“SOS mothers look after children until they are independent adults. The tender love and care these mums are able to provide is very moving”
—Marcia, who sponsors a child in Zimbabwe
SOS mothers are the dedicated women who care day to day for children living in SOS Children's Villages. They are at the centre of our work and a key part of what makes our charity unique.
SOS mothers live with their children in a family home, support their individual needs, and celebrate special occasions with them. Many former SOS children keep in touch with their SOS mother once they grow up, showing that the same strong bond exists as between a natural mother and her child.
Worldwide there are more than 5,250 SOS mothers who care for almost 62,000 children in 546 SOS Children's Villages.
Supporters like you ensure vulnerable children everywhere grow up with the love of an SOS mother:
“My SOS mum is my real mum. She's the one who made me what I am today. She's the one who believes in me and supports me. She's the one who loves me. I love my mum with all my heart.”
—Plamen, who grew up under the care of a loving SOS mother in our Children's Village in Trjavna, Bulgaria
On this page...
- What do SOS mothers do?
- What is the role of an SOS mother?
- How does SOS Children choose who becomes an SOS mother?
- What kind of training do mothers receive?
- Why do we focus on SOS mothers?
- What if an SOS mother wants to get married?
- How many children do SOS mothers look after?
- What happens when an SOS mother retires?
- What about SOS fathers?
SOS mothers' stories
- Read stories from SOS mothers around the world
An SOS mother looks after children when their natural parents are no longer able to do so. All children, who are taken into an SOS Children's Village, live together with brothers and sisters and their SOS mother.
An SOS mother is paid a salary, is given a family budget depending on the size of her family, and runs her household herself. She is assisted by a family assistant, known as an SOS Aunt (sometimes themselves training to be an SOS mother). The SOS mother accompanies the children's development process, and works together with the Village Director and the other staff in the Village.
Women, who decide to take up the profession of an SOS mother, are carefully chosen and trained. SOS Children looks for women whose personalities and ways of dealing with life are such that the children can easily relate to them. An SOS mother, by using her training, is able to understand the children and their life stories.
Training and further-training for SOS mothers depends on the cultural, social and economic circumstances in each region, and varies accordingly. The spectrum ranges from regional and national training centres to programmes organised in the SOS Children's Villages, or in co-operation with other organisations. However it is organised, every prospective SOS mother completes two years of basic training. This is made up of three to six months' theoretical teaching and the balance of practical training - that is on-the-job training.
During the theoretical part, the women are taught a wide variety of subjects, which address the range of tasks an SOS mother has to cover (education and psychotherapy for trauma, housekeeping, nutritional science, child development etc.). During the course, the qualified trainers add to the women's previous experiences in life and learning, and thus allow the women to develop their personal, as well as their specialist abilities.
Ever since the first SOS Children’s Village came into being, the organisation has had good experience with SOS mothers. These women were ready to take children and youths into their own lives and to be the most important person of reference for the children in their care for a considerable time.
There is no doubt that a married couple can be a good alternative to single mothers, particularly with regard to looking after and bringing up children and youths over a long period of time. In fact, in some European countries over the last few years, some married couples have taken on the responsibility of SOS families.
If an SOS mother expresses a desire to marry, we always try and find a suitable solution to enable her to continue caring for her SOS family. This often means that the SOS mother continues to look after the SOS children in the SOS Children’s Village together with her husband as a couple.
In developing countries, an SOS mother typically looks after between seven and ten children. In developed countries, there are typically between four and six children in an SOS family.
When an SOS mother's working life nears its end, she can prepare for her new life by having individual sessions or specialised seminars with other SOS mothers facing the same change.
Furthermore, the organisation is committed to offering mothers, who have reached retirement age and have worked as an SOS mother for at least fifteen years, a monthly pension, a permanent residence and medical costs until the end of their lives.
We understand that a male role model is also important in a child's development. As we stated above, there are in fact a few males who work as family heads in our Villages, often as part of a married couple.
We make sure we have strong male role models working in and around each SOS Children's Village. They might be the Village Director or other professionals who help to care for the Village like doctors, psychologists, and social workers.
Botswana: Muniye from SOS Children's Village Tlokweng, explains the special care she gives as an SOS mother.
Zambia: “To be an SOS mother, you need to have compassion.” Carol explains what it's like to be an SOS mother at our Children's Village Chipata.
Malawi: “I am excited about having the opportunity to dedicate myself to the noble task of looking after orphans and vulnerable children.” Being an SOS mother at the SOS Children's Village Blantyre
Austria: “I laid down one of the foundation blocks for the very building I would later, in 1951, become an SOS mother in.” The first SOS mother turns 90!
Philippines: “Since we are here at SOS Children's Villages, let us consider these children as our own.” Meet Mama Lyd, the first SOS mother at SOS Children's Villages Philippines.
Czech Republic: “16-year-old Zdena still comes to my room; we hug, lie down and talk about different things. This is the most important thing - to have a close relationship. Being a family is the most important.” Read an interview with an SOS mother
Ecuador: “To be a mother is a great blessing but to be an SOS mother is a gift.” Mother's Day celebrations
China: “It [my children] who make me feel important and help me understand motherhood is one of the happiest things for a woman.” Suzhen's explains why all the challenges of motherhood are worthwhile
Vietnam: “My family is what happiness is made of.” Nguyet was uncertain about being an SOS mother until her son Chang was taken ill. Find out how tough times can bring a family together
When you sponsor a child, you help them to receive support and care from a dedicated SOS mother. Become a child sponsor today:
Not ready yet? Find out more about child sponsorship...