Alternative Care

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to care and protection even when their own family cannot care for them. Our first priority is to strengthen existing families so they can stay together. However, when this is not in the child’s best interests or when there is no family to care for them, SOS Children’s Villages offers a range of care options, adapted to the local context, to best meet the individual needs of each child or young person.

In cooperation with child protection authorities and with the children themselves, we conduct a thorough assessment to determine which care setting best suits them. No matter the length of time of the placement, we work to build trust with each child and support them on their path to independence. In 2020, we cared for 65,600 children and young people in our family-like care, foster care, youth care and other care programmes.


In our family-like care, children and young people experience a reliable caregiver as well as a home and a community. Biological siblings live together as long as it is in their best interests, so that the emotional bond between them can remain and grow. Specialists regularly assess the child’s placement, with an eye toward reintegration into the child’s family of origin wherever possible. In 2020, we provided family-like care for 37,600 children and youth around the world. COVID-19 saw many children lose parental care, if only temporarily. In India, for example, hundreds of children whose parents or caregivers were sick were cared for on a short-term basis. Tragically, 21 of them lost their parents to the virus. Eighteen children found a new home with relatives, and three children with no extended family are being cared for in our family-like care programme.


Around the world, the children and youth in our care had to adapt to the new reality, dealing with quarantines, masking up, and learning from home.




Like everywhere, the lockdowns of 2020 were a challenge for the children and youth in our care in terms of mental well-being, education and health. Movement restrictions meant that visits from social workers, friends and children’s biological families could only happen virtually. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, instructional videos were made to help caregivers learn about how to best support children through the pandemic, like encouraging children to call loved ones and helping them to express their emotions through creative work.


School closures imposed in 188 countries during the pandemic affected nearly 1.5 billion children and youth. Like others worldwide, our caregivers adapted to the situation, homeschooling their children and ensuring they had access to online education where available. In some places, such as Cochabamba, Bolivia, children received laptops and tablets to stay on top of their studies. When local schools could not offer virtual classes, care practitioners and educators in SOS Children’s Villages organized their own.

Amal grew up in family-like care in Jordan and is a multiple gold medallist in taekwondo. She has used her dedication and discipline to help others in her community, making sports equipment accessible to children who live in remote areas via a roving bus.

I won't give up.


Our foster care services are unique to the national context. In some countries, we provide counseling or training to foster families, or we work with governments to implement quality foster care standards. In other countries, our caregivers are registered as foster parents. In 2020, many foster parents required extra support. In Ukraine, we moved activities of psychologists and social workers online, and we provided additional trainings on child safeguarding amid the stresses of the pandemic.


Many children and youth in alternative care have had adverse childhood experiences which may have resulted in trauma. Care practitioners need specialized training to recognize certain behaviours and support children to heal. In the project “Safe Places, Thriving Children,” we collaborate with partners to deliver training, raise awareness of the topic in related professions, and support alternative care providers in embedding trauma-informed practices into their daily work. The project is currently active in six countries in Europe.


Our youth care programmes aim to equip young people with the skills and confidence they need to transition to independence. This year, COVID-19 hindered the academic and career prospects of many youth leaving care because of job losses and university closures; some care leavers needed to return to youth care for housing, often for as long as six months. In 2020, we cared for nearly 19,000 young people around the world.

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