The State Children's Council was established under An Act to amend ‘The Destitute Persons Act, 1881’ of 1886 (No. 387) and assumed control of the Industrial and Reformatory Schools, and the boarding-out (fostering) of children. In the words of the first Secretary of the State Children's Council the objective of the Council was ‘to take control of the “children of the street” and to train them to become virtuous, honest and useful citizens’.1 Records of the Destitute Asylum and the Industrial and Reformatory Schools are described in separate Fact Sheets.

The Children's Welfare and Public Relief Department, established in 1927, combined the operations of both the State Children's Department and the Destitute Persons' Department. In 1966 it became the Social Welfare Department.  Most records relating to this subject were created by the State Children’s Department (Agency ID - GRG27), the Destitute Persons’ Department (Agency ID - GRG28), and the Social Welfare Department (Agency ID - GRG29).

The Boarding-out system

The greater part of the State Children's Council's responsibility lay with the boarding-out system, which included:

  • the boarding-out of children under thirteen years of age in approved homes, at a fixed weekly subsidy

  • the adoption of young children by respectable persons having no children of their own

  • the licensing to service of children over thirteen years of age

  • apprenticeships to trades

  • the licensing of children on probation to their parents, who were proved to be respectable and worthy of trust.2

Records relating to children boarded-out

Series ID

Series title and date range


GRG 27/5

Ledgers of children boarded out 1862 – 1921

Part open (open after 100 years)

See Special List, also on ArchivesSearch to 1913

Partially indexed by GRG27/6 Index to ledgers of children boarded out, 1862-1908

GRG 27/7

Applications for a child to be boarded-out or for service, with accompanying correspondence, memorandum and reports, 1918

Restricted (open after 100 years)

GRG27/8Rough register of children in the care of the Department, 1920-1921Restricted (open after 100 years)

GRG 27/16

Register of applications for foster mothers' licences considered by the State Children's Council, 1899 – 1910


See Special List

GRG 27/17

Register of licensed foster mothers, 1886 – 1910


GRG 27/18

Register of children placed with licensed foster mothers, 1902 – 1910


See Special List

GRG 27/19

Reports by inspectress of licensed foster mothers and wet nurses, 1881 – 1909


See Special List

GRG 27/33

Minutes of the Boarding-Out Society, 1879 – 1884


GRG 28/6

Ledger of children boarded out, 1855 - 1867


GRG 28/7

Register of children apprenticed, adopted or licensed to service, 1862 – 1872


GRG 28/15

Register of licensed foster-mothers and foster children, 1883 – 1885


GRG 29/81

Reports by inspectors of licenced foster mothers and maternity homes, 1938 – 1953

Restricted (open after 100 years)

Indexed by GRG29/82 Card index to reports by inspectors of licensed foster mothers and maternity homes, 1947-1951

GRG 29/137

Licensed foster mother files, 1959 – 1970 (5% sample only)

Restricted (open after 100 years)

GRG 29/171

Minutes - Boarding-Out Committee, State Children's Council, 1895 - 1900


Related material

Researchers with an interest in the care of children by non-government institutions may find the publication 'Finding Your Own Way' useful.  It describes in detail various private and religious institutions in South Australia who cared for children and also describes records that may, or may not, be available. 'Finding Your Own Way' is available from SA Link-Up.

Researchers with queries concerning adoption records should contact the Department for Child Protection or telephone +61 8 8207 2648.


[1] (South Australian Parliamentary Paper No. 39A of 1887).

[2] (South Australian Parliamentary Paper No.39A of 1887)

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