How Does Compassion Protect Sponsored Children From Abuse?

People living in extreme poverty are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. They often are in desperate need of basic necessities, they often lack a public voice to speak up for their rights, and they often don’t know their rights or what recourse they have when those rights are violated. Children in extreme poverty are even more vulnerable — the biggest reason, perhaps, that they are preyed upon by those who would exploit and abuse children.

We must never turn a blind eye to this abuse or believe that something like this could never happen in our midst.

How Does Compassion International Protect Children From Abuse?

“This is an incredibly painful topic, one that breaks the heart of God,” says Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, President of Compassion International. “But sadly, it’s a reality of our sin-stained world and one that we must not ignore. Our desire is that under no circumstances will any abuse, harm, assault or exploitation of children be tolerated or accepted by our ministry.”

At Compassion, we are passionate about ensuring that children in poverty are known, loved and protected. Therefore, child protection is not just part of our ministry; it is foundational to our ministry.

That’s why we have developed, and continue to develop, robust training, policies and networks to both prevent and respond to abuse.

PREVENTION AND EDUCATION

In order to best protect children, we take a proactive stance toward these issues — not just responding to instances of abuse, but actively training and educating in order to prevent harm to a child.

Church Partners

The frontline staff who interact with sponsored children on a daily basis are volunteers and staff members at local churches that host Compassion-assisted centers. Although these are not Compassion staff, we are serious about ensuring that they are trained in Child Protection. When a church first begins partnering with Compassion, they go through a thorough training in Child Protection. In addition to signing our Code of Conduct and Statement of Commitment to Child Protection every year, beginning this year, they will also attend a refresher session on Child Protection annually.

Protecting Our Children

Ririn, age 27 (pictured above in pink), is a development center mentor who promotes child protection in her church. “I have already co-facilitated a workshop on why we need to protect children and how to ensure they get protection. And I assessed the development center to improve the standards of care we offer,” Ririn shares. Learn about child protection in Indonesia.

Children and Caregivers

Each year, children receive age-appropriate training in Child Protection through Compassion’s curriculum. This ensures that children know what their rights are, how to protect themselves, and how they can respond if they or someone they know is hurt.

“While it’s not a child’s fault if they have been hurt, we want to give kids the tools to protect themselves, to make choices that help keep them safe, and to empower them to yell or run away or tell an adult so they can prevent a situation from getting worse,” says Megan Kelly, Compassion International’s Senior Child Protection Advisor.

Parents or caregivers are also trained each year in knowing their children’s rights, as well as how to respond if something were to happen.

How Does Compassion International Protect Children From Abuse?

Faddy, a Compassion alum who now volunteers at the center he used to attend in Bolivia, teaches a lesson on how God feels about mistreatment and abuse – a lesson designed to help the children recognize when they see or experience mistreatment by an adult.

Regional and International Staff

Our national, regional and international staff, who do not regularly visit children in their work, complete computer-based training on Child Protection when they are hired, as well as sign our Code of Conduct and Statement of Commitment to Child Protection, saying they understand and acknowledge Compassion’s Child Protection standards, expectations of behavior and our ethics standards. Beginning this year, they will also repeat this training annually. Employees who visit Compassion centers on a more frequent basis, such as sponsor trip leaders, receive additional training on Child Protection.

How Does Compassion International Protect Children From Abuse?

“[I] desire to show those who have had their rights violated that they are people with great value regardless of the way they were treated. I pray to God that everyone who works in the Compassion partner churches understands our greatest call: to be a defender of children in all aspects,” says Francisco Jose, Compassion Brazil staff, creator of the Internal Protection Network for Compassion Brazil.

Visitors to Our Ministry

One of the most life-changing opportunities for sponsors is the opportunity to visit the child they sponsor. These visits encourage children and give sponsors a whole new perspective on their ministry to that child. While we know that sponsors are dedicated child advocates, our priority is always Child Protection, so we have guidelines for all visitors to our ministry, including sponsors, contractors and vendors. Visitors must undergo background checks as well as Child Protection training during their trip preparation. They sign the Code of Conduct, which includes behavioral expectations such as never meeting alone with a child. We require that all visitors follow these policies without exception so that all children may be safe.

We have been working for the past year and a half to make these policies even stronger, and in the future, Child Protection education will be woven throughout visits to see our ministry.

How Does Compassion International Protect Children From Abuse?

Sponsors visiting a Compassion center in Ecuador pray with the Compassion staff, volunteers and children.

RESPONSE

While our prayer is that our prevention and education efforts protect children from instances of harm, the reality is that abuse does occur.

“Our goal is to have a consistent high-quality approach to protecting children that focuses on prevention. We want to prevent abuse from occurring, rather than restoring a child from harm,” says Kelly. “The reality is that because we live in a fallen world, abuse will still happen, so there is a component of Child Protection that has to be ready to respond to instances of abuse. We intervene when harm has occurred, restore a sense of safety, and help the child to heal from their experience.”

Reporting

Anyone can and is encouraged to report suspected abuse, including children, caregivers, staff, volunteers and visitors. Our Compassion staff, church partner staff and our volunteers are required to report if they have reason to believe a child may have been harmed. The most common reporting we receive is from children or caregivers of children who have experienced abuse in the community. They have come to see the church as a safe place where they can turn.

Compassion also uses Ethics Point hotline that allows for anonymous reporting as well as Ethics Point Child Protection software that allows anyone to file a complaint of abuse or misconduct.

Abuse goes beyond just sexual abuse and can include neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, child labor, human trafficking, and harmful cultural practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. We respond to all of these when they are reported, including physical abuse. In Compassion’s program, we have a prohibition against physical discipline. In most contexts in which we work, physical discipline is not a crime. But our expectation with our church partners is that regardless of the cultural beliefs that exist about physical discipline at home or school, we don’t engage in physical discipline at any Compassion center.

How Does Compassion International Protect Children From Abuse?

When Aklobessi’s Compassion staff found out she had been kidnapped to serve in a voodoo temple, they advocated on her behalf for a full year to ensure her release back to her parents.

Investigation

Once a complaint is filed, Compassion has a robust process for learning the truth. If the allegation involves the harm of a child by a member of the community, our church partner would lead the response, with Compassion’s support. If the allegation involves a member of our church partner or someone affiliated with Compassion, Compassion’s Child Protection team would carry out the investigation with our Audit team working in parallel. In some instances, an outside agency may be brought in to assist in the investigation. If Compassion has reason to believe a crime has been committed, Compassion would always alert the appropriate authorities, no exceptions.

If the investigation involves an employee and we determine abuse or misconduct has taken place, Compassion would administer disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. If church partner staff, who are not employees of Compassion, were implicated in abuse, we would require that church partner to take appropriate action, including and up to termination of that staff member. If the church did not comply, we would engage in conversation with the church leaders to help them understand our concerns. Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of the children in our care, so Compassion can and would terminate the partnership with that church if we believed the safety of children in the program was at risk.

After-care

When a child experiences harm, we ensure children receive the care they need so they can recover in all the different aspects of their life.

  • Medical: If it’s a case of physical or sexual abuse, care would generally involve medical intervention, including receiving a medical check and any necessary care and treatment.
  • Counseling services: Depending on the nature of the abuse, we connect children with resources in the community to receive counseling support to recover.
  • Legal counsel: When necessary, we help connect victims with legal counsel.
  • Spiritual care: Our church partners come alongside the child and family to offer pastoral support and counseling to the hurting child and family.
  • Alternative housing: When a child’s living arrangement is not safe, we support the child in finding an appropriate place to live where he or she is safe to recover.
How Does Compassion International Protect Children From Abuse?

In Indonesia, 13-year-old Wawu became pregnant when she was raped by her neighbor. Compassion child protection staff member, Diana, alerted the authorities and arranged alternative protective shelter and medical care for Wawu during the pregnancy. Diana also arranged counseling for Wawu and her family and bi-weekly training on abuse prevention for the entire community. Wawu’s Compassion community fully supported her through the birth and her decision to give the child up for adoption.

PARTNERING TO PROTECT CHILDREN

In order to best protect children, Compassion partners with many organizations globally and locally. Some of these partnerships focus on training to prevent abuse, while others focus on responding to abuse, such as offering medical care and psychological care.

“The synergy we get by partnering is so much better than what we can do on own,” says Kelly.

For example, in Guatemala, we partner with an excellent organization called MOCVIN, which produces materials to train churches on preventing sexual violence against children. Our desire is to continue to strengthen these connections globally so that together we can share resources and expertise to protect children.

CONTINUING TO GROW

How Does Compassion International Protect Children From Abuse?

In an effort to always improve our protection policies, Compassion last year initiated Child Protection 2.0, a comprehensive, years-long approach to updating and standardizing Child Protection policies on a global level, as well as enhancing our training and improving our child protection strategies. This will allow us to continue to hone our commitment to and foundation of Child Protection and continue to raise awareness about child protection.

Tragically, ways to harm children continue to evolve, including the use of technology and social media. The availability of the internet in the areas where we work has also grown exponentially in the last several years, so our strategy needs to continue to adapt.

As we continue to develop Child Protection strategies, we will continue to educate church partner staff, Compassion staff and beneficiaries on ways to prevent harm, so that all children can be known, loved and protected.


There are children all over the world who live in areas that experience higher incidents of child rights violations. When you sponsor an at-risk child, you are providing child-protection, education, action planning and an immediate response to abuse when needed.

Child protection begins with prevention.

Sponsor a child at risk today ›››

6 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Carolyn Putney May 12, 2018

    I am so eased to see the proactive response to a very difficult matter. Far better than being reactive, when the damage has been done. This makes a powerful statement in your commitment in keeping children safe. As one who was abused as child, this makes it even more so. God bless your ministry.

    1. Shannon May 14, 2018

      Hi Carolyn! Thank you so very much for your kind words and support! I am so sorry to hear about your past, but so thankful to know you are okay now and living a life of gratitude and support of others who need help! God bless you! -Shannon

  2. Rev. Charles Koyoo April 28, 2018

    This is good work you can extend it to Migori PAG church in Kenya

    1. Shannon April 30, 2018

      Hello Reverend Charles,
      Thank you for your positive feedback on our program. If you would like for Compassion to possibly help children through your church, we would be happy to talk with you more about this to see if we can help. May I ask, Where is your church located in Kenya? Do you have children in need there? How old are these children? What denomination is your church? Thank you so much for getting back with us! Blessings, Shannon

  3. Lisa April 25, 2018

    A well-written article, Amber, on an important topic. My previous Compassion “child” was a female Indian college student when Compassion had to withdraw from her country. Violence against women is so severe there that it makes the news even in the USA, so I was always concerned for her safety, and still pray for her. My current child is a little girl in Haiti, another country where children are very vulnerable. I am glad to know that Compassion staff and the host church staff are trained and working hard to protect her!

  4. Michael April 24, 2018

    Thank you for writing this post. Child abuse is a hard topic to write about. I am thankful that Compassion is dedicated to protecting children from abuse. I support four children through this ministry and I am grateful for your efforts in this area. Thank you again for the ministry of working with and protecting children in poverty.

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