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Explaining the different models of ‘care’


This page contains explanations and definitions of the many different models of ‘care’ for children in Australia. Most of these models were common during the period of ‘institutional care’, roughly from 1788 until around 1989. Institutions such as orphanages, children’s Homes and reformatories housed large numbers of children, living in dormitories (sometimes described as ‘congregate care’). During this period, children could also be placed in private households in foster care (or boarded out as it used to be known).

Over time, new models of ‘care’ emerged that typically accommodated smaller groups of children, sometimes in a setting designed to be ‘homelike’ such as family group Homes or cottage Homes.

In the 2010s, the system for children and young people who cannot live in their family home is commonly known as ‘out of home care’ and models include residential care, foster care, kinship care and permanent care.

Some of the entries on this page have links that take you to pages with more information, such as a longer definition of a concept, or a list of all the entries on Find & Connect that are about a particular model of ‘care’.

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    Aboriginal Education and Employment Hostels

    Aboriginal Education and Employment Hostels were operated by the Western Australian Department of Native Welfare from 1950 to 1972, and then came under the administration of the Department for Community Welfare and its successors. They were set up to provide accommodation for young Indigenous people who needed to come to the metropolitan area, or large regional towns, for study or work. Almost all these hostels were run by independent agencies under agreements with state government departments

    Admission Unit

    Admission units were established by the South Australian Department for Community Welfare after the passing of the 1972 Community Welfare Act. A number of existing cottage Homes became units. Admission units were used for short term crisis care and for children deemed to have behavioural problems. Although units were intended to provide short term accommodation, the lack of alternatives often meant that children remained in units for long periods of time.

    Adolescent Care

    Adolescent Care refers to models of out-of-home care geared to the needs of young people, including Adolescent Units, Early Adolescent Units, Teenage Units and Adolescent Community Placement. Programs for adolescents became more common from the 1980s.

    Adolescent Community Placement

    Adolescent Community Placement (or ACP) is a term used to describe a home-based care model for young people aged 12 to 18 years who are experiencing crisis and are unable to live with their families for a range of reasons. This type of placement enables young people to reside in a home-like environment with the support and supervision of approved carers.


    Annexe is a term used to describe a smaller residential facility that is part of a larger institution.

    Approved Children’s Home


    The term ‘Approved Children’s Home’ was applied to Homes that had been certified for the care of children under the relevant state legislation. In Tasmania, under the Child Welfare Act 1960, Approved Children’s Homes were run by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis. The government paid Managers maintenance for each child accommodated in the Home. In Tasmania, Approved Children’s Homes replaced Certified Children’s Homes, also run by volunteers, which were specifically for wards of state.

    Assessment Unit

    In South Australia, assessment unit was the name given to a residential unit used for the short term placement of children under the care of the government. Children were placed in these units while their needs were assessed and longer term placements were found. After the passing of the Community Welfare Act in 1972, assessment became the policy of the Department. It was introduced with the aim to ensure that the most appropriate form of longer term residential care was chosen for each child based on his or her individual needs.


    Asylum is a term used throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to refer to a place of refuge for the poor, destitute, aged and dependent, as well as for ‘lunatics’ (an offensive term used in the past to describe people with mental illness). Asylums were generally run by charities or churches, but funded by the government. Some nineteenth century children’s homes were known as asylums.

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    Babies’ Home

    The term Babies’ Home generally refers to institutions for children under the age of three, though not all institutions which served this purpose were named babies’ homes. For instance, in the nineteenth century, such institutions were often known as infant asylums and others were called foundling hospitals. These institutions were usually associated with services for single mothers, and often functioned (officially or not) as adoption agencies. Staff in babies’ homes were usually trained nurses. Some institutions also provided training for mothercraft nurses.

    Benevolent Asylum

    Benevolent Asylums were private institutions set up in the nineteenth century to house ‘destitute’ men, women and children, expectant mothers (lying-in) as well as ‘deserted wives’, ‘waifs’, ‘neglected children’ and ‘orphans’.

    Benevolent Institution

    A benevolent institution was an institution run by a charitable organisation based on principles of benevolence and philanthropy.

    Boarding Out

    Boarding out is the term used from the nineteenth century to describe the placement of children and young people in private homes. By the twentieth century, boarding was more commonly known as foster care.


    A borstal, or borstall, was a reformatory for young offenders aged about 16 to 21. The term was used between about 1920 and 1970.

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    Children’s Home


    Children’s Home is a term commonly used during the period from the 1920s to the 1970s to describe children’s institutions.

    Children’s Nursing Home

    A Children’s Nursing Home, in Tasmania, provided accommodation in a private home for children under five years old. The first Children’s Nursing Homes were established under the Tasmanian Infant Life Protection Act 1907. Children’s Nursing Homes were run by a woman who took care of the children in return for a fee usually paid by the mother. The mothers were usually single and placed their children in the Home so that they could earn a living to support them.

    Children’s Village

    A Children’s Village usually comprised several cottage Homes, in which children were accommodated in the ‘care’ of cottage parents. The village model was an alternative to institutional, dormitory-style accommodation of children. This model of institutional care has its roots in the late nineteenth century.

    Community Support Hostel

    Community Support Hostels in Western Australia were hostels that aimed to support up to eight children aged 6-17 years to develop and maintain skills that would increase their capacity to integrate well in future placements and community activities. By 1987 in WA, children who were on arrest or remand and who could not live at home were also accommodated in community support hostels.

    Community Unit

    A Community Unit was a smaller group residential care unit. This term was used in South Australia from the 1970s for longer term small group care. Community Units were to provide care and support for a range of children in State ‘care’ including young people on remand or children considered to be at risk. Some units catered specifically for children with severe behavioural problems. Community units also assisted in the process of transitioning young people towards independent living. In the late 1970s and early 1980s some government cottages were renamed Admission or Community units – for example Hay Cottage became Hay Community Unit in 1979.


    A compound was an area in which Aboriginal people were confined within a town district. This concept was developed by Baldwin Spencer when he was Chief Protector of Aboriginals as a way of separating and controlling Indigenous people of the Northern Territory. Compounds were to be self-sufficient and Aboriginal people were expected to carry out required agricultural work to achieve this.

    Congregate Care

    Congregate care was a term used to describe the system in large institutions in which children were housed in dormitories, usually divided by age and gender, under the supervision of rostered staff.

    Convalescent Home


    A Convalescent Home was a place where children were sent to rest and recover from illnesses, or after a stay in hospital. Sometimes the term was used to describe a home for women suffering from venereal disease (such institutions were also known as Lock Hospitals or Contagious Diseases Hospitals).

    Cottage Home


    Cottage homes were a model of institutional ‘care’ which began in the United Kingdom in the late nineteenth century. Along with ‘boarding out’, cottage home accommodation was seen as an alternative to large scale dormitory-style accommodation (although cottage homes could house up to 40 children). Some cottages used the ‘family cottage’ model where a group of children lived with cottage parents, usually a married couple.

    The model of the cottage Home was based on ideas that children had to be housed in a situation resembling the ‘normal’ family, if they were to develop into healthy, productive adults. It was also influenced by the assumption that ‘spatial designs could shape the individual’s identity and regulate his or her role in the larger society’ (Murdoch, Imagined Orphans, 2006).

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    Departmental Residential Care

    Departmental Residential Care is a term used in Tasmania to describe the accommodation of children in government run Homes . The accommodation could be in Cottage Homes, Receiving Homes, Family Group Homes, or other Departmental institutions.


    Depot was the name, from the nineteenth century until the mid twentieth century, for a receiving Home where children were accommodated temporarily when first taken into ‘care’. Depots also provided short-term accommodation for children being transferred between placements, or when placements broke down. Some children for whom placements couldn’t be found lived in depots for long periods of time.

    Domestic Service Assistance Scheme (1947 – c. 1989)

    The Domestic Service Assistance Scheme in Tasmania was established in 1947. It provided a housekeeper or temporary accommodation for children during a family emergency which left no one able to look after them. The Scheme ended in about 1989.

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    Emergency Care

    Emergency care, being short term, immediate care for children in need, was provided in different ways. Government and non-government Homes provided emergency care. Emergency foster care was also sometimes available. A state’s main children’s ‘depot’ or receiving Home was sometimes used for emergency care.

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    Family Group Home


    Family Group Home is the name given to a model of ‘care’ where small groups of children are accommodated in buildings that approximate the size and form of an average family home. They began to appear in as a form of ‘care’ in Australia from the late 1940s, following concerns about the lack of individual attention given to children in large-scale institutions. Family group Homes could be run by government departments or by non-government organisations.

    Sometimes the terms cottage home and family group home were used interchangeably. SKIP LINK TO COTTAGE HOME IN GLOSSARY

    In 1946, the Curtis Report, which followed an investigation of Children’s Homes in the United Kingdom, had called for the development of the family group Home system, following concerns about the lack of individual attention given to children in large institutions. It recommended that family group Homes not exceed 12 children, and have a mix of ages and sexes. This report was influential on child welfare policy in Australia.

    From the 1950s onwards, encouraged by state governments, many non-government institutions shifted away from large-scale, institutional care by establishing family group Homes, often located in the same suburb as the original orphanage or children’s Home. Other institutions built cottage Homes as an alternative to congregate care. State governments also established their own family group Homes.

    In South Australia, the term used was Family Homes. These Family Homes generally provided short-term care. In the Northern Territory, they were also known as Family Homes.

    In Tasmania, Family Group Homes were not introduced until about 1980 and they had a specific meaning in this state. In Tasmania, Family Group Homes run by the Social Welfare Department provided temporary accommodation for children before they were placed in foster care, or were a place to stay between placements. These Homes were previously known as receiving homes in Tasmania.

    Family Home??

    Farm School


    The Farm School was a model of residential ‘care’ for children, based in a rural area, which trained children (typically boys) in agricultural duties.

    Foster Care

    Foster Care is a method of out-of-home ‘care’ provided to children and young people who are temporarily or permanently unable to live with their families of origin. Foster care places these children in private family homes. SKIP LINK TO BOARDING OUT ?


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    Group Home (1970s – )

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    Holiday Home

    Home Based Care

    Home Care Unit


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    Independent Living Unit

    Industrial School

    Institutional Care

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    Juvenile Justice Centre (1990s)

    Juvenile School (1954 – c. 1961)

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    Kinship Care

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    Leprosarium (c. 1889 – )

    Lock Hospital?

    Lying in Home

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    Maternity Home


    Mission Boarding School?

    Mission Dormitory

    Mission Station?

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    Private Hostel [intellectual disability]?

    Probationary School (1900 – 1945)

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    Receiving Home (1898 – c. 1980)

    Reception Centre (1950s – 1990s)


    Rescue Home

    Residential Care

    Respite Care

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    Scatter Cottage (1970s – 1980s)

    Scattered FGHs

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    Temporary Care?

    Therapeutic Residential Care (1990? – )

    Training Centre (1959 – )

    Training School

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    Youth Training Centre (c. 1961 – )

    Youth Welfare Service?