Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?[i]
In 1946, George Bailey, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in the film, It’s A Wonderful Life, contemplates ending his life as he faces enormous struggles to save his family and community. He is given the opportunity to look at the life his family and friends would have had if he not been born. He realizes that, despite feeling inadequate and despondent, the things he had done throughout his life had, in fact, made life better for many people.
Loosely based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the film allows us to take a moment and reflect on what we have done over the course of our lives that has been of benefit to others. This is true of both individuals and organizations. So we ask, what would be different for the tens of thousands of children and families International Social Service (ISS) and ISS-USA have served since 1926, if we did not exist?
If ISS-USA did not exist, children we have served would not have been connected to their families or moved to permanency. These children would have stayed in foster care or institutional care and aged out without ever having had a permanent family. This would have increased the likelihood that they would end up homeless, addicted, or the victims of a violent crime.
Children who are repatriating to their home country would not have a plan in place to safely reintegrate into their family and communities. These children would be at greater risk for being trafficked, forced into work without pay, or sexual exploitation. Their families would not have been connected to services that can support their safety and well-being.
Adult international adoptees would not have found and connected with their biological families, leading to feelings of loss and grief, problems with developing an identity, reduced self-esteem and self-confidence, increased risk of substance abuse, and higher rates of mental health disorders, such as depression and PTSD. [ii]
More than 4000 judges, lawyers, social workers, and other child advocates would not have been trained on responsibilities and best practices in international child protection under federal and international laws. This would have meant that these key stakeholders in child protection might not have made the correct decisions in each child’s best interest.
ISS-USA has been, for nearly 95 years, providing cross border case management to any child or family in need of services. We know our work has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and families and we will continue to work to ensure that no child is separated from her family longer than is necessary.
While things are very different today than they were a few months ago, ISS-USA has developed new and creative ways to make sure we can continue to support our clients and the children and families they represent.
[i] It’s a Wonderful Life. Directed by Frank Capra, performances by James Stewart and Henry Travers, RKO Radio Pictures, 1946.