What Does Holistic Child Development Look Like?

Holistic child development has four aspects: physical, socio-emotional, economic and spiritual, and there are different issues that we have to grapple with when applying our child development model to the child survival and child sponsorship programs.

This is what holistic child development looks like in eastern India.

Holistic Child Development for Child Survival

For the physical aspect, the problems that we have to tackle are:

  • maternal and infant mortality
  • miscarriage
  • malnutrition
  • lack of knowledge about immunization
  • lack of prenatal medical checkups
  • late breastfeeding
  • no birth spacing
  • diarrhea, malaria, tuberculosis, and gestational diabetes (mother)

In order to address the needs outlined above, special health awareness programs are conducted in the program to teach mothers about ways to protect their children and themselves.

The mothers learn to fight diarrhea through administration of Oral Rehydration Therapy, and they learn about breastfeeding techniques, family planning, the need for immunizations, and precautions against common preventable diseases.

For the socio-emotional aspect, women:

  • are looked down upon by society
  • have no voice in the community
  • suffer from low self-esteem and dignity
  • lack knowledge
  • are not allowed to leave home when pregnant

To address these issues, mothers are given opportunities to voice their opinions freely. They are given leadership roles to help them come up in life, and they are given scientific explanations to help break their superstitious mindsets about different things in life.

Mothers are taken on field trips and exposed to places they have never been to in order to give them a feel of the world outside their communities. Mothers are taught about social manners and etiquette. They are taught to be humble, patient and forgiving.


  • jobs are not readily available
  • there is limited knowledge of income generation
  • mothers are illiterate, which stifles opportunity

To address the problems outlined above, we offer income-generating programs for the mothers and self-help groups that enable them to become economically self-supporting.

To help with motor development, children are given educational toys like building blocks to play with and visual charts to learn from.

In the spiritual realm, the problems we address are:

  • superstitious beliefs
  • idol worship and animism
  • ignorance about the gift of salvation and the existence of the true living God

To address the lack of spirituality in the life of mothers, they are taught about creation and the history of biblical truth through stories outlined in the Bible.

Mothers are also taught about the special place that God has bestowed on women and motherhood, besides teaching them about the free gift of salvation that is available to all.

They’re taught to pray, and over a period of time they discover the power of prayer in their lives. They’re also taught about the light of God as opposed to animism, superstition and idol worship.

Holistic Child Development in Child Sponsorship

Physically, the problems that we have to tackle are misuse and abuse of children and forced labor.

We conduct various awareness trainings for our children to teach them about healthy and unhealthy touch, and we teach them about various forms of abuse — which could be internal as well as external.

For the socio-emotional aspect of child development, the issues we address are that children:

  • suffer from inferiority complexes
  • feel pressured to express themselves
  • lack opportunities for schooling or drop out of school
  • have low self-esteem and self worth
  • experience a sense of shame, guilt and fear

We help children to be on par with other children by providing a platform for them to demonstrate their innate capabilities despite social pressures. We create opportunities for children through various activities to overcome their fears guilt and shame and to be accepted by their peers.

We provide education for many children up to high school, enabling them to move from illiteracy to becoming literate and possibly try for jobs, if they don’t pursue further studies.

We also create an atmosphere for them to feel socially accepted in communities that are filled with various caste/religion prejudices.

Economically, the problems that we have to tackle are that children:

  • lack opportunities and are bound in poverty because of it
  • lack the most basic needs of life

We are addressing the economic problems that pull our children down by providing them opportunities to think, providing them needs beyond food, clothing and shelter, and helping parents dream of a future that they have been denied.

Spiritually, the concerns that we have to tackle are that children don’t know the real God, don’t know the gift of salvation and don’t get an opportunity to sing.

Through our child development centers we are providing opportunities for them to learn about God in a community besotted with thousands and thousands of gods.

We provide a platform for the children to sing, pray and preach; thereby sowing seeds of faith and growth. We equip them to become who God wants them to be.

Children going from a belief in thousands of gods to belief in ONLY ONE GOD is the biggest contribution of the child sponsorship program.

4 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Becky August 3, 2009

    Dwight, those are good questions.

    Compassion is structured around an idea we call “freedom within a framework.” Basically, this means Compassion sets up a framework of guidelines and expectations for our program around the world, but we allow each individual church partner the freedom to meet those criteria in the way that best works for them.

    We have something called the Field Program Manual, which is basically a 100+ page document outlining the standards and guidelines for implementing Compassion’s program. All 25 countries use this manual to guide programmatic decisions and create accountability and consistency. But the program they implement using these guidelines is unique to the needs and challenges of their own culture.

  2. Dwight August 3, 2009

    I would assume this is implemented in a different way from country to country?
    In the Philippines it looks like women have more opportunity than men. They already believe in Jesus but not in a personal way…. very different from a Muslim country. Does each country have some freedom in how they implement the goals? How do they coordinate his with the USA office?

  3. Amy Wallace August 3, 2009

    This is one of the (many) reasons I love Compassion so much! I’ve seen first hand how Compassion looks after the physical, economic, social, and spiritual aspects of a child, and it’s an amazing thing to see.

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