Why Children Leave Compassion International’s Child Sponsorship Program

girl dressed in pink siting on stepAt only 5 years of age, Michelle had to say goodbye to one of the places she loves the most: her child development center.

Michelle has been sponsored since she was 3. She was raised by her grandmother, who registered her in our Child Sponsorship Program. But when Michelle’s stepfather found a job in another city, they decided to move there.

Often, children and families don’t tell church staff they are moving. The children suddenly disappear, so the tutors have to go look for them.

Whenever a child stops coming to a development center, the tutor or social worker will visit the child’s home to find out what is happening. The tutors even go to the schools, and usually that’s where they find out the child has moved to another place.

When Michelle stopped attending the center for a couple of weeks, her tutor went to visit Michelle’s home. The tutor was told Michelle wasn’t coming back.

“Sometimes the mother or the father travel to work to Argentina, Brazil or Spain, and they are left with an aunt, so they have to move to another house. Sometimes the parents take the children with them, so we have to remove them from the program because there is no place to transfer them. Others have to move away because the house is not their own, they are either in a rented house or temporarily taking care of a house.

“Other reasons a child stops attending the center activities are because sometimes the child or youth starts working, and either they lose interest or don’t have time or because the parents don’t want their children to become Christian,” says Elda, the Director of Michelle’s center.

Our church partners do what they can to keep the children at the centers. At Michelle’s center, staff members have brought back many children by speaking with the child’s guardians (e.g., aunts and uncles) letting them know the benefits the child will receive.

When a child moves to a new area that has a child development center in the community, the child can be transferred to that center. The staff works hard to make this happen.

Rather than moving, there are cases where the parents just don’t let the children continue attending the center.

“We recently had a case where the mom is a Jehovah’s Witness. When we visited and called her so the child could come, the mother got mad. The tutor said that the child is desperate to come but the mom won’t let her.”

At times, the youth or children themselves decide to leave the center for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because of pressure from parents to work or because they lose interest as teenagers.

“There are also cases where some children or teenagers tell us that they don’t want to come anymore, but later on we find out the real reasons. Sometimes, it’s that the parents don’t let them go or that the child is working during the day and studying at night.”

After a child leaves Compassion, the staff do the follow-up work of handling gifts and departure letters.

“When a child receives a gift and is no longer at our center, we try to find the child. When we can’t find the child we have to return the money to the country office. If we find the child, the child comes to the center to receive the gift and then returns to where he or she is living. We can wait for a child to appear for up to two months.”

When a child isn’t available to write a goodbye or thank-you letter to the sponsor, it is often written by the tutor, because the tutor is the one who knows the child best and can explain the reason the child left.

If the child isn’t located and the sponsor has sent a gift, the gift is returned to the Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs. This money is then added to the Christmas Gift Program to be shared among the children at Christmastime.

In Michelle’s case, the staff at her development center were preparing her departure forms to send to our country office, but Michelle appeared back just in time. Her family had decided to come back, and she was able to continue in the program.

18 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Adong Stellah June 22, 2011

    I love compassion, I was sponsored by the organisation since the time I was in grade three until when I graduated as a social worker from one of the best universities in my country Uganda. I served in one of the projects after graduation as a volunteer with the children for almost a year until when God opened an employment door in an alike organisation as Compassion. I thank God for my accomplishment in life through Compassion, Long live compassion!

  2. Allie B June 2, 2010

    This story was very helpful. Last year, my family found out that we could no longer sponser our child we had for about eight years. We were not exactly sure what had happened, so I am very glad that I found this. All we knew was that she moved out of the Compassion area. Thanks again.

  3. Betty Anne May 28, 2010

    My experience with Compassion has been extremely positive over the years. However a couple of years ago, our foster ‘child’ (19 or 20 years old) left the program. We simply received notice that he was no longer with Compassion – and were automatically given a 16-year-old from the same area with a similar name. There was no opportunity to send a goodbye letter or gift. This occurred at the same time that our 24-year-old grandson died of a terminal illness. Needless to say, the experience was quite devastating. I realize offering an immediate replacement is good marketing technique – but honestly believe the compassionate approach would have been to ask me if we wished to continue, had specific wishes, etc. Hindsight is always 20/20 (smile) God bless you and the wonderful work you do!

  4. Diane Nichols May 7, 2010

    we had a couple of girls leave our sponsorship, once because the parents had arranged a marriage and the other because they found the girl a job, another couple of times we had a couple of correspondent children leave because their sponsors could no longer sponsor them and we were unable to at that time but for the most part, ours have stayed put.

  5. Erika March 18, 2010

    How sad, but what a blessing Michelle’s family came back and she was able to return. I pray that her stepfather has or will find a job there.

  6. Jennifer Fisher March 15, 2010

    Could someone remind me how a child becomes registered in a program versus someone who isn’t. Also, how do the siblings and parents benefit, if at all from a child who is sponsored in the programs?

    1. Chris Giovagnoni March 16, 2010


      This blog post will help answer the registration question – Child Sponsorship: How Do We Choose Which Children to Register?

      The siblings and parents benefit from the program when the child share the knowledge he or she is taught with the family – (e.g., Bible teaching, proper hygiene and food preparation, education and awareness campaigns, etc.). Income-generating skills are often taught, additional assistance is provided to families in need (e.g., after a disaster). These blog posts give some specific stories that demonstrate some of this:

      Chasing Off the Leopard of Hunger in Uganda

      Beating the Global Food Crisis in El Salvador

  7. Walter Görlitz March 15, 2010

    Our first child left his programme. We continue to pray for him. The only difference is we can’t update each other.

  8. D Bierman March 15, 2010

    Are children who are not sponsored allowed to attend the programs sponsored by Compassion?

    1. Chris Giovagnoni March 15, 2010

      Children who are registered in the sponsorship program but don’t have sponsors yet fully participate in the program activities. This is supported by our Unsponsored Children’s Fund. However, children from the community who are not registered in the program do not attend the programs.

  9. JD March 15, 2010

    We had two children leave the program at the same time, we received both notices on the same day back in January. If it wasn’t for the OurCompassion website and this one, it would have blindsided us…

    I’m so grateful that we were prepared through other sponsors’ experiences, and were able to honor God in how we coped and responded. We were able to write a final letter to both, and used it as an opportunity to show hope, be uplifting… we used the analogy of children playing hide and seek, but that we can never play hide and seek with God, as He always knows where His precious sheep are, we are never hidden from him… and really, my former sponsored children will never be lost to me either, I know they’re in the Shepherd’s hands!

    We now sponsor two new little girls in their place, and we are making the best of whatever time God has planned for the sponsorship.

    No matter how short or how long of a sponsorship it is, it does make an impact.

    LOVE Compassion, and their devotion to this ministry. We’re all in good hands!

  10. Debbie Stockavas March 15, 2010

    I too have lost 2 children. It is very sad but we quickly fall in love with another child and know that the time spent in the program is not for nothing for those that have left. Just as they have left a mark on us, we do them as well and trust the God of the universe to keep them in His care, no matter where their lives take them.

  11. Elisa Laird March 15, 2010

    I am so grateful for Compassion’s efforts to follow up with the kids. It shows the heart behind the ministry. That pursuit is a reflection of our Savior who pursues us and reminds us of His great love for us. Every child should get a taste of that kind of love and compassion.

  12. Marvin March 15, 2010

    I have sponsored through compassion for many years and have had a great experience. But I do think the program is weak when it comes to teenage children. I hope in the future more kids stay until graduation. With that said I have found the church workers very dedicated to the children. One child we sponsor had to move from the city to the country to live with grandparents. The area is very remote and the new church spent weeks going from hut to hut to find the child. They said it took them a month to find the family. I visited last year and the area is very remote. They did everything possible to keep the child in the program when they moved.

  13. Nikole Reifsnyder March 15, 2010

    Such an amazing story. Praise God Michelle is still able to participate in the program!

  14. jennifer March 15, 2010

    As I’ve shared, I had a sweet girl leave the program in Thailand. She was living at a hostel, went home for a month to visit her family and never came back. The center sent me a nice letter explaining that they went looking for her when she didn’t come back and that she had decided to leave the program and stay at home. I think that it’s more like her family made her stay home to work in their rice field, but I know she is in God’s hands. Anyways, I really appreciated the fact that her center took the time to write me and explain the best they could why she was gone. You guys are the best!

  15. Rick Supplee March 15, 2010

    So great that Michelle is able to stay in the program. I am so thankful for the way Compassion follows up with kids who disappear as many of those kids would rather stay in the program.

  16. Amy Wallace March 15, 2010

    I’ve had two kids leave the program, and it’s not a good feeling, that’s for sure 🙁

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