Story: Children’s homes and fostering

Children whose parents have died, and those whose parents are unwilling or unable to look after them, depend on the good will of institutions or carers. Opinions about how to look after these children have changed over time.

Story by Kerryn Pollock
Main image: Children in care

Story Summary

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Orphanages were not just for orphans (children whose parents had died). They also took in children who could not be properly cared for by their parents, were neglected or abused, had behavioural problems or had committed crimes.

The first orphanages were set up by churches in the 1850s and 1860s. They wanted to teach children moral and spiritual values.

There was also government aid for orphanages, foster homes and poor families.

Government institutions

From 1867 the government ran industrial schools for neglected or criminal children. Other institutions for children were opened in the early 20th century.

As well as providing accommodation for delinquent and criminal children, the government housed deprived, neglected and abused children. Some were cared for by foster families.

People felt it was better for children to live with extended family or in foster homes, and from the 1980s many institutions closed.

Children’s homes, early 2000s

Children who live in residential homes in the early 2000s continue to do everyday things like go to school and play sports.

Child, Youth and Family (CYF) ran four residences for children aged 12 to 16 needing care and protection in 2010. CYF also ran four youth justice facilities for young people aged 14 to 16 who have committed criminal offences.

The government assists two homes run by charities in Auckland and Christchurch.

Foster care and family homes

Some children under 16 who cannot live in their own homes live in foster care. Foster parents receive an allowance to pay for the children’s care.

Foster care is thought to be better for children than living in an institution. CYF has a pool of foster families, and also supports charities with their own foster families.

Some children live in family homes owned by the government. Caregivers live in the homes rent-free and receive an allowance for the children. In 2010 there were 79 family homes.

Some children have suffered neglect or even abuse from foster parents or other carers, but many receive good care. Wherever possible people try to keep children with their own families.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Children’s homes and fostering', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 November 2018)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 5 May 2011