Questions & Answers

SOS Children’s Villages Organisation

SOS Children’s Villages was founded by Hermann Gmeiner during World War II in 1949 with the aim of providing orphaned and abandoned children with a loving family, home and community in which to grow. The first SOS Children’s Village was built in Imst in the Austrian province of Tyrol in the same year. The very first house in the village was named ‘House of Peace’.

‘SOS’ stands for Societas Socialis which means Socially Responsible Societies when translated from Latin to English.

‘SOS Children’s Villages’ is the English name of the entire organisation, which is active in 135 countries and territories through National Associations.

SOS Children’s Villages International is the name of the umbrella organisation of all SOS Children’s Villages Associations.

All SOS Children’s Villages Associations are registered in their individual countries and are bound by national laws. They have their own local boards and are responsible for the organisation’s activities in each respective country.

Each National Association is expected to raise funds within the country of operation, wherever possible. However, for countries that are not able to cover their full operating costs, funding is provided through SOS Kinderdorf International. It is also SOS Kinderdorf that finances the building of new Villages and facilities, following a full needs analysis.

As a non-profit social development organisation, SOS Children’s Villages values every single donation and is committed to using all contributions with great responsibility, efficiency, and respect. To ensure accountability and due oversight, the organisation is subject to scrutiny from auditors. Please find more information on our expenditures in our Annual Report.

Children and SOS Children’s Villages

Every effort is made to ensure that the children placed in an SOS family are those who are going to benefit most from its care. Only children who need a new, permanent home in a family environment, and for whom a more suitable care placement cannot be found are considered for admission into an SOS family. Children up to the age of ten can be admitted. However, when a group of siblings is admitted, group members’ ages may vary.

SOS Children’s Villages defines admission criteria individually for each country, in line with SOS Children’s Villages’ international guidelines and the economic, social, and legal requirements of the country.

The decision on whether a child can be admitted to SOS family care is made in cooperation between SOS Children’s Villages and the national welfare authorities and social services. If any of the child’s siblings are also in need of alternative care, every effort is made to keep the siblings together.

The situation varies from country to country. For example, orphaned and abandoned children in South Africa are admitted to the Children’s Villages through the Children’s Court process. SOS South Africa notifies the Department of Social Development when they have vacancies – but it is the Children’s Court that determines which organisation will best meet the needs of the child.

Depending on the country and the context, between four and ten children of different ages live together in an SOS family.

Most other child-care institutions aim to have the child fostered or adopted as soon as possible, mainly within one to two years of the child entering the institution. SOS Children's Villages provides professional foster care on a long-term basis until the children reach adulthood and are independent enough to begin their own careers and families. Contact between the SOS Mother and her children who have left the Village is strongly encouraged. SOS Mothers often assume the role of grandmothers to their children. This is the family-like care that is provided, SOS Children’s Villages is not an institution.

No, we do not have a cut-off age. Our children have had an unfortunate start in life, through no fault of their own, so it may take them longer to get through the educational system. We value education, and so will ensure that children progress as far as they possibly can in this area. The children and youth stay with us until they can lead independent lives – which may be as late as 25 years of age. Only severely handicapped children, who are not capable of reaching a point of self-reliance, can remain with SOS Children’s Villages beyond this stage. Many of our youth remain in touch with their SOS family – either because a younger biological sibling is still there, or simply because this is the only home they have known.

All of our facilities meet the minimum requirements that are stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, we believe in offering the children in our care every opportunity to reach their full potential. This ranges from the accommodation they are provided with, to the quality of their education. If they need extra lessons, or additional coaching in order to excel – we will access this. Some of our children have represented their country as a result!

This varies from country to country. In South Africa, for example, we receive a subsidy – either per child, per capita or per facility. However, in order to receive this SOS Children’s Villages have to produce a Service Plan on an annual basis, and we have to be able to show the Individual Development Plans that we prepare for each child in our care.

Generally, it is possible to pay a short visit to an SOS Children’s Village. To minimize the disruption of Village routine and schooling/sporting activities however, prior arrangements need to be made with the Village you wish to visit.

SOS Children’s Villages works to ensure that each child has access to education and training that address individual needs and circumstances and helps children develop to their potential. We promote a holistic approach to child-centred education which supports children in their personal capabilities. We work to create supportive, empowering and motivating learning environments that enhance the development of all children. An individual development plan and educational goals are established together with each child and young person living in SOS family care.

Each child is brought up according to the beliefs (s)he shares with her/his biological parents. If the parents’ faith is not known, the child is brought up according to the religion which is most common in the particular culture. In many SOS Children’s Villages, different faiths are represented.

Where the local infrastructure permits, children generally go to local schools in the communities where they live.

SOS Children’s Villages works with young people to help them prepare for the job market and for independence.

Through youth employability programmes and in cooperation with local, national and international partners, SOS Children’s Villages offers support including career orientation and coaching, strengthening vocational and entrepreneurial skills, access to work experience and in-house training, innovation through information technology.

Adoption is an important option to provide long-term family care to children who can no longer live with their biological parents. However, decisions about which care option is best suited for a child should always be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the best interest of the child.

SOS Family Strengthening

SOS Children’s Villages works with at-risk families and communities to empower parents through a range of activities so they can adequately care for their own children, and to help prevent family breakdown. Find out more about SOS Family Strengthening.

SOS Children’s Villages works with families in situations of hardship who are at risk of family breakdown and separation. The reasons why families are enrolled in SOS Family Strengthening include lack of resources, the death of a parent, unstable relationships of the parents or poor health.

Depending on the country and the context, families are referred to SOS Family Strengthening by partners, the community where they live, or individuals concerned about the family’s well-being.

The goal of SOS Family Strengthening Programmes is to help families overcome situations of hardship and crisis so they can become self-reliant and provide a stable home and adequate care for their children. Together with every family we support, a family development plan is worked out. It sets the frame for the goals to be achieved in order to improve the family’s situation, and the steps to be taken and defines the duration of the support the family receives.


If you want to make a contribution to SOS Children's Villages through our website, please click here.

SOS Children’s Villages is very thankful to people who leave their legacy in support of disadvantaged children. If you want to know more about how to set up a will, please contact the SOS Children's Villages association in your country. Our colleagues will be happy to assist you.

Should there be no National Association in your country or you expressly wish to give to SOS Children’s Villages International please contact us at:

 0027 11 234 8708

Gifts made to charities in a will are exempt from inheritance tax in most countries.


Child or village sponsorships are regular financial donations specifically earmarked for the support of a child or an SOS Children’s Village.

Sponsorships cover the costs of food, clothing, schooling, the running costs of the village and, if present, its kindergarten, school, medical centre and social centre, which provide education, medical care, and social services including family strengthening efforts, and more.

A corporate partnership offers companies the opportunity to improve the lives of children, promote awareness of their corporate social responsibility, boost team spirit among staff and invest in projects of their choice. If you are interested in becoming a corporate partner, please contact us at:

 0027 11 234 8708

Working for SOS Children's Villages

Our organisation aims to integrate the children and young people in SOS care into their society and their culture. We believe that this can be achieved best by using local staff. Our policy is therefore to employ local staff for all functions and on all levels.

SOS Children’s Villages does not run a formal volunteer programme. However volunteers are welcome as and when the need arises.

Being an SOS mother is a special profession with special tasks and responsibilities, which also presents its challenges. It is a profession which, just like all others, requires a clear definition of what the job entails and what skills are needed for it.

All of our SOS Mothers come to us as trained professionals. They will then be orientated at a Village as an aunt, to gain experience/job shadow. They usually only get full responsibility for an SOS family after 2-3 years on the job; supplementary training, and a complete evaluation of their capabilities.

In South Africa, it is a legal requirement that all Mothers receive education training and become certified Child and Youth Care Workers (CYCW).

If we employed a couple, there would be a stronger likelihood that there would be natural children that would need to be accommodated. This situation would add to the costs of SOS Children’s Villages and leave less room for children in need. There would also be the possibility that the SOS Mother would have a preference for her biological children. Sadly, it is also a proven fact that men are more likely to sexually abuse children. We therefore feel it is prudent to find one caregiver who is ideally suited to the role. It is also worth noting that our model has been in existence for over fifty years, and results show that our children have not been disadvantaged by being raised by only one parent.

There are many male employees at an SOS Children’s Villages. They include the Village Director, Child & Youth Development Coordinator, the Boys Youth Leader, a Fundraiser (in the case of three of the Villages in South Africa), the Handyman and the Driver. They are able to act as role models and assist in the holistic development of the child.

Each National SOS Children’s Village Association provides training for prospective SOS mothers in order to prepare them for their role as a care professionals with subsequent refresher and reflection courses.

No. SOS offers permanent care to the child that has already been through and let down by the "Child and Youth Care System". Therefore, any requests for adoptions are transferred to the Child Welfare Agencies or the State Social Welfare Department.

We strive to find the best care solution for every child. If it is in the best interest of the child, and depending on the national context, foster families can be the most adequate long-term care option for children. In some countries, SOS Children’s Villages supports foster families in providing quality care to children, or foster families live within SOS programmes. SOS Children’s Villages also supports partners to develop foster care.

Children need friends. Friends to share the responsibility for their well-being now and in the future. Rather than leaving destitute children to their own devices and a life of hopelessness and poverty, your contribution will make it possible for us to train and educate these children in caring family environments. You can assist us to teach them to help themselves. There are many ways of furthering the aims of the local SOS Association.

For instance:

  • Monthly contributions as a friend of SOS
  • Sponsorship of a specific project
  • Donations, large or small
  • Bequests, legacies All friends of SOS receive regular information on all progress made.