Licensing of persons and institutions for the 'care' of children under two years of age was first enabled in Western Australia by the Health Act 1898 (Part 7). This provision was repealed in 1907, was transferred to the new State Children Act 1907 (Part 8) and applied to people other than near relatives who were caring for children under the age of 3 years. From 1907, the State Children Department and later agencies responsible for child welfare were responsible for the licensing process. The State Children Act Amendment Act 1919 extended this protection to children under 6 years of age.
Part 8 of the State Children Act 1907 enabled licensing of foster-mothers: '101. (1.) The Department may, on payment of the prescribed fee, grant annual licenses to fit and proper persons to be foster-mothers to children under the age of three years, and may by any such license fix the number of children authorised to be kept by the foster-mother therein named. (2.) The Department may, in its discretion, revoke any licenses granted under this section.'
Licenses could be granted to institutions and/or individuals. The Manager of the Institution was an actual person who was named in the government gazette for the purpose of being the foster-mother where the foster-mother was an institution. The names of private foster-mothers were not usually published (except in some years, if a number of children were placed in a private home). Over the years, the licensed people with whom children were placed with were known as foster mothers or foster parents. These terms were not brought forward into the Children and Community Services Act 2004. However, the Act defines the role of the Department in the placement of children of all ages, and outlines the principles that are to be observed in making placement decisions for non-Aboriginal (Division 2) and Aboriginal children (Divisions 2-3), including (s.10) the child's participation in placement decisions.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 25 November 2014, Last modified: 27 February 2015