were cared for between the years 1920 and the present day: they may have been looked after by State Welfare, by a home run by a church, or through private means such as living with extended family members. It is possible that children may have been cared for in all three ways at different times in their lives.

The sorts of available records and means of accessing them differ between the sorts of care provided.  In general, we can separate the records into two broad categories, State records and Non-State records:

  • State records were created by government departments, and include records on Wards of the State, adoption, custody, child protection and welfare.  It also includes school and health care records.

  • Non-state records were produced by private institutions such as churches and community care groups, and private care homes.  They include family memoirs, photographs and other collections.

It is important to remember that your files are not collated together in one file in your name: you might have three or four separate files. It is likely that your files might exist across both State and Non-State collections, and that even within these, there might be several files in different series. For example, you may have been a Ward of the State but placed into a Non-State care home. 

Accessing State records

Many State records about recent childhood experiences and care are restricted access, most commonly for 75 years calculated from the most recent date recorded. This is to ensure that sensitive personal and medical information remains private.  

For example, the Tasmanian Archives holds the following series of Welfare files in our collection: 
  • General Welfare Case Files (Series Number AA226) Covering the period 9 Mar 1915 - 11 Nov 1994, this series of records contains applications and correspondence relating to the custody and welfare of children, child migration and the provision of compassionate allowances to individuals and families. 
  • This series is classified as 'Agency access only 75 years (D75)', which means that records less than 75 years old are 'closed' and can only be accessed through the responsible government agency.  As with all welfare records, this agency is the Department of Communities Tasmania. You will need to apply for access to these records (see below).

It is important to note that any records about adoption and fostering are permanently closed to the public. These files can only ever be accessed through the Department of Communities Tasmania and the Adoption Information Service. For more information, see 'Accessing adoption and fostering records' below. 


How can I access my State records?

While the Tasmanian Archives is a starting point to finding out about your childhood story, we will need to refer you to the Department of Communities Tasmania or Adoption Information Service to access closed State records. That agency will assess your application to see closed records, search for items on your behalf, and may then provide access to these records to you.

Accessing Welfare and Ward of the State files

To access Welfare and Ward of the State files you will need to contact the Department of Communities Tasmania, and complete a Personal Information Protection (PIP) form.  The online PIP form is available here. The department will assess your application, and may then provide access.

Department of Communities Tasmania 
Phone: 1300 737 639
Email: pipapplications@health.tas.gov.au 


Accessing adoption and fostering records

If you were adopted or in foster care as a child, you will need to contact the Adoption Information Service to discuss the process, and to find out if you are eligible. Only certain people under the Adoption Act (1988) can access information from the record. The Adoption Information Service is part of the Department of Communities Tasmania. 

Adoption Information Service
Phone: (03) 6166 0422
Email: adoption.services@communities.tas.gov.au 

Find & Connect has a useful overview explaining your rights to information and the privacy laws that govern what and how your records can be accessed, and what can be amended.  See Applying for Records: Your Rights and the Law, which provides links to the original legislation.  

Accessing Non-State records

Many care homes in Tasmania were privately run, often by religious institutions. Children in Non-State care homes may have been placed in these homes by family, and in these cases a government Welfare or Ward of the State file will not exist. However, some children were placed in these Non-State care homes as a Ward of State. If so, you need to contact the Department of Communities Tasmania.   

The Tasmanian Archives holds only a very small number of Non-State care home administrative records. If you were cared for in a Non-State care home or orphanage and have been unable to find records in the Tasmanian Archives collection, you will need to contact the church or private institution’s research support services to gain access to your records.

Find & Connect has a comprehensive list of children’s homes in Tasmania, as well as guides to record holdings, contact details and photographs.  

An example of care home administrative records held by the Tasmanian Archives is NG3310 Bethany Boys Home (Dover 1947-1957 and Lindisfarne 1957-1978)The records within this collection include admission registers, photographs and a visitor’s book. Most of these records have access restrictions. If you lived at this home, you will need to contact us at the Tasmanian Archives for access.  

Other types of care home records

The Tasmanian Archives holds numerous other items of significance for Non-State care homes. These include annual reports, newsletters, photos and sometimes film footage of homes.

For example, the Clarendon Children’s Home had several locations including Kingston Beach from 1945 to 2004. We do not have records of admission or any other administrative files from this home because they have been retained by the Anglican Church. However, we do hold other items of interest including:

Useful Libraries Tasmania resources

Libraries Tasmania (which includes the Tasmanian Archives) has many resources to help you locate more information about your childhood or place of care, or to help piece together a bigger picture to put your experiences in context.  

For tips on how to search our collections, please see our guides, Searching Tasmanian Archives (for archive records) and Search our collections (includes published resources). 

Family history records

If you have memories or knowledge of family, or have received information through the PIP process (see 'How can I access my State records' above), you might have a range of questions on your family history that you would like to research.

We offer numerous Guides to Records to help you, including guides on:

Hospital birth records

Many hospital and health records are restricted. However, there are some records in the Tasmanian Archives that are open, for example:

Queen Alexandra Hospital for Women (TA459), which ran from 1905 to 1980 in Hobart:
Royal Hobart Hospital (TA441), from 1820 to today:

Launceston General Hospital (TA442), from 1820 to today:

North West Regional Hospital/ Burnie General Hospital/ Spencer Public Hospital, from 1918 onwards:


Baptism records

The Tasmanian Archives holds many baptism records.  See our indexes and library resources, including our online record guide on Church registers held in the Tasmanian Archive.

Finding out where someone lived

Libraries Tasmania holds a range of resources to help you locate where someone lived in the past. For example, we have electoral rolls and telephone directories

School records

To help you find out more about your schooling, we have a useful guide to records on schools and education. Here you will find links to photographs, and school administration records, and tips on how to search for other records of interest.

Many schools had close links with particular children’s care homes. For instance, two schools were connected to the Launceston Girls' Home including:

We also have a range of registers and admissions for specialist schools around Tasmania, including:

Photographs

Photographs are important for memories.  We have photographs of the exterior and grounds of various care homes, as well as of children and staff. For instance, we have a selection of photographs from the Northern Tasmanian Home for Boys. We also have several online photographs of children at Wingfield Home, which operated at New Town from 1938 to 1971.

Resources that hold memories of places

Walking tracks, playgrounds, schools and parks in the area surrounding a place of care or family home are full of memories and resonate with people’s senses of identity.  

In our library and archives collections we hold many local historical studies, historical photographs, maps and plans that can help you with researching a place and can add important details to your story.  

How we can help you

There are many ways that Libraries Tasmania can help you find information about your childhood. 

If you live in Hobart, feel free to visit us in the Reading Room and History Room on the second floor of the State Library of Tasmania (91 Murray Street, Hobart) where staff can assist you to locate a range of archival items and histories, and provide general support with your Family History research.

If you would like to call and speak to someone on the telephone, you can reach us on 616 55538 or 616 55541 between 9.30am and 5:00pm Monday to Friday.  

You can also ask advice online through our chat service, where you will find a librarian or archivist to assist you. You can remain anonymous in this service. It is also available between 9.30am and 5:00pm Monday to Friday.  

If your questions requires a little bit more research or some more challenging questions, then you can fill out an online form with your questions.

Key publications in our collection 

Childhood experiences



Tasmanian care home histories


  • Clarendon: a century of care / Geoffrey Stephens 
    A history of the children’s home, particularly focused on policies, leadership and innovation. Of particular interest are the later chapters that discuss the years 1946 onwards, and includes photos of children, most identified by their first name, as well as interior photos of rooms. It also discusses day to day running.

Other readings




Useful contacts and support services


  • Care Leavers Australasia Network
    A group who supports people who have grown up in orphanages, children’s homes, missions and foster care in Australia and New Zealand, or whose parents or other family members had this experience.
    Phone:1800 008 774
    Email: support@clan.org.au




If you need immediate assistance, please contact:
Relationships Australia (Tasmania): 1300 364 277
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

Created: March 2020; Updated: July 2020