A Receiving Home Keeper took care of the children in a Receiving Home. Although they could be single women, by the 1950s, the Social Services Department preferred married couples. The wife managed the home while the husband went out to work.
The Department preferred Receiving Home Keepers who did not drink or smoke and had a 'motherly touch'. In the 1950s, qualifications in professions such as nursing were welcome but not essential. The women could have children of their own but the Department sometimes rejected applicants who did because it reduced the room available for the other children. The Department assessed applicants for the stability of their marriages and children.
Receiving Home Keepers did not pay rent. The Department paid for the children's board. Unless the child was in the home for only a short period, they also received the child endowment from the Commonwealth government .
Receiving Home Keepers were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week although by the 1970s they did have four weeks unpaid annual leave. They had little opportunity for a private life. Not only did they provide temporary care for children arriving at all times of the day or night but they also carried a considerable burden of housework, often in run down premises. The Department (itself on a tight budget) did not replace household items lightly which could cause inconvenience and time spent on repairs. The housework seems to have eased as more labour saving devices came onto the market. The replacement of wood fired coppers with electric washing machines was probably especially welcome because Receiving Home Keepers did a great deal of laundry.
In the 1970s the Receiving Home Keeper's contract stated that:
The Receiving Home Keeper shall admit to the Receiving Home at any time with or without notice any child or children whom the Director or any of his officers desire to place in the said Home and to exercise proper care and supervision over them for such period as the Director or his officers may determine.
During the 1970s, there was some disquiet among Receiving Home Keepers because of the rising cost of living, the garden maintenance they had to do, and difficulties in recouping out of pocket expenses. Many of the children coming into care, especially teenage girls, needed more attention and support than in the past.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 14 May 2012, Last modified: 5 March 2015