ISS-USA May Newsletter
A message from our Executive Director
Dear Friends of ISS-USA,

I recently attended the ISS-USA conference in Antigua, "Coordinated Cross-Border Social Services for Children and Families Migrating in the Northern Triangle, Mexico and the U.S." and met with colleagues at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City. Two major themes emerged from both visits: (1) cross border social work is an integral and necessary component of any plan to assist individuals and families and countries achieve security and prosperity, and (2) if done well, social work services have a positive impact on individuals and families, who in turn are better equipped to protect their children.

Tragically, the need to invest in the capacity of the social welfare/child protection infrastructures has been overlooked. U.S. governmental efforts through the Plan for Central America, and efforts by the individual countries of the Northern Triangle, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, through the Alliance for Prosperity, tend to place an emphasis on targeting security and prosperity. Many of our important conversations focused on how to continue to advocate for building much-needed capacity in child protection and social work. Bringing together the various organizations in the region already working in child protection was a monumental first step. The need for comprehensive child protection systems made up of social work, governmental, non-governmental, and advocacy partners to cooperate between countries is central to the success of any child protection system in the region.

At the U.S. embassy, a different story emerged. ISS-USA is the current non-governmental partner of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) to provide social work assistance to U.S. Citizens returning to the U.S. from an average of 90 countries around the world, including countries in the Northern Triangle, such as Guatemala. ISS-USA social workers collaborate with embassy staff and social workers in the final destination in the U.S. to coordinate reception, placement and services for vulnerable U.S. adults, children, and families that need to be returned from other countries like Guatemala to the U.S. In this scenario, the U.S. government, both State Department in the foreign country, and HHS/ORR (in the U.S.) provide necessary assistance to its most vulnerable eligible citizens who are asked to repay the loan once settled in the U.S. This model which is based on a social work approach, is exactly what Central America needs for its most vulnerable migrating children, families, and adults.

We were honored to have had the opportunity to bring ISS partners together in the region, and to explore new partnerships in support of best practices in child protection. We are similarly excited to build upon our knowledge of 20 years working with the U.S. Repatriation Program to help build social work capacity in the region to address the growing need for services for migrating children and vulnerable adults. First and foremost is the need to support well-functioning child protection systems in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and their ability to provide coordinated cross-border services throughout the region.

Best wishes,
Updates from ISS-USA's Regional Conference in Guatemala
ISS-USA hosted a conference from April 28-29th in Antigua, Guatemala entitled "Coordinated Cross-Border Social Services for Children and Families Migrating in the Northern Triangle, Mexico and the U.S." Twenty six participants from five countries representing government, civil society and academia took part in the two-day conference. The first day included an introduction to the International Social Service (ISS) Federation, the resource network for cross-border child welfare, and the ISS case practice model. In addition, participants worked in small country groups to brainstorm how multidisciplinary teams would approach a cross-border case ensuring safe repatriation, reunification and reintegration.  Participants found the conference to be "a very enriching space" and called it "useful to broaden the understanding on the issue of child migration with representatives from diverse organizations working in the field". Read the conference summary or check out our blog for more information.
May is National Foster Care Month

National Foster Care Month is a month to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. During National Foster Care Month, we join other child welfare organizations in renewing our commitment to ensuring a bright future for the more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care, and we celebrate all those who make a meaningful difference in their lives. We encourage family reunification as the most desirable permanency goal.  Check out Child Welfare.Gov's  resources  for parents, youth, communities, and professionals.
Save the Date! ISS-USA's Fall Conference is Oct. 13

ISS-USA will be co-hosting the 6th Annual Fall Conference with the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore, MD on October 13, 2016. This conference, The Ties That Bind: Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Children Separated From Their Families Across International Borders, will focus on the legal and human rights of children separated from their biological families across international borders. There will be four sessions on: (1) International Adoption (2) Donor Conceived Persons (3) International Parental Abduction and (4) Unaccompanied Minors. We hope to see you there! Early bird pricing ends on July 31st. Register and see more information on the Conference webpage. 
May 25th - National Missing Children's Day

Every day, more than 6 children are abducted by a parent in the U.S. Join in  shining a light on these vulnerable children by sharing this video below made by Help Return Us Home (RUSH).
Check out our blog post on blog post on parental abduction in honor of National Missing Children's Day. 
ISS Federation Updates

International Alternative Care Conference 
October 3-5, 2016
The ISS Federation is partnering with international agencies to organize an Alternative Care Conference  in Geneva, Switzerland. This conference will assemble experts and practitioners from around the world to discuss how to move forward in the framework of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. Register by July 1st for early bird pricing! For more details, visit the Alternative Care Conference website.
Responding to Illegal Adoptions: A Professional Handbook

Worldwide, more than half a million children have been adopted abroad and have now reached adulthood. Today, many of them are searching for their origins, history, biological parents or extended family. At times, these searches can lead to findings of illegal practices.

International Social Service General Secretariat (ISS-GS), along with a group of experts, published Responding to Illegal Adoptions: A Professional Handbook. This resource consists of four main chapters which focus on aspects of illegal adoption from different standpoints: legal, psychosocial, social and political. To learn more about the work of the ISS General Secretariat (ISS-GS) and the International Reference Center (IRC) visit the ISS-GS website.
Parental Abduction

With no warning, Lizzy's husband picked up her two children, Max and Emily, from school and left the country in May of 2014. He took the children to his native country of Jamaica and informed Lizzy that neither he nor the children would be returning. Lizzy filed a Hague Return Petition and spent hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars, trying to get Max and Emily back to the U.S. She followed every rule and proven herself to be a wonderful mother. However, the children remain in Jamaica and are denied contact with their mother. There is currently an extradition order on the father because he is in violation of a custody agreement in the children's home state of Oregon.

While ISS-USA can do very little in these cases, we are committed to doing whatever we can to support parents whose children have been abducted. We provide referrals for the left-behind parent to connect with appropriate agencies and supports, and we provide child welfare checks on the abducted children. These checks offer some small reassurance to the parents and allow the social service system of the country to where the children have been abducted to monitor the child and intervene when necessary.

*All identifying information has been changed to ensure client confidentiality.
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International Social Service, USA Branch | 22 Light St., Suite 200, Baltimore, MD 21202 
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