Barnardos Boarded Out Practical Support Service for Adults in Dublin

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Barnardos new service, the Boarded Out Practical Support Service for Adults, is open to people who were boarded out as children up until the introduction of the 1991 Child Care Act. 

Boarded out /fostered out /farmed out /at nurse /nursed out are terms used to describe children who were fostered or raised with families other than their own in Ireland.  

While the exact number of people boarded out is unknown, information from the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI)* and the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes 2021* would indicate that between 20,000 – 30, 000 children were boarded out between the years 1920 – 1970. 

In some cases, babies and infants were placed with families who were responsible for their care by the State. Older children were also boarded out in both urban and rural areas. Some children had to carry out unpaid farm and domestic work that was not appropriate for their age. It was not uncommon for children to be kept out of school to carry out this work. The practice of boarding out continued until the introduction of the 1991 Child Care Act.   

Natalie Johnson, Project Coordinator for the Boarded Out Practical Support Service said ‘From speaking with people who have been boarded out as children, it’s clear how this early experience can have a lasting impact throughout their lives. For some people the trauma of early separation from their mothers, and the subsequent experience of abuse, missed educational opportunities, forced labour, stigma and issues around identity associated with being boarded out can have lifelong consequences. Our service can offer support to those who need it, because childhood lasts a lifetime.’    

Barnardos has centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway, offering a wide range of practical supports to people who were boarded out. 

The practical supports include:   

  • Support to access health, community and social services  
  • Support with isolation and loneliness  
  • Assistance in filling out forms and grant applications  
  • Advocacy, information and signposting  
  • Referral to Barnardos therapeutic supports  


The Boarded Out Practical Support Service has been funded by Tusla Dormant Accounts. 

If anyone who was boarded out would like to avail of practical support, please reach out to Barnardos. The service is free and confidential and can be contacted in the following ways: 


Barnardos’ centres:  

DUBLIN: Christchurch Square, Dublin 8 D08 DT63 and 23/24 Buckingham Street Lower, Dublin 1. Tel: (01) 813 4100   

CORK: Blackmore House, Meade Street, Cork. Tel: (021) 203 8005   

GALWAY: The Sanctuary, 27 Chois Chlair, Claregalway. Tel: (091) 454489   

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Sarah Brooks

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