Who We Are
SOS Children’s Village BC is part of SOS Children’s Villages, the largest non-governmental, non-denominational child development organization in the world. SOS Children’s Villages has existed for 70 years with a presence in 136 countries and 559 Villages, with a seat at the UN to be the voice for the rights of children everywhere. SOS Children’s Village BC was founded in 1986 as a grassroots response to deficiencies in the provincial foster care system characterized by frequent placement breakdowns and moves for children and youth, and the separation of siblings into different homes. Even today, the state of foster care remains a “North American epidemic”, as described by local former foster child Tom Watson.
Foster children are coping with trauma after being apprehended from their homes. Foster parents require ongoing special resources and support after welcoming children into their homes. SOS Children’s Village BC enhances the development and healing of foster children with a holistic framework that addresses their physical, social, emotional, and cultural needs. We ensure long term stability with a strong focus on transition to adulthood programming and aging out of care.
The unique Village model is based on SOS Children’s Villages founder Hermann Gmeiner’s belief that a loving & trauma informed caregiver, a family-like atmosphere that keeps siblings together, a consistent home with subsidized rent, and a community of professional support staff create a circle of healing, hope, and belonging for children in need. Our wraparound services provide counselling, art therapy, connection to Indigenous culture, and more, to support youth in courageously moving past barriers on their way to mental wellness.
These elements are evident in our local Village, located in a picturesque area of Surrey, where the need is most acute. Since its opening in 1999, the 2.5 acre Village site has provided care and support to local foster children and their families; helping to build on individual strengths and cultivate social networks to maximize each child’s opportunities for success. We recognize that the Ministry of Children & Family Development is overworked and underfunded, as are the caring professionals who work in its delegated agencies. We as a society have underfunded and overworked them for decades. SOS Children’s Village BC took the lead in developing a successful model of quality care for the troubled provincial child welfare system to emulate – setting the standard for the care of foster children and vulnerable youth in BC.
“Nothing in the world is more important than to care for a child.”
– Hermann Gmeiner, Founder, SOS Children’s Villages
OUR VISION – What we want for children
Every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security
OUR MISSION – What we do
We provide homes, a supportive community, and programs to help foster children and youth in need grow into caring, self-reliant adults
OUR VALUES – What keeps us strong
Courage: We take action
Commitment: We keep our promises
Trust: We believe in each other
Accountability: We are reliable partners
OUR PILLARS – What holds us up
#1: The SOS Parents
We believe being a foster parent is a profession, so we provide training and specialized support to ensure our SOS parents are the best caregivers they can be to the foster children they welcome into their homes. The youth in our Village are coping with trauma, so it is important for our caregivers to have the skills they need to deal with behaviour and nurture healthy growth.
#2: Keeping Siblings Together
We have a strong focus on keeping siblings in foster care together in the same foster home to grant stability, because sometimes a brother or sister is the only connection to family that a child has left. We believe that sibling groups are of primary importance in the healthy social development of children.
#3: The Home
The very word conjures up images of peace, harmony, love, and safety. We build, and provide at subsidized rent, a home for SOS parents to create a nurturing family structure where children’s basic needs are met. This stability allows them to open up to our healing and growth programs. Many children in our Village live there from toddler to young adult. We do not wish to compound past trauma with multiple moves from foster home to foster home.
#4: The Supportive Community
A community of professional caregivers working together and supported by a core of highly trained, dedicated, and dynamic SOS staff providing individualized, wraparound programming 24/7 for the children and caregivers. Kids have expressed that their neighbours within the Village are like extended family and say that even though they are all different, they are all in foster care and can share that with one another. They feel that they belong and that they matter.
A DISTINCT MODEL OF FOSTER CARE
SOS Children’s Village BC is a truly distinct model of caring for foster children and youth. We are unique in our home province of British Columbia and we are the one and only SOS Children’s Village in Canada. The four pillars behind the success of our model separate us from the provincial foster care system and its delegated agencies.
WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT?
Children in foster care have faced challenges that most young people could never imagine. SOS Children’s Village BC provides the services these children need to become emotionally healthy again. They need support and specialized counselling to move on with their lives – this should never be optional. Kids who live in the Village are never put on a waitlist.
The park-like atmosphere of our Metro Vancouver Village helps heal its inhabitants, with caregivers looking out for each other’s children when they are playing outside. The services provided to the foster families – free of charge thanks to donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations – include cognitive behavioural therapy and art and play therapy. We believe mental wellness is vital, and we are trauma informed in all that we do.
Helping foster children achieve mental and emotional wellness is core to our model of care. However, like any parent we want to give these children every opportunity. Therefore we provide recreational programs, camps, music lessons, academic assistance, and cultural engagement to help them become well-rounded and caring adults.
OUR PREVENTION & COMMUNITY INTEGRATION
Since the professional staff at the Village are able to notice behaviour, they can address it and prevent it from escalating further into other issues. And unlike most SOS Villages around the globe, our Village is integrated with the community. It does not stand out among the residential area where it exists, and we also support foster families who live outside the Village in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
OUR FULL SUPPORT OF YOUTH AGING OUT OF CARE
Every year in our province, more than 700 teenagers ‘age out’ of the foster care system. As soon as they turn 19, the only support system they’ve known is no longer available to them, and they’re expected to begin taking care of themselves. But at just 19, with no support or resources, it’s setting these kids up for failure. And far too many of them do fail.
SOS BC sets youth up for success, preventing homelessness, substance use, and involvement of the justice system. Like any parent, we don’t believe that a relationship ends with a child on their 19th birthday. Our Transition to Adulthood program helps young adults move from the dependency enforced by being in care, to independence. That’s why we have five independent living accommodations in the basements of our Village houses. Separate entrances, bathrooms, living spaces, and kitchens allow young adults or young mothers to live an independent lifestyle while receiving life skills training. These at-risk youth in our Year Intensive Housing program gain greater social connections by developing relationships with the other children, youth, and caregivers at our Village. The Village becomes their family.
Unique to our program, youth are able to access any or all of the therapeutic programs offered at the Village. Our thrift store can outfit a young person with clothes, school supplies, furniture, and more, all at no charge. This includes the business attire that is needed for successful job interviews. Once they graduate from our housing program, our commitment to lifelong engagement continues through our Aftercare program.
OUR EMBODIMENT OF “IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD”
We strive to offer four experiences to every child: a feeling of safety, relationships in which they feel they can trust, opportunities to collaborate and choose the services that they are involved in, and lastly help in building the skills necessary to move forward and function well on the daily basis.
Our model takes into account that the most vulnerable and least visible children unfortunately receive highly compromised service in the mainstream system due to chronic underfunding. SOS Children’s Village BC is implementing the proven SOS Children’s Villages model in the context of the complex challenges and specifics of British Columbia, as an example for the citizens of BC to see how the effective investment of funds can permanently break the cycle of foster care. Our model also puts into practice recommendations from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
- Only 12% of our charity’s funding comes from government sources, we rely on donors for the rest
- We completed a $450,000 capital campaign to build five transition to adulthood suites for homeless youth aging out of care
- We have been refining SOS Children’s Villages’ proven and alternative model of care for over 20 years, within a BC context
- Our model of quality care is based on lifelong engagement and embracing the cultural heritage of each child
- Our programs are trauma informed, and we are committed to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and Decolonization
- Our long term vision is to expand our Village model to more towns in British Columbia
- SOS Children’s Village BC helps foster children in Canada, while SOS Children’s Villages Canada helps children in developing countries
- We do not receive direct financial funding from SOS Children’s Villages Canada, as we do all our revenue generation on our own