Accessing your care records
If you lived in out-of-home care as a child or young person you can request a copy of records about your care history. This page tells you how to apply for your records, what to expect when you apply, and how to access support.
After you apply for your records
- We will acknowledge your application within 10 working days of receipt
If we are unable to process your application for any reason, or cannot find any records about you, we may direct you to another service or another team who can help you.
- We will search for records about you
We will use the information in your application to look for records about you, and have them sent to us for processing.
- We will contact you
We aim to contact you within six to eight weeks however due to the high volume of applications we are currently receiving we are not meeting this time frame. The timeframe will vary depending on how many records we locate, if we need to obtain records from other areas, and the kinds of records that need to be processed. We will contact you as soon as your application has been allocated to a team member.
- We will prepare your records
We will process your records, removing any information we are not legally allowed to provide.
- We will confirm address details
We will confirm where you would like us to send your records. We won't send them out until we have checked that we have the correct address.
- We will send the records
Once we have confirmed the address we send a copy of your records by post or in a secure email.
The types of records you will receive
The Department holds a variety of records relating to people who have been in care. You can access personal information about you from your childhood.
Most of the relevant information about yourself will be contained in records in your name such as ward files or individual out-of-home care files. Your records may include a variety of documents, such as caseworker notes, care plans, court orders, your birth certificate, child protection files, photographs, medical records, details of home visits, school reports, institutional records, psychologist reports, and care plans.
Personal information about yourself may also be contained in other records. This can include records held in the names of family members, carers, or records held by institutions such as licensing files or admission and discharge registers. CLRA will attempt to locate and extract as much information about you as possible from these records. We also extract records from our digital databases.
If you are seeking specific information please tell us on your application form. This way we can help you find it within the records you receive. Please be aware that the specific information you are seeking may not be in your records.
We may not be able to release everything in your records
Your records will be likely to contain information that we are not legally allowed to share with you. This information will be withheld in the copy provided to you.
In most cases this information will relate to:
- Other people’s personal information
- Information about people who reported safety and wellbeing concerns for a child
- Communication between a lawyer and a client
- Certain court documents
Sometimes a whole page must be withheld, and other times some information will be released but other information is blanked out. This process is known as ‘redacting’.
The amount of records we find varies
You may be surprised by the number of records you receive. For some care leavers we will find many volumes of records, and for others only a handful of pages. Both of these situations may be hard for different reasons. Receiving a large volume of information can be overwhelming, and receiving only a small amount may be disappointing.
The amount of records we have about you could depend on when you were in out-of-home care. This is because there have been changes in what information we keep, changes in the law and changes in technology.
When can you expect to hear from us?
The Care Leaver Records Access team will acknowledge your application within 10 working days of receipt. We will use the information in your application to search for records about you, and have them sent to us for processing. We aim to contact you within six to eight weeks however due to the high volume of applications we are currently receiving we are not meeting this time frame. The timeframe will vary depending on how many records we locate, if we need to obtain records from other areas, and the kinds of records that need to be processed. We will contact you as soon as your application has been allocated to a team member to complete.
If you have any special circumstances (such as legal or medical matters) which mean you might need your records more urgently, please contact us to discuss this.
We are not always able to find records
Because of the record keeping practices at the time, the Department and other agencies destroyed many records throughout the twentieth century. Unfortunately the importance of these records to the people they were about was not understood, and often only a small portion were kept.
If we are unable to find records in your name, we will look for records in the names of your family members. If we find information about you in your family members’ records we will provide you the information that is about you.
Information in your records might evoke strong emotions
Sometimes reading through your records can provoke strong emotions. There may be challenging or distressing information recorded in your files. This might include details of traumatic events like being removed from family, and accounts of abuse, neglect, hardship, and loss. This may also include information that could assist you in understanding your origins, family and social life when you were in care.
You may also find that your records contain information that you didn’t know as a child, is different from your own memories, or that contradicts accounts other people have given you. In some cases, information you are specifically looking for may be missing entirely.
The type of words used in your records reflect society’s attitudes at the time they were written. This can mean they may use language now considered offensive and derogatory, or make critical descriptions of children in care and their families.
We recommend that you have support when reading your records. More information is available in the section ‘Support when accessing your records’.
You can ask us to correct or add information to your records
We recognise that the information in your records is not a complete account of your childhood and time in care. Until the recent introduction of Life Story work, most care leavers were not involved in the construction of their records, and could not contribute information to them.
Reading records that are about you, but that have no input from you, can be difficult and frustrating. This is particularly the case if you find that important facts are not correct, or that significant information is missing.
You can ask us to correct certain kinds of information (for example, if your date of birth has been recorded incorrectly). You can also annotate your records by adding other information that you would like to be included.