This paper considers the work of children placed under the boarding out scheme in New South Wales in the period 1880-1920. It argues that work for, and by, boarded children was an intrinsic part of both ideology and functioning of the scheme. The paper suggests that, by boarding children in ‘respectable’ working class households (often in rural areas), the State Children’s Relief Board placed children in situations where their exploitation, or overwork, was a significant possibility. It argues that the Board’s mechanisms for ensuring the children’s welfare under the scheme were not fail-proof and that exploitation, in variance from the scheme’s ideals, did occur. However, the paper also suggests that the workload and intensity of the work undertaken by boarded children was commensurate with that performed by contemporaneous working class children who lived with their ‘natural’ families.