Does International Child Sponsorship Work?
Religion & Liberty Online

Does International Child Sponsorship Work?

In 1936, near the end of the Great Depression, Children International launched one of the earliest child sponsorship charities. Today, child sponsorship is one of the most significant forms of foreign aid. It’s estimated that there are over 8 million internationally sponsored children in the world. With the average monthly sponsorship level set at about $30 (not including other gifts sent to sponsored children), the flow of resources from wealthy countries to poor countries from international child sponsorships is about $3.2 billion per year.

child-sponsorshipDespite the substantial amounts of money being funneled through these charities, few empirical studies have been conducted to gauge their effectiveness. But a new peer-reviewed, independent study on the viability of international child sponsorship led by Bruce Wydick, professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, reveals “large and statistically significant impacts on life outcomes for children enrolled in Compassion International’s Christian child sponsorship program.”

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • Former sponsored children stay in school 1 to 1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers (In Uganda, the numbers are much higher—2.4 years). An extra year of schooling could have long-lasting impact on a child’s future employment possibilities as an adult.
  • Former sponsored children were 27-40 percent more likely to finish secondary education than those who were not enrolled in the child sponsorship program.
  • Former sponsored children were 50-80 percent more likely to complete a university education than non-sponsored children.
  • As adults, former sponsored children were 14-18 percent more likely to have salaried employment than their non-sponsored peers.
  • As adults, former sponsored children were roughly 35 percent more likely to secure white-collar employment than their non-sponsored peers.
  • Former Compassion sponsored children were 30-75 percent more likely to become community leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers.
  • Former sponsored children were 40-70 percent more likely to become church leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers.

Wydick says one of the key factors in the program’s success is that they help broaden the children’s aspirations and view of themselves:

A lot of it seemed to be in the development of the children’s self-esteem and helping to shape the views of their own self-efficacy, which just means their own view of their own capabilities and their own potential, and helping to shape their aspirations and life goals.

Sometimes in psychology and economics we talk about things about being reference points. They’re focal points that when people think about their own lives they think of certain goals or things that they ought to be achieving in life, and often for impoverished people these are very low because the look around themselves and they see people only finishing primary school or people as they become adults only working in agriculture – which is fine, but you would hope that people would be able to develop a broader array of aspirations that would fully make use of the gifts that they’ve been given to serve others.

Wydick adds that the former sponsored children cited the spiritual and character-building aspects of the program as one of the most beneficial aspects. This is a important point and one of the reasons why large, secular political entities and international organizations fail to provide the support that children need. As PovertyCure explains in it’s statement of principles, “[M]any of these groups begin with a mistaken vision of the human person. If we are going to help the poor, we must first understand the nature, calling, and destiny of human beings.”

Christians have been the largest and most powerful force for helping the poor the world has ever known precisely because we begin with a realistic understanding of anthropology:

Every human person possesses inherent dignity and worth. The Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that all humans are made in the image of the Creator. We are, therefore, beings with a transcendent destiny, beings of purpose, reason and creativity, able to make free choices. Although many Christians throughout the centuries have ignored this fundamental teaching, it continues to call people to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every human person, including those outside our own clan, tribe or nation.

However effective child sponsorships may be, much more is required to combat global poverty. We must “promote effective compassion, and advance entrepreneurial solutions to poverty informed by sound economics, local knowledge, the lessons of history and reflections from the Judeo-Christian tradition.” To learn more about how you can aid such efforts, visit the PovertyCure website.

(Via: Christianity Today)

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).