Intercountry Adoption

Intercountry Adoption

ISS Australia has significant expertise in intercountry adoption and has a long history providing cross border family and adoption tracing and reunification services.  

ISS Australia believes that first and foremost intercountry adoption must be squarely focussed on the needs and best interests of the child.   Families seeking to adopt must be assessed thoroughly for their capacity to understand the significant grief and loss issues that accompany adoption, which are often magnified in intercountry adoption. There is a strong need for adoptive parents to be able to support a child throughout their lifetime in making sense of their identity needs. Professional trauma informed services must be available to provide ongoing specialist support to families, children and adults who have lived experience of adoption.  

Furthermore, particular attention needs to be paid to ensure intercountry adoptees are placed into families who will support and promote their cultural identity and connections to their country of origin, including through culturally significant are as such as language, food and traditions.  

The ISS General Secretariat in Geneva includes the International Reference Centre for the rights of children deprived of their family (IRC), a highly regarded unit dedicated to education, training, research and technical assistance in intercountry adoption (ICA), local adoption and search for origins.

Since 2008 we have been funded by the NSW Government (DCJ) to provide international post adoption tracing services in that jurisdiction. More recently from 2016 to 2019, ISS Australia provided the Intercountry Adoption Family Support Service (ICAFSS) with LifeWorks (now known as Relationship Matters).

From July 2016 to June 2018 ISS Australia also received non-recurrent Australian Government (DSS) funding to provide an ICA Tracing and Reunification Service. This service provided specialised search and reunion services to Australian intercountry adoptees and their adoptive parents.

ISS Australia assisted intercountry adoptees and their families to navigate the often complex journey of accessing their records and searching for birth family overseas, including support to begin and progress the complex reunification process.

ISS Australia remains committed to this area and open to further opportunities to provide much needed support and cross border services to the Australian intercountry adoption community.

ISS Australia and Stories in Motion released a video to raise awareness of the tracing and reunion needs of Australian intercountry adoptees.

ISS Australia funding appeal booklet also highlights the tracing and reunion needs for Australian intercountry adoptees.

Some ISS intercountry adoption resources

Voices of Lived Experience - Illegal and Illicit Intercountry Adoption Webinar (2021)

ISS Australia and Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV) were proud to present a webinar on illegal and illicit adoption with a focus on the voices of lived experience.

Financial and Other Support to Countries Linked to Intercountry Adoption: A Guide for Prospective Adoptive parents, Adoptive Families and Older Adoptees (2020)

Whilst intercountry adoption as a child protection measure can bring many benefits to children, it is not without risks. One major risk relates to financial and other support to countries of origin, which is the focus of this ISS Guide.

Intercountry Adoption and Search for Origins: A Guide for Adoptees (2018)
ISS Australia and the ISS IRC produced this informative and easy to read guide that provides an overview of the search for origins process as well as the practical implications.

Towards a Greater Capacity: Learning from Intercountry Adoption Breakdowns (2018)
An ISS General Secretariat handbook providing comprehensive information on the complex and painful phenomenon of intercountry adoption breakdowns. With chapters from adoption professionals throughout the world, including two from ISS Australia staff Lizzie Gray and Sandi Petersen.

Review of ISS Australia’s Intercountry Adoption Tracing and Reunification Service (2018)
A thorough review and
executive summary of ISS Australia’s DSS funded service. You can also read the Executive Summary of the full review.

The Colour of Time: A Longitudinal Exploration of the Impact of Intercountry Adoption in Australia (2017)
A book compiled by  Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV) founder, Lynelle Long, with the assistance of ISS Australia and The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC). This important resource is available as an E-book on iTunes, Amazon Aus and Amazon US.

Intercountry Adoption and its Risk: A Guide for Prospective Adopters (2015)

The ISS Guide is a tool that takes prospective adoptive parents through the whole procedure, providing them with concrete information on each and every stage.

Earthquake in Haiti: Intercountry Adoption Cases (2010)
A statement from the ISS International Reference Centre. This report examines intercountry adoption practices in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

Intercountry Adoption in Australia (2009)
A background paper on intercountry adoption in Australia prepared by Damon Martin, NSW Service Coordinator.


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