International Social Services celebrates 100-year anniversary  

Published: June 7, 2024

International Social Services (ISS) will celebrate 100 years providing assistance to children and families experiencing complex social challenges as a result of migration.  

Oranga Tamariki Intercountry Adoption Team Leader Natasha Bastion says ISS was founded by a group of women in Geneva, Switzerland in 1924.    

“Facing the challenges of post-World War I migrations, they recognised the need for coordinated action between countries to ease the transition for people moving to new lands.  It was then the idea of an international migration agency was born.”  

ISS 100th Anniversary Dinner

New Zealand’s role within this global network   

ISS New Zealand is an Affiliated Bureau of ISS located within Oranga Tamariki. Oranga Tamariki has been a corresponding member of ISS since 1952 and became an Affiliated Bureau of ISS in 1994.   

National Manager of Intercountry and Domestic Adoption Services Sally Croy says ISS New Zealand’s main activity is casework, in predominately three main areas;  

  1. Searching for and reuniting adult adopted persons with birth parents (on behalf of either the birth parents or adult adopted person)  
    1. For example, an adult adopted person searching for his birthmother was helped through ISS Canada and we located her in Australia.   
  2. Intercounty adoption casework, primarily gathering independent information for relative adoption proposals from affiliated ISS branches in countries that are not signatory to the Adoption Convention of 29 May 1993.   
  3. Care and protection requests which include background checks on potential adoption applicants when they have lived in New Zealand, including kin assessments and reports for overseas courts on custody disputes.    

“One example is, we have gained child welfare reports for relative adoption applications for Singapore, Dubai, Sudan, Cook Islands, Croatia and Myanmar,” Sally says.  

Natasha says ISS New Zealand's casework numbers are relatively small with around 30 referrals per year. However, the casework is often sensitive and complex.   

“Urgency is often a feature of referrals, both inward and outward, as the wellbeing of young children is at stake. For Oranga Tamariki the ISS network is invaluable. The casework expertise and competency provided via ISS is not replicated by any other international social service agency”, Natasha says.  

How ISS is continuing its work   

100 years on, ISS is organised as a network of national entities that assists children and families experiencing complex social challenges as a result of migration.   

ISS provides psychosocial and legal assistance to families and children separated by borders. It protects children placed in vulnerable situations or deprived of their families.   

Sally says ISS evaluates national child protection frameworks and advocates for law and policy development in line with the best interests of the child.   

“It also provides multidisciplinary support to adoptees, adoptive and birth families, including searches for origins.”  

 The network also offers training and provides technical assistance to child protection professionals.   

ISS Key Figures:  

  • 75,000 families/year assisted world-wide   
  • Active in 120 countries  
  • 600+ social workers, lawyers and caregiving professionals   
  • 20 staff, volunteers and interns in Geneva   
  • Budget ISS Global $55 million   
  • Budget ISS Secretariat $1.4 million  

Upcoming celebrations for the 100-year anniversary

An International Conference is set for the 9th of October 2024. The theme of the conference will cover the past, present and future for ISS with a strong emphasis on the present.  

ISS core issues and flagship programmes will be discussed in interactive sessions, bringing together ISS, experts from other organisations, academics and politicians.   

On 10 October 2024, ISS will gather in Switzerland at the “Musée d’ethnographie de Genève” (MEG) for a guided visit by the museum’s curators on their new exhibition, “Decolonisation”.  At the Museum, they will have a panel discussion on the globality of the ISS Network and the ISS Network Development.   

ISS will also host its 100th Anniversary dinner in the evening at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva. The celebration will include a welcome for up to 450 guests, with Keynote speeches, a silent auction with handcrafted items from more than 40 countries and diverse artistic performers from diverse cultures.  

ISS is setting up an exhibition of archives which will first take place in Switzerland but will then travel throughout the member countries of the ISS network.  

NZ will not be sending a representative to the celebrations due to budget constraints. 

Find out more

For more information about the ISS, visit the website below: