International Reference Center for the rights of the children deprived of their family

The International Reference Centre for the Rights of Children Deprived of their Family (ISS/IRC) is a program set up by International Social Service’s (ISS) General Secretariat, a non-governmental volunteer organization founded in 1924. The official languages are English, French or Spanish.


The goals of the IRC are:
• Promote the interests and rights of children who are deprived of their family or who are at risk of being deprived of their family, or who are in need of adoption or have already been adopted;
• Promote a universal policy for children and families, aimed at:

  • preventing children to be abandoned and avoiding that they need shelter;
  • reuniting the child with their parents or keeping them with their family;
  • adjusting the scope and system of the institutions that ensure a safe shelter and protection of children who stay there for a limited period of time;
  • stimulating the arrangement of a permanent family solution rather then temporary placements with institutions or families;
  • encouraging adoption in their homeland;
  • accomplishing that children’s rights are being respected in case of national or international adoption;
  • supporting good practices;
  • preventing trafficking in and abuse, trade and kidnapping of children.

• Promote that international treaties focusing on the rights of said children are being ratified and applied;
• Stimulate case workers at government organisations and other organizations around the world to become aware of and familiar with each other’s work, to exchange experiences, to make mutual contacts, to enter into a dialogues with each other and work together.


All around the world, the IRC interacts with institutions and people who have to protect children having to do without their family, such as the Hague Conference for Private International Law, Central Adoption Authorities, acknowledged adoption agencies, child care and protection boards, international organizations, training and research centers, etc.
• Whenever an industrialized country financially supports the IRC to a substantial extent, the authorities and social workers in that country benefit from our full scope of services (see below).
• If an industrialized country does not financially support the IRC, the country’s authorities do not have access to our services. Private supporters from these countries are able to obtain the Monthly Review through subscription.
• Authorities and social workers of transition and developing countries receive IRC services free of charge. With a view on an internationally justified division, our services are partly funded with contributions from industrialized countries.
• Everyone interested has free access to our website, which has been set up as an instrument for the benefit of children’s rights.


Monthly Review: the IRC publishes Monthly Reviews. These publications analyse the latest developments in the field of adoption and, more general, the protection of children who are deprived of their family. We offer updated information on the development in both law and practice – on an international level and in specific countries. We go into certain ethical discussions and investigate interdisciplinary resources. Moreover, we bring relevant congresses and seminars under the reader’s attention, which are of international importance.
Expertise and handling of requests: the IRC offers its expert knowledge to its partners, the Central Authorities in particular. We answer requests for information, documentation or advice that in general are related to law, practice, people involved and resources (experts, training centers, etc.) as far as children are concerned who are deprived of their family. Circulars for the Central Authorities with regard to adoption: the IRC stimulates information exchange between the Central Authorities from countries of origin and receiving countries. It is a centralized and systematized place for this exchange in order to achieve optimum efficiency. This data concerns specific cases or general issues that constitute a problem.
A database ‘per country’ for the Central Authorities that use our services: the IRC improves and systematizes the information that can be accessed via its database and establishes for each country what the situation is like for children who are without family (law, people involved, practice, risks for children’s rights, analyses).
Thematic Documentation Centre and bibliographical database: since a number of years, the IRC has been building a thematic documentation centre about children who are deprived of their family. This center gathers publications and texts about subjects and countries from a psychosocial and legal point of view, mainly in English, French and Spanish.
Thematic investigation and publication of summary notes: the IRC is involved in thorough thematic investigations. With this, the IRC wishes to address a specific need from practice or investigate areas that, for a large part, have not yet been explored by experts.
Developing instruments for improving practice: the IRC distributes information sheets about training possibilities that are mainly intended for developing countries and countries in transition. These have been set up in an interactive way and give practical recommendations to help draw up sustainable plans for family life that have been geared to the needs of children who are deprived of their family.
Support to international organizations: the IRC supports the international bodies that draw up and execute standards in this area in order to promote the interests of children who are deprived of parental care. In particular, the IRC works together with the Hague Conference on private international law, UNICEF and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
IRC website: on the IRC website you can find international treaties that apply to children who are deprived of their family, legal analyses, examples of good practices, analyses of local and national situations, a bibliography and a list of useful addresses.