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.
Care leavers can find that accessing their records brings up emotions, these feelings can be positive or can sometimes be upsetting or overwhelming. We recommend that you have someone to support you through the process.
Support with applying for and reading your records for everyone
Community Service Centres
If you live in NSW, a caseworker can be made available to help you to read your records or to answer questions and provide support if you choose to read your records at a Community Services Centre. Aboriginal care leavers may request the support of an Aboriginal staff member or support service when accessing information and this will be provided wherever possible.
You can find a list of Community Services Centres at
Find and Connect
The Australian Government funds the national Find and Connect services. Find and Connect has offices in all States and Territories, and can help you to apply for your records and access support in your local area.
Find and Connect Support Services provide specialist trauma informed counselling, referral services, peer, education and social support programs, assistance to locate and access records and reconnect with family members (where possible) for people who were placed in out-of-home care in Australia.
The Find and Connect Web Resource is a resource for people who were placed in out-of-home care in Australia and anyone interested in the history of child welfare in Australia. It brings together historical resources relating to institutional ‘care’ in Australia. It contains information and images of children’s homes, help to find records about a person’s childhood in ‘care’, and information about support groups and services.
Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN)
CLAN is a national, not-for-profit advocacy organisation for care leavers of all ages. CLAN provide information, advocacy, telephone support, referrals and assistance with reading files.
Phone: 1800 008 774 (free call)
Support for young care leavers
It may be helpful to receive support from people you already know and have worked with. This may include a Community Service Centre, another agency that supported you while you were in care or a service that is currently supporting you. You can also contact one of the following support services for assistance.
Aftercare Resource Centre (The ARC)
The ARC is a service for young people aged between 15 and 25 years old who have been in out-of-home care in NSW. They can provide therapeutic reading of your records as well as help with your application.
Phone: 1800 656 884 (free call)
Aboriginal Aftercare State Wide Service
Leaving care and aftercare support for Aboriginal children and young people aged 15-25 years who have been in out-of-home care.
CatholicCare After Care Program
Aftercare support for 18 to 26-year-olds who have been in out-of-home care at some stage in their lives. Available in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, the Upper Hunter and Manning areas.
Family Spirit Aftercare
Leaving Care and After Care support to young people 15-25, who have been in out-of-home-care, residing within the South-Eastern Sydney region.
Uniting ACE Aftercare
Aftercare support for children and young people 15-25 years who have been in out-of-home care.
More information for young care leavers (15-25 years old) can be found on the ChildStory YOU website at https://you.childstory.nsw.gov.au/look-after-you/your-story.
Support for care leavers over the age of 25 years
Wattle Place - NSW Support Service
Wattle Place provides counselling and a range of other support for people who are over the age of 25 and were in out-of-home care in NSW between the 1920s and 1990s, regardless of where they now live. Wattle Place can provide advice and support on accessing records about your time in out-of-home care.
Phone: 1800 663 884 (free call)
Additional support services and resources
Aboriginal Affairs Family Records Unit
Aboriginal Affairs operates the Family Records Service (FRS) to help Aboriginal people in New South Wales to access records pertaining to themselves, or their ancestors, that are held in the archive collection of the former Aborigines Welfare Board (formerly known as the Aborigines Protection Board) and the Chief Secretary records relating to Aboriginal affairs. The records span the period from 1890 to 1969.
Link-Up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation
Link-Up NSW works with Aboriginal people over the age of 18 who were separated from their families when they were children. Services provided by Link-Up NSW include reunification and counselling.
National Redress Scheme
The National Redress Scheme helps people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling and psychological services, a direct personal response, and a monetary payment. Applications can be made from 1 July 2018 until 30 June 2027.
NSW Special Search Service
The NSW Special Search Service provides free specialised national and international search and reunion services to people who were separated by government intervention in NSW, for example through adoption, being under the care of the Minister, foster care, or being placed in a children’s home in NSW. It is provided by qualified professional Social Workers experienced in delivering discreet and supportive tracing and reunification services.
Phone: 1300 657 843 (cost of a local call) or (02) 9267 0300
Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme and Funeral Fund
The Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme provides ex-gratia payments to living Stolen Generations survivors who were removed from their families and committed to the care of the NSW Aborigines Protection or Welfare Boards. The payments are made in recognition of the harm that these removals caused. There is also a fund to assist with funeral payments. The closing date for applications will be 30 June 2022.
If you need support right now
The following services are available 24/7 from anywhere in Australia
How to apply for your care records
The ‘Care leaver records access application’ can be used by people who have been in out-of-home care in NSW. You can download an application form here, or get a form at your local Community Service Centre.
You can lodge your application by:
- Going to a Community Services Centre or support service
You can hand in your completed application form with a copy of your identification documents at your local Community Service Centre. They can also help support you when you read your records. You can find the address of your nearest Community Services Centre on this website.
There are a number of other services who can help you make your application, and provide different types of support once you have received your records. The section ‘Support when accessing your care records’ has more information about the kinds of support available. You can also call us on (02) 9716 2500 or 1300 137 160 to discuss finding a support service that meets your needs.
Send your completed form and a copy of your identification documents to
Send your completed form and a copy of your identification documents to
Care Leaver Records Access Unit
Department of Communities and Justice
Locked Bag 5000
Parramatta NSW 2150
You can have your records sent to a support service, another trusted support person, or directly to yourself. Records can be sent via secure email, or printed and sent by post. These options will be discussed with you when your records have been processed.
Searching for your records about your childhood can be challenging, and we recommend that you have someone to support you through the process. A list of support services is included with the application form.
Who can apply for care records
You can apply for your records if you were in statutory out-of-home care of the NSW government agency responsible for child welfare as a child or young person. This includes being:
- Made a state ward or being committed to the care of a Government run Institution by an Order of the Children’s Court under the Child Welfare Act 1939.
- Under the Parental Responsibility of the Minister, or in the care of the Secretary or equivalent.
- If you were adopted after 1991 and had previously been in statutory out-of-home care in NSW, you can also apply for your records through our unit.
- If you were adopted before 1 January 1991, you may contact the Adoption Information Unit.
- Care Leaver Records Access require an application in order to process your request. Should we assess that you are not eligible to access your care history records through our Unit, we will explain the reason for this, and provide you with information about how to apply for access to your records via the Open Government, Information and Privacy unit.
Information for young care leavers
If you are under 25 years old you can find information about accessing your care records, your life story work, and ChildStory information on the ChildStory YOU website.
If you were born after 1990, you may have been case-managed by a non-government organisation (NGO). This means that while you may have been under the Parental Responsibility of the Department, an NGO was responsible for your day to day management, including the records-keeping of your time in care.
In this case the Department may not hold records from the time when you were case-managed by an NGO, and you will need to contact them directly. However, if the agency that case-managed you is no longer in existence, we may have some of the records.
If you were in a non-government home or placement
If you lived in children’s home or other placements run by a non-government organisation, your records may be held by them. This means the Department cannot provide you with these records. You can use the Find and Connect website (www.findandconnect.gov.au) to find out where these records might be held and how to access them.
If you were not in out-of-home care
People may come into contact with Communities and Justice at different stages of their lives, and for different reasons. Care Leaver Records Access only processes the records of people who were in care as children in NSW.
If you were not in statutory out-of-home care or are looking to access information about yourself as an adult, you may lodge an access application in accordance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009. Please note that an application fee applies. For more information, visit the Department’s website or call (02) 9716 2662.
If you were adopted
If you are seeking information about yourself or another adopted person please contact the Adoption Information Unit (AIU). You can call them on 1300 799 023 or email email@example.com
If you are looking for information about someone else
If you are requesting access to information about another person, you may lodge an access application in accordance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009. Please note that an application fee and processing charges apply. For more information, visit the department’s website or call (02) 9716 2662.
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.