Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

International Social Service-United States of America Branch, Inc. (ISS-USA)

Program Name

Intercountry Home Studies

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

Program objectives include working in collaboration with the ISS federation in 140 countries world wide to promote safety, permanency and well-being of children separated from their families due to migration, child abuse and neglect, abandonment or other reasons that would prevent children living with their families.

Program Description

ISS-USA receives referrals both from within and outside the US to provide information that the respective child welfare system will use to assess and make decisions that affect the safety, permanency and well-being of children. In about half of its cases, ISS-USA works collaboratively with partners outside the U.S. to gather information about children living in the U.S. or about potential permanency placements in the U.S. to relay back to a partner in another country, so a permanency decision can be reached in that country. In the other half, ISS-USA receives referrals from states, counties and individuals who need to gather information about a child or a permanency placement option in another country, such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. ISS-USA works with its social work partners in other countries to get a complete assessment of the placement options overseas. This information is typically requested by Family Courts throughout the U.S. tasked with making difficult permanency placement decisions. ISS-USA provides this information to the court, so the court can make an informed placement decision. Social workers worldwide conducting the home assessments are experts in their own child welfare system, understand the culture and language of their countries, and are the ideal advocates for children within their own countries. Many placement decisions are fraught with potential cross cultural misunderstandings and ISS and the ISS Federation attempt to mitigate these potential misunderstandings by providing as much detailed information about the potential placement as possible. Many times ISS-USA acts as a cultural broker to help educate courts and child welfare personnel about the many complex cultural contexts of a given placement decision.

Resource Materials Used in Program

ISS-USA began the Arthur C. Helton Institute for the Study of International Social Service as a mechanism to conduct research and provide training on issues that affect the transnational placement of children separated from their families. To learn more about conferences, research, presentations and papers, please go to

Groups Served by Program

Vulnerable children separated from their families- often the victims of abuse and neglect, separation or divorce, often with at least one foreign born parent and/or of a mixed status family. Most children are U.S. citizens (in U.S. referred cases). ISS-USA manages about 600 cases per year involving over 60 foreign countries.

Program Funding

ISS-USA's intercountry program is funded by a combination of state, county and private funding.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

International Casework Supervisor (1) Intercountry Case managers (3.5) Social Work Interns (2 MSW, 1 BSW) Social Work Volunteers (1-3)

Program Evaluation

The major program activity is obtaining a comprehensive, appropriate home assessment in either the US or a foreign country. We receive requests to gather information sometimes in some hard to reach locations. Often it's difficult to find the right person with the appropriate training to conduct the home study in a timely manner due to geographic location/weather, resources and other barriers. Ideally, ISS-USA would like to know how these home studies are used to make permanency determinations. Currently there are no data available. ISS-USA will be reviewing cases to determine how home studies were used to make permanency decisions and how many determinations resulted in the placement of children outside the U.S. and what were some of the challenges in establishing a permanency plan when the potential placement was outside the U.S.

Program Outcomes

Currently ISS-USA does not have the resources to track information about the short-term and long-term outcomes for children with transnational placement options once a home study is submitted to the court. Ideally, program success would be determined by how the home study information is used to place children, and how the children are doing post placement.

Additional Comments

Program Contact

United States of America Branch


Program Dates

ISS-USA was founded in 1926.