SOS Mothers Initiative

Giving Love and Warmth to Children without Parental Care

Photo Credit : SOS Children's Village,

Children with their mother

Mothers are universally venerated for their role as selfless caregivers for children. Rudyard Kipling’s famous words come to mind: “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” But when children lose their mother’s love – and parental care – it does not have to be the end of all hopes for them. SOS Children’s Villages of India believes that every child who has lost parental care can find a new ray of hope in a caregiver-mother, a professional female volunteer who takes up the role of a selfless mother for them.

The NGO trains caregiver-mothers, who are called ‘SOS Mothers,’ at scale. As an NGO focused on providing ‘Family-Like Care’ to children without parental care, the institution hosts more than 600 SOS mothers and aunts. They raise over 6,500 such children like their own, in what can be termed as India’s largest and most successful initiative where selfless caregivers are professionally trained as SOS Mothers to provide love and warmth and play a central role in the upbringing and development of each child under their care. 

The challenges SOS Mothers face are truly many and diversified. For one, they raise 3 to 5 generations of children through the span of their occupation. At any given time, each mother raises about 7 to 8 children, both girls and boys, who live and grow together as siblings. The children remain in SOS mother’s fold till they reach about 23 years of age or till they become socially and economically self-sufficient to join the mainstream as contributing members of the society. 

SOS Mothers have full autonomy to run their homes the way they deem fit. Through trusting and reliable relationship, SOS Mothers enable the child without parental care to experience love and security. They create a caring family-like environment for the holistic development of each child under their care. The SOS Mother’s endeavour is to ensure that the child achieves the fullest to one’s potential. She makes decisions in the best interest of children under her care and facilitates their participation in decision making affecting their life.

There are 32 Children’s Villages spread across 22 states in India, and the children come from different social, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Their past experiences – and traumas – of each are different. This necessitates that the Mothers form a personal relationship with each individual child and appreciate and support each child in the family, taking into account his or her individual strengths and weaknesses. Raising all the children as one family, while ensuring that their physical and emotional needs are met and the children feel they truly belong to their home, calls for enormous emotional maturity and perseverance on the part of SOS Mothers.

A quality recruitment process is followed for the identification of SOS Mothers. Through ongoing training, development and counselling, SOS Children’s Villages ensures that the Mothers have the right sets of skills, knowledge and attitude. Aspiring SOS mothers must have basic educational qualifications. They are given two years of intense training including 3 months of theoretical classes on parenting, child psychology, housekeeping, counselling and conflict resolution, followed by 21 months of practical training. During this training, the budding Mothers assist existing SOS mothers as “SOS Aunts.” 

The commitment SOS Mothers bring to their work is complete. The bond they enjoy with the children is so deep that even after the children leave them and have their own rewarding careers and loving families, they don’t forget their Mothers. The children stay in touch with their Mothers and continue to visit them. 

The support that SOS Children’s Villages provide to SOS Mothers continues even after their retirement. There retiree homes where they can live a peaceful and comfortable life. They also get pension and their medical needs are taken care of. But the retired SOS Mothers never really retire. They make themselves available for young SOS Mothers who find in them a friend, mentor, and philosopher. Once an SOS Mother, always an SOS Mother! 

Likewise, under the ‘Family Strengthening Programme’ of SOS Children’s Villages, mothers in the families belonging to vulnerable communities are empowered by building their capacity for financial independence, quality parental care and social uplifting through self-help groups, so that they emerge stronger and more effective caregivers for their biological children. An empowered mother will always ensure that quality care is delivered to children and their wellbeing safeguarded.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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