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International Social Service United States of America Branch records

Identifier: sw0109

Scope and Content

The International Social Service USA records include 56 linear feet of general administrative correspondence and history files; minutes and reports from annual meetings, board of directors meetings, and administrative committee meetings; financial reports and budgets; and organizational statistics. The records also contain correspondence and reports concerning programs and services ISS offered and correspondence between ISS and other agencies, state social service agencies, and ISS branches in other countries. In addition, the records include administrative committee meeting minutes and reports, headquarters bulletins, and general administrative correspondence and history files from ISS Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The ISS records also include 500 linear feet of case records and case record indexes dating from 1929 to 1995.

The International Social Service USA records document efforts by ISS and other agencies to promote professional and legal social work practices and to establish standards and procedures for social services and across national borders. The records reflect human needs and social services in areas undergoing war, enforced migration, or other crisis as well as peacetime social and family services worldwide. In particular, the records deal with methods and problems in international adoption. The material from the Program and Services series concerning adoption, immigration, and migration comprise the most comprehensive and revealing set of files in the ISS records.


  • 1924-2002

Language of Materials


Access to Materials

The records in series 1-7 are open for use in Social Welfare History Archives reading room. Case records and case record indexes in series 8 and 9 are restricted.Scholarly use requires permission from the International Social Service USA executive. For access to your case record; adoption searches; or post adoption services, please contact International Social Service directly.

Contact information is available on the ISS web site.

Terms of Use

If access to case records is granted for scholarly purposes, researchers must agree to follow all privacy and confidentiality protections stipulated by International Social Service and the Social Welfare History Archives.


Contact the Archives for copyright information.

Historical Note

International Social Service USA (ISS) provides casework services to individuals and families who require international cooperation and assistance in matters such as intercountry adoption, child support, custody, deportation, desertion, immigration, paternity claims, and repatriation. The ISS often acts as a liaison for local agencies involved in cases requiring coordination with agencies in other countries.

Growing out of efforts sponsored by the YMCA, the International Migration Service (IMS) was founded in 1924 with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and national branches in Europe and the United States. The American Branch was established as an affiliate bureau of IMS under the leadership of Mary Hurlbutt. In 1946, IMS changed its name to International Social Service. Since World War II, intercountry adoptions have become the single largest category of service provided by ISS.

International Social Service American Branch entered into several merges and affiliations during the 1970s through the 1990s. In 1972, ISS merged with the Travelers Aid Association of America to form Travelers Aid-International Social Service of America. The merger lasted until 1977, when the two separate organizations were reestablished. In 1983, ISS affiliated with the American Council for Nationalities. In 1994, ISS affiliated with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a arrangement which lasted until 2004.

ISS continues to offer international social services and case management; consulting, referral, mediation and coordination for individuals and families; and research and advocacy on the issue of international voluntary and forced migration.


  1. Mary L. Ostling, "International Social Service-American Branch," in Peter Romanovsky ed. Social Service Organizations (Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 1978) vol. 1, pp. 367-373.
  2. A history of International Social Service USA is available on the branch web site.
  3. Histories and reports from the International Social Service USA records in the Social Welfare History Archives.


556 Linear Feet (>449 record center cartons)


The International Social Service USA (ISS) records contain: administrative files; program and service records; statistics; documents relating to ISSUSA relations with other organizations, states or territories, and countries; and the administrative records of ISS headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The records document a wide range of social services with an international dimension, including services to refugees and migrants and, particularly, international adoptions by families in the United States. The records also include two microfilm reels of minutes and reports from ISS and its predecessor, International Migration Service American Branch, dating from 1924 to 1967. Also included are over 500 linear feet of case records and case record indexes.

Arrangement of the Records

The records are arrangement into nine series:

  1. Series 1. Administrative Records, 1927-1979
  2. Series 2. Policies, Services, and Programs, 1927-1978
  3. Series 3. Statistics, 1954-1977
  4. Series 4. Other Organizations, 1946-1979
  5. Series 5. State Files, circa 1960-1980
  6. Series 6. Country Files, 1923-1977, 1980s
  7. Series 7. International Social Service Headquarters Administrative Files, Geneva, 1947-1978
  8. Series 8. Case Record Indexes, 1930-1993
  9. Series 9. Case Records, 1929-1995

Other Finding Aid

Unpublished inventory available. Please contact Archives for more information.

Acquisition information

Administrative and case records were given to the Social Welfare History Archives by International Social Service USA in 1968. Additional case records and related index files were received in 1972, 1975, 1978, 1995, 1999, and 2003. Additional administrative records were received in 1983 and 1994.

Alternate Form Available

International Social Service USA board and International Migration Service American Branch minutes, reports and proceedings dating from 1924 to 1962 and 1963 to 1967 are available on two 35 mm microfilm reels. The microfilm includes proceedings of the American Committee of the International Migration Service; reports from International Migration Service American Branch and International Migration Service; and minutes of the board of directors and executive committee, as well as annual meeting proceedings, from International Social Service USA. There is a gap in the records from 1942 to 1947.

Processing Information

The online version of the guide to the International Social Service USA records was revised by Linnea M. Anderson in February, 2007.

International Social Service United States of America Branch records
Jon Davidann, revised by Linnea M. Anderson
1990, 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 8/19/2016: removed extra date fields
  • 9/21/22: Updated folder list starting with box 11 to reflect refoldering and relabeling work and changed folder locations after consolidating boxes.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Social Welfare History Archives Collecting Area