Being an SOS parent is a special profession with unique duties and challenges. It is often described as a calling and a vocation, but vocational training is a key step to becoming an SOS parent.
How is an SOS family formed?
With their individual needs and rights, children are central to the work of every SOS parent. The main duty of an SOS parent is to form an SOS family, which is not an easy task when you think that the children have different backgrounds and have often had very painful experiences. They are then supposed to grow up together with their SOS parent.
A basic element in an SOS family is that the SOS parent has a solid relationship with each individual child and that she or he appreciates and supports each child in the family, taking into account that the children have their own individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own particular backgrounds. This work entails, amongst many other things, addressing the children's pasts and maintaining contact with the children's biological families, when appropriate.
Theory alone is not enough
Each SOS parent needs expertise in different areas, including attitude, theoretical knowledge, and parenting skills. What is meant by that? SOS parents must have a particular attitude, encompassing specific constructive approaches and values towards children, as well as themselves. This includes being prepared to become involved in painful processes if it is in the child's interests, as well as recognising their own limits and needs, and not becoming overwhelmed.
An understanding of SOS parenting duties is grounded also in the theoretical knowledge of fields such as education and psychology. Specific skills are required to apply this knowledge and therefore put what has been learnt into practice.
The SOS parent's duties include working with the children's biological families and community members to ensure the rights of all children. However, training that focuses on imparting these skills represents another step forward for the profession of the SOS parent, a significant move towards recognising SOS parents as 'educational specialists in out-of-home care'.