Child sponsorship is often promoted as giving sponsors the unique opportunity to witness the life-changing effect of their donations, achieved through personalised correspondence with their sponsor child. Child sponsorship has a broad appeal amongst the public due to the emotional aspect of direct communication with disadvantaged children overseas. However, child sponsorship, by focusing on individual children does not empower communities or respond to community needs, limiting its benefits and effectiveness.

New Internationalist, a magazine focused on global justice, provided scathing critiques of Child Sponsorship during the 1980’s. The magazine argued that child sponsorship organisations see children as an easy, marketable product which will attract many sponsors because a child is viewed as innocent in what is inflicted upon them.(77) Advertisements can also portray the children and the communities they live in as passive, helpless and needy,(78) thus, over-simplifying the problems afflicting them and perpetuating negative stereotypes of the countries involved in child sponsorship.

Additionally child sponsorship programs involve high administration costs. The letters, reports and photos prepared for sponsors, as well as keeping track of the needs of the child and the family can be quite expensive and time-consuming, reducing the focus on actual development programs and actions. Correspondence from sponsors also runs the risk of being culturally inappropriate and disempowering.

In response to such criticisms, some child sponsorship organisations have modified their sponsorship programmes to focus on the development of the community in which the child lives, rather than simply the individual child, however children are still promoted as the face of those communities. Other organisations have removed child sponsorship from their aid program altogether.


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Last updated November 2007





(76) ACFID, ‘Facts and Figures’.Online: Accessed July 2008.

(77) ‘A guide to giving’, in New Internationalist issue 148, June 1985.

(78) Coulter, P. ‘Pretty as a Picture’ in New Internationalist, April 1989, issue 194.