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Work of Manurewa Children’s Home lives on

Manurewa Children's home 19142014 marked the centenary of the opening of the Manurewa Children’s Home. A commemoration of this event was held later in 2014. The commemoration was an opportunity to reflect on the work of the Home, which was a national response by Baptist churches to the plight of orphans and vulnerable children.

With hindsight, an official speech at the opening of the Manurewa Children’s Home was almost prophetic. Who could have known that, 75 years later, the Home would be closed and its last remaining young residents dispersed?

As the Hon. George Fowlds spoke at the official opening of the Home on October 17 1914, he cautioned the Home’s trustees. Don’t enlarge the Home beyond its current capacity, he said. Based on his experience while Minister of Education, he believed a boarding-out system for ‘neglected’ children brought better results than institutional living.

Fast forward to 1989 and the passing of the Child, Young Persons and Their Families Act, and it seemed the government of the day agreed with him. The law change ceased support of homes where more than 10 children were in care. The 1980s had also brought more emphasis on fostering children.

Manurewa Children's Home

So, the decision was made in 1989 to close the Manurewa Children’s Home. It was the end to a history of Baptist involvement in orphanage work in New Zealand which stretched back to the late 19th century. However the movement’s work with children and families was not finished.

“People often ask me why we Baptists stopped our work with families when the Home closed, but we didn’t,” says Baptist Children’s Trust Chair, Brian Shaw. “The Trust still is an active and major supporter of Iosis, which evolved out of the merger of three Baptist entities in 2006.”

Former Iosis CEO Ruby Duncan says, “The work we now do with families has been founded on a deep compassion for children that came from the work at the orphanage.”

“As Iosis works on ‘transforming family life for good’, there are still children who are not safe in their own homes and need to be cared for by others for a season. Iosis still provides foster care for these young ones and so the work of the orphanage continues.” Iosis is located on part of the site of the former Children’s Home.

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