Publication Date



In the late nineteenth century, child welfare advocates in both England and Australia were publicly debating the benefits of foster care over institutional placement of children and in the process revealed a great deal about how they understood the role of the family in society. This article examines a range of concerns around foster care that emerged from this nineteenth-century literature and offers reflections on how this resonates with public perceptions of foster care in the early twenty-first century. It argues that while popular conceptions of who might make an appropriate foster carer have changed in some ways, largely in line with shifting and broadening notions of acceptable domesticity, fundamental concerns remain in public understandings about what should motivate people to become foster carers and whether foster care should be understood as family formation or a therapeutic service.


School of Arts

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.