SOS  Children’s  Villages  started  in  1949  with  an  innovative idea.  Hermann  Gmeiner,  a child welfare advocate from Austria, recognized a problem: thousands of children in post-war Europe had lost their families, and orphanages presented them with the prospect of a grim institutional childhood. His solution was to develop a model of family-like care – providing children with security and a sense of belonging by building reliable and resilient relationships.

Today, this individualized, holistic approach remains the basis for our unique expertise in care. We embrace our origins in social innovation and activism by constantly seeking to adapt and improve  our  work  to  meet  the  best  interests  of  each  child,  family  and  community  and  by  advocating for child rights.

More than 70 years later, SOS Children’s Villages’ presence has grown to more than 130 countries and territories around the world.

With the generous support of donors, partners and friends, SOS Children’s Villages helps hundreds of thousands of children each year through alternative care, family strengthening, schools, health centres, and other community-based work. No other organization shares our singular focus in working directly with children and young people who have lost parental care or who stand at risk of losing it.

SOS Children's Villages through the years


SOS Children's Villages is founded in Austria by Hermann Gmeiner, with the first SOS Children's Village based in Imst, Austria.


The first SOS Youth Facility is established in Innsbruck, Austria. SOS Children’s Villages associations are founded in France, Germany and Italy.


SOS Children's Villages International is established as the umbrella organisation for all SOS Children's Villages associations; SOS Children's Villages begins working in Latin America, starting with Uruguay.


The first SOS Children’s Villages in Asia are established in South Korea and India.


The first African SOS Children's Village is built in Côte d'Ivoire; the first programmes are started in Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone.


Helmut Kutin succeeds Hermann Gmeiner as President of SOS Children's Villages International.


Hermann Gmeiner dies on 26 April 1986, having established around 230 SOS Children's Villages all over the world. Both SOS Children's Villages and Hermann Gmeiner himself have been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.


SOS Children’s Villages reopens in Czechoslovakia, and the first SOS Children’s Villages in Poland and the Soviet Union are started; SOS Children's Villages programmes are started in Bulgaria and Romania; the first SOS Children’s Village in the USA is founded.


SOS Children's Villages International achieves UN status, becoming an "NGO in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations".


SOS Children's Villages International receives the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for extraordinary contributions towards alleviating human suffering.


SOS Children's Villages family strengthening programmes are established.


Following the tsunami disaster in Asia, SOS Children's Villages starts the largest emergency relief and reconstruction programme in the organisation's history, with programmes in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand.


SOS Children's Villages helps victims of natural disasters in Bolivia, Indonesia, Peru and Uruguay, as well as those displaced in the crisis-torn regions of Sudan, Chad and Somalia. SOS family strengthening programmes now reach 80,000 children.


The 500th SOS Children's Village is opened and the organisation turns 60. The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, to which SOS Children's Villages significantly contributed, are officially welcomed by the UN General Assembly.


Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, over 500 unaccompanied children are given a temporary home in the SOS Children’s Villages in Santo and Cap Haitien. Thousands of Haitian children are fed through the SOS Children's Villages emergency nutrition programme.


In June, SOS Children’s Villages International holds its 19th General Assembly and elects Siddhartha Kaul to succeed Helmut Kutin as president.


Over 82,000 children and young people are being raised and cared for in 554 SOS Children's Villages and over 600 SOS youth facilities worldwide. Another 328,000 children and adults benefit from SOS family strengthening.


SOS Children's Villages associations from 11 countries share good practices in creating community-integrated family strengthening and family-like care programmes in urban settings; SOS Children's Villages Madagascar is awarded a UNESCO-Hamdan Prize for outstanding teacher training; and international football star Vincent Kompany becomes International Ambassador.


In response to the refugee crisis, SOS Children's Villages provides on-the-ground aid to refugees, internally displaced families and unaccompanied children in at least 12 countries.


In June, Siddhartha Kaul is reelected President of SOS Children's Villages International at its 20th General Assembly. In September, SOS Children's Villages receives the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord from the Royal Family in Spain.



SOS Children’s Villages launches the new global partnership YouthCan! in Johannesburg, South Africa. YouthCan! helps to empower young people to successfully manage the transition into independent life and the job market.



Joining Forces, an alliance of the six largest child-focused NGOs, including SOS Children’s Villages, undertakes a child-led initiative to change cultural and social attitudes to end violence against children.



SOS Children's Villages celebrates its 70th anniversary and releases its '70 Years of Impact' report.



In December, SOS Children’s Villages announces the appointment of Ingrid Maria Johansen as CEO, effective January 2021.



Keeping Children Safe, an independent not-for-profit, releases the Independent Child Safeguarding Review to address child safeguarding failures at SOS Children’s Villages. The review, commissioned by the International Senate of SOS Children’s Villages, sets out consolidated findings and recommendations with the aim of contributing to improvements in safeguarding practice.


Dr. Dereje Wordofa of Ethiopia is elected President of SOS Children's Villages International at its 21st General Assembly. Ms Beáta Juvancz of Hungary is elected as Vice President.



SOS Children’s Villages in Ukraine mobilizes to support thousands of children impacted by the war. Hundreds of Ukrainian children in foster care and state-run institutions, as well as single parent households, are accommodated in SOS Children’s Villages across Europe.