Poverty is complex. Despite the best efforts of local staff, sometimes children leave Compassion’s sponsorship program sooner than planned. Here are some of the most asked about reasons.

This is the first part of a series on the most asked about reasons for children to exit the Compassion Child Sponsorship Program. You can read part 2 here.

After writing, praying and loving your sponsored child for years, learning they’ve unexpectedly left the Child Sponsorship Program can leave you reeling. Suddenly, it feels like the journey you’ve been travelling with them has hit a dead-end, without any warning signs.

Poverty is complex, messy and, at times, plain frustrating. Despite the best efforts of our local staff, sometimes children depart Compassion’s sponsorship program sooner than planned. Some of these reasons are bittersweet, others are just disappointing. But in all these situations, we trust that God is at work.

Graduation or reaching ‘the age of completion’

Why Did My Sponsored Child Leave Compassion's Program?

Receiving this news may still feel bittersweet, but it’s something to celebrate. Your sponsored child has graduated from the Child Sponsorship Program! Before they graduate, the program aims for children and young adults to be:

  • Healthy and able to make wise decisions about their health
  • Motivated with skills to be economically self-supporting
  • Able to interact with others in a healthy and compassionate manner
  • Given the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel message

One of the best aspects of working with local churches in the developing world is that while your sponsored child’s time in the program will eventually end, the relationships they’ve built with their local church and their mentors don’t need to. They can continue to be surrounded and supported by people who love them as they seek employment or further study.

The family has moved out of the area

Families may need to move home in search of new work opportunities or better accommodation. Moving might mean a child is too far away to attend their Compassion child development centre. Children receive many of the benefits of the Child Sponsorship Program (such as nutrition, tutoring, learning opportunities and Biblical teaching) by attending the activities at their child development centre every week. When a child moves home, local staff try to enrol them in a Compassion centre closer to their new home. But sometimes Compassion doesn’t have any partners in the area, and the child is unable to stay part of the program. Moving isn’t a decision a family makes lightly: our experience is that families give it careful consideration and believe it will provide better opportunities for the entire family.

Not attending program activities for more than two months

Why Did My Sponsored Child Leave Compassion's Program?

When a child doesn’t attend program activities at their Compassion child development centre, they are unable to continue in the program. Local staff make every effort, through encouragement, counsel and advice to ensure that the child or young adult remains in the program. However, sometimes they are unsuccessful. Because children receive their support through the centre, not attending means it isn’t possible to continue our ministry to them.

There are many personal reasons why a child or young adult might stop attending activities: they may need to find work, or perhaps they don’t understand the importance of the activities they’re participating in at their child development centre. (For example, learning English in Honduras might feel irrelevant to a young child but it could lead to new employment opportunities in the future.) In rare situations, a young adult may choose to marry or has fallen pregnant.

Leaving Home

Why Did My Sponsored Child Leave Compassion's Program? Part 1

Despite the best efforts of our local church partners, sometimes a child's situation changes and they enter the adult world earlier than we would hope. Their family situation may cause them to run away from home, they may get married early to conform to cultural expectations, or social circumstances may result in them moving away from home to seek employment.

In the uncommon situation when a sponsored girl falls pregnant, the local church and the child development centre staff (who know her and her family well) do their utmost to provide extra support. This could include costs associated with prenatal care, counselling or extra nutrition. Pregnancy for most girls living in poverty is a very challenging time and the local church and program workers do their best to support them through it.

There’s no rule that excludes girls from participating in the program simply because they are pregnant. In some cases, it may be that a girl who falls pregnant might leave the program if she or her parents make that decision. If a pregnant girl is no longer able to regularly attend the program centre’s activities, or she moves to another community, then the local staff will attempt to resolve that issue with her. If they’re not able to reach a solution, she may leave the program.

An important note: children’s privacy is important

Due to child privacy requirements, staff at Compassion Australia don’t have direct access to specific information about your sponsored child’s health or medical history, including whether or not she is pregnant. (Local staff are aware so they can provide the specific support the child or young adult needs.) In the rare instance where a young adult falls pregnant and exits the program, local staff will only share the reason why with the family’s permission and she may not mention her pregnancy in her final letter unless she feels comfortable to do so.

What to do if your sponsored child exits the program

It’s okay to feel disappointed and upset. Saying goodbye to a child you’ve invested in and built a relationship with can be painful, but you may find these steps helpful.

1. Remember the difference you’ve made

Find encouragement in knowing that alongside the practical support you provided, you also offered them your love and care which has brought a sense of hope into their life.

2. Pray

Thank God that He has a hope and a future for your sponsored child that far exceeds what we could imagine for them. Ask for His blessing over their life.

3. Write a final letter

We encourage you to write a final letter to your sponsored child to say goodbye. You can find some helpful tips here. If your sponsored child has graduated, you can request to remain in touch with them through our continuing contact form. Call us on 1300 22 44 53 or email compassion@compassion.com.au if you have a question or want to pursue this option.

4. Consider sponsoring again

While your relationship with your sponsored child has ended, your opportunity to make a difference in another child’s life remains. Please consider opening your heart again to another child in need.

READ NEXT: Why Did My Sponsored Child Leave Compassion's Program? Part 2

Words by Zoe Noakes and Richard Miller