Making and Breaking Families

  • Nell MusgroveEmail author
  • Deidre Michell
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series (PSHC)


In this chapter, Musgrove and Michell present a microhistory of the Thomas family to show how nineteenth-century foster care systems understood the value of both parent–child and sibling relationships. The chapter argues that while welfare authorities made an effort to keep siblings together in foster care, the ultimate logic and smooth functioning of the system was more important. Also considered in the chapter is the state’s attitude towards reuniting mothers with their children through the stories of two of the Thomas sisters who fell pregnant while they were wards of the state. Finally, the chapter explores the meanings of familial relationships for people who grew up in foster care through more recent autobiographies and oral histories, and Australian governments’ slow progress towards supporting family reunion.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Catholic UniversityFitzroyAustralia
  2. 2.University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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