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Access is restricted to many of the records listed in this research guide, because they deal with individuals and their personal lives. Some records are not listed on Archway for that reason, in these cases they are listed with an asterisk (*).

Permission to view registers and files may be gained from the appropriate institution.

To learn more about restricted records, go to the record ordering screen in Archway and click the ‘more detail’ link below each listing. This will tell you why a record is restricted, and who you need to contact to gain permission to access the record. Access can only be provided with the written permission from the agency responsible for the restriction.

Click here to watch a video tutorial on how to access restricted records

A lot of these references link to the series, please then click on the ‘records’ tab and find the appropriate item from there.

Manager, Privacy Official Information Services

Privacy Official Information Team

Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children

PO Box 546

Wellington 6011

Central email:

Central telephone: (04) 918-9230

Child welfare is defined as the care of children suffering from the inadequacies of their parents or environment – was a small but significant part of the work of the Education Department for many years. This role was substantially formalised with the Child Welfare Act 1925 which created a special Child Welfare Division of the Education Department (files for these can be found by using the key words ‘education’ and ‘welfare’ when searching for an Agency on Archway).

This act aimed to make better provision for the maintenance, care and control of children under the protection of the state, and to provide generally for ‘indigent, neglected or delinquent’ children. Among other things, the act led to the appointment of Child Welfare Officers and established separate courts for hearing charges against young people.

The responsibilities of the Child Welfare Division included running the various Special Schools. Other responsibilities were to inquire confidentially into illegitimate births, enforce Maintenance Orders, handle applications for adoption, oversee placement of children in foster homes and inspect registered private children’s homes.

The Child Welfare Amendment Act 1948 made the Child Welfare Division of the Education Department autonomous, with its own Minister. The act also separated the Children’s Courts more clearly from the Magistrates Courts and they were to be ‘courts of adjustment’ not ‘courts of judgement’ for all but the most serious offences by young people under 17 years.

A separate Department of Social Welfare was created in 1972 and it has since been transformed and renamed several times. However, control of the special residential schools remained with the Education Department.


Children's Court

The Child Welfare Act 1925 created Children’s Courts, to hear charges against those under 16. The Children and Young Persons Act 1974 replaced the Children’s Court with the Children and Young Persons Court.

Access to records less than 100 years old is restricted. Permission to search records needs to be obtained from the appropriate Court as detailed in Archway.

Child welfare

There are regional branch Agencies for throughout New Zealand which can be found by using the keywords ‘Education’ and ‘Welfare’ when searching within agencies and series on Archway.

Some files include many family members; some cover adoption. There were many reasons for files:

  • Needy family

  • Parental inadequacy

  • Supervision

  • Maintenance

  • Housing

  • Neglect and ill-treatment of children

Family Court and domestic proceedings

From 1970 records relating to families were termed ‘Domestic Proceedings”. From 1981 Family Courts took over jurisdiction relating to custody, guardianship, access and paternity of children; domestic violence; matrimonial & property issues; and maintenance cases. The records, which sometimes include earlier cases, were named ‘Family Proceedings’ and these include Divorce.

Access is restricted for 100 years from the date of file closure. Written permission is required from the relevant District/Family Court to search or access any records.

Foster parents

Mortality and poverty led to fostering of children from early in Pākehā settlement. Churches, and later the state, tried to care for neglected or delinquent children.

The government became formally involved in fostering in the 1880s through industrial schools. From the first these institutions could board children out and fostered children might be adopted.

In ‘baby farming’ women were paid to care for unwanted babies. The case of Minnie Dean of Winton, hanged on 12 August 1895 for the murder of two babies in her care, led to public agitation and government action. The Infant Life Protection Act 1896, administered by the Police, sought to regularise fostering and protect children, whether they were fostered privately or boarded out by the industrial schools. The act:

  • defined a ‘foster parent’ as anyone paid for caring for a child in their home for more than 3 days

  • provided for foster parent registration/licensing

  • decreed what records were to be kept and what procedures were to be applied concerning foster parents and the movement of children

In 1907 the Education Department took responsibility for fostering. The Infants Act 1908 extended that to the supervision and protection of children under six who were boarded out by their parents.

Health camps

Many files are held relating to Children’s Homes, often orphanages, but most are administrative. They can be found through Archway keyword searches.

The exact nature of many institutions changed over time, from church run to state run, and from orphanage to industrial school to special school, etc.

Children's homes

Many files are held relating to Children’s Homes, often orphanages, but most are administrative. They can be found through Archway keyword searches.

The exact nature of many institutions changed over time, from church run to state run, and from orphanage to industrial school to special school, etc.

Industrial and special schools

The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act 1867 empowered provincial governments to establish Industrial and Reform Schools for children under 15.

  • A distinction was made between neglected and delinquent children. They were to be kept separate.

  • Provided a child spent at least half the period of committal in an industrial school, s/he could otherwise be boarded out with foster parents, friends, or be placed in employment.

The provincial governments of Otago and Canterbury opened, respectively, the Caversham Industrial School in 1869 and the Burnham Industrial School in 1874, and others followed. The Justice Department took over the administration of industrial schools when provincial government ended in 1876, but in 1880 responsibility was moved to the Education Department.

The Industrial Schools Act 1882 was significant:

  • It provided for government schools, local schools and private institutions approved by government

  • Under this act, courts could commit to the care of the industrial schools neglected children under 15 years who were brought to them by the police

  • Parents could also bring uncontrollable children to the courts to be institutionalised

Special Schools, such as the School for the Deaf at Sumner, Christchurch, were set up from 1881. Some were little different from Industrial Schools. Receiving Homes were temporary places for children to stay while their future was sorted out. A Special and Industrial Schools Branch of the Education Department was developed to administer all these institutions.

After 1900 the emphasis changed from punishment to reform. Industrial Schools became Special Schools after 1910. From 1917 children could be placed on probation and a number of schools were closed and ‘homes’ opened. All institutions encouraged boarding out in foster homes. The main institutions 1925-1948 were:

  • Boys Training Farm, Wereroa, near Levin (for boys of all ages requiring a period of reformative detention).

  • Special School at Richmond, near Nelson, for girls

  • Sumner School for the Deaf

  • Provision was also made for blind children and adults at the New Zealand Institute for the Blind, Auckland.

From 1948 the Child Welfare Division ran four national ‘training institutions’ for children considered too emotionally disturbed or delinquent to stay in the community: Kingslea, Kohitere, Hokio Beach School and Fareham House. The Division also administered (a) 13 short term facilities for the remand, observation and classification of children, (b) family homes (51 in 1970) and (c) several special schools:

  • Campbell Park School, Otekaike, for boys who were developmentally delayed and/or who had behaviour problems

  • Salisbury Girls School, Richmond, for girls who were developmentally delayed and/or who had behaviour problems

  • Sumner School for the Deaf, Christchurch

  • Auckland School for the Deaf (Titirangi, then Kelston)

Some are in Maintenance and Destitute Persons records (see below).


A Maintenance Order is a court order requiring a person to make regular payments towards the upkeep of a family member, most often a father to make provision for his child or children. We hold two main types of maintenance records:

  • Guard Books or Maintenance Orders (usually indexed) include copies of all orders made under the Destitute Persons Act, Child Welfare Act and Domestic Proceedings Act.

  • Sometimes Industrial School orders are included.

  • Maintenance Record Books, also known as Maintenance Books or ledgers, which record all maintenance payments made through the courts.

In small courts Maintenance Orders were sometimes recorded in Criminal Record Books.

Access restrictions often apply. Written permission is required from the relevant Court.

Vaccination registers

Under the Vaccination Act 1863 every child born in New Zealand was to be vaccinated within 6 months of birth. Local Births, Deaths and Marriages registrars acted as Vaccination Inspectors, recording vaccination details or exemptions for all children born in their districts.

Some vaccination details were entered in the Register of Births rather than in a separate Vaccination Register.

Vaccination Registers are arranged by Register of Births number. Entries give the names of child and parents, the child’s dates of birth and vaccination, and the medical practitioner. Many registers are indexed.