Frequently asked questions

answers to your most common questions

Looking for answers?

Someone once said, “He who has all the answers isn’t asking the right questions.” We like to think we have both!

Here are some helpful answers to questions we get all the time. Want to talk in person? Chat with our Care Team in Kansas City, Missouri, (que también hablan español) or email us at children@children.org.

About us (in general)

What is Children International?
Who do you work for?
How did you get started (and when)?
What's your goal?
Are you a religious and/or political organization?
Who works at your organization?
How can I work at your organization?
How (exactly) do you help kids in poverty?

About giving (including where your money goes)

I want to give in a smart way. How can I be sure you're putting my donation to good use?
But where does my money actually go? Do you give it directly to the kids in your program?
How do you make sure my gifts to Children International are spent wisely?
How do you choose locations to build a community center?
How do you know which children need help?
How can my gift do so much?
Can you provide specific figures?
Is my gift tax-deductible and how can I get a tax receipt?
How can I make a gift?

About child sponsorship (and joining a child's team)

What is child sponsorship?
Do you help kids in the United States?
Am I my child's only sponsor?
Can I cancel my sponsorship or monthly giving commitment?
What happens if I can't continue being part of a child's team (or have to cancel my sponsorship)? Does my child lose the benefits of the program?
Can I suggest a new sponsor for my child (such as a family member or friend)?
Can I sponsor more than one child?
What can go wrong?
Can I contact my child?
Wait, back up. Why would my sponsored child have access to Facebook?
Can I send Children International funds to buy my child a gift?
What about gifts for birthday and Christmas?
Can I ship a gift directly to my child?
Can I visit my child?
What happens when my child graduates from the program?

What is Children International?

We’re one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Kansas City — proud hometown of the worlds best BBQ, great jazz and some pretty amazing sports teams. (Side benefit: Living and working in the U.S. Midwest keeps our overhead costs low.)

But our mission goes well beyond our great city: We help kids around the world break free from poverty. Through a proven approach, local staff in each country and 70+ community centers strategically located in 10 countries (Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, the Philippines, the USA and Zambia), were working to give our kids the tools to grow up healthy, educated, employed and empowered to break the cycle of poverty.

And when we say “we,” we mean “you,” too! After all, we can only accomplish our goals if we do them together.

We believe that all change starts with ONE person. And were bringing together a movement of people who make a real difference in the world. We call that the power of (every)ONEsm.

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Who do you work for?

Our kids. Half the kids in the world (about a billion) are growing up in poverty. And while global poverty is a huge and complex problem, its also solvable. In fact, weve got a bold plan to help.

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How did you get started (and when)?

Weve been around awhile. Back in 1936, our organization was originally dedicated to healing disabled children and providing outreach to widows and orphans. Today we have about 300K kids in our program and more than a million graduates.

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Whats your goal?

To help end global poverty. And we believe the best way to solve poverty is to start with children and teens.

Most kids born into poverty have very little control over their lives and futures, so were working to change that. We believe we can make a difference in the world and poverty is a solvable issue. We also believe once you break the cycle of poverty for one child, youll impact generations to come.

Our goal is every child graduates from our program healthy, educated, employed and empowered to break the cycle of poverty.

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Are you a religious and/or political organization?

No, our supporters, volunteers, staff, children and their families span all beliefs and backgrounds. And we all share the same goal: breaking the cycle of poverty.

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Who works at your organization?

Everyone … we all work really hard here. :)

We have about 200 amazing people here in Kansas City, Missouri, and around 1,200 more amazing in-country team members who support our agencies and community centers around the world.

If youre interested in meeting some of our people, you can find out more about our leadership and our president and CEO, Susana Eshleman. Also, our board of directors, a group of passionate business and nonprofit-minded individuals, helps oversee our organization.

If youd like to talk to someone directly, you can always call, email or chat with our Care Team.

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How can I work at your organization?

If you want to join our team, wed be thrilled! Were looking for the best, brightest and most passionate people on the planet. You can check our career opportunities to see openings.

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How (exactly) do you help kids in poverty?

In four key ways. We offer:

  1. A place: We create community centers: physical buildings that give kids a safe place to be and provide resources like libraries, doctor and dental offices, pharmacies and computer labs.
  2. A team: We hire local professionals who really know their communities. These tutors, doctors, dentists, social workers and volunteers (about 8,000!) provide a support network for our kids.
  3. A path out of poverty: We focus on helping kids graduate from our program healthy, educated, employed and empowered to break the cycle of poverty. Our programs focus on critical issues like education, social and financial responsibility and preparing for careers. (Unfortunately, not all kids have access to all these programs, because many are underfunded  but you can help!)
  4. An ability to adapt: Depending on the country, life in poverty means different hardships and challenges. So our programs are customized to fit kids' needs based on country, age and life circumstances.

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I want to give in a smart way. How can I be sure you're putting my donation to good use?

First, we love people who do their homework, especially when it comes to how they spend their giving dollars. In 2016, 90% of our total expenses supported the programs and activities that help our kids. We work hard to keep our overhead costs low, so that our kids can have as many benefits as possible.

Here are a few of our credentials:

  • Consumers Digest lists us as a leading U.S. humanitarian charity
  • The Better Business Bureau recognizes us as a "BBB-accredited charity" and "BBB Wise Giving Alliance Seal Holder"
  • GreatNonProfits.com classifies us a "Top-Rated Charity"
  • GuideStar names us as a "Silver-level" participant
  • The U.S. government lists us as a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

You can also check out our annual report, 990 form and our audited financial statements.

You can see your impact in person by visiting your child and taking a tour of their community center, where you can talk with our in-country staff directly.

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But where does my money actually go? Do you give it directly to the kids in your program?

Great question. We have short and long answers below.

Short answer: No, we don't give funds directly to the kids, but your support is invested directly into programs that impact your kids' future.

Long answer: Your giving dollars ensure our kids have access to our community centers, as well as caring local staff and volunteers.

If you're becoming part of a child's team, it means your child is immediately able to access basic program services for health, education, empowerment and employment.

Many of our expanded programs need additional funding, so not every child and youth is able to participate. We're working to change that.

In 2016, we're adapting how we deliver our programs so that each country can deliver better, more customized support to our kids. Our mission is that every child graduates from our program healthy, educated, employed and empowered to break the cycle of poverty.

P.S. Many sponsors also choose to give extra gifts to their child's family, which works a little differently.

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How do you make sure my gifts to Children International are spent wisely?

We take a lot of security steps to ensure your donations are safe and support programs that deliver the most impact. For starters, your donation is directly deposited into the bank, which means the donations are handled in a secure and professional way from the moment they are received. We also have independent CPA firms that audit each agency twice a year. Plus, we do our own internal agency audits annually. To top it off, you can visit our community centers and see for yourself how your impact directly benefits the kids! (Have other questions? Just ask!)

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How do you choose locations to build a community center?

We look at areas with the highest concentration of poverty, usually urban slum communities. Using government data and statistics, we identify major cities and then seek to understand what the need is and what other services are offered in those communities.

You can check out some of our ongoing projects here.

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How do you know which children need help?

Our local social workers determine which families need the most help. After meeting with families, our team uses an assessment tool to determine if the families are eligible.

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How can my gift do so much?

We work hard to keep costs down while keeping the quality of our programs way up. To do that, we:

  • Hire local staff. Our team members reside in the countries where they work and are extremely familiar with our communities and local customs. Hiring locally is also less expensive and relatable for our families.
  • Buy in bulk. We buy supplies in mass quantities, many times directly from the countries where we work. Doing so keeps costs down and supports local economies.
  • Gain strength in numbers. We enroll large numbers of kids in the same area to help us provide the most impact.
  • Recruit volunteers for support. Our trained volunteers – mostly the moms of sponsored kids – assist us with delivering services and leading activities. We have whole families who get involved!
  • Find great partners. We coordinate with big-hearted, like-minded companies who support us through giving partnerships, donated goods and services.

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Can you provide specific figures?

Absolutely. Check out any of this official paperwork, and if you want to learn more, you can also contact our Care Team.

 

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Is my gift tax-deductible and how can I get a tax receipt?

Yes. If you live in the U.S., your gift to Children International is tax-deductible. Getting your tax receipt is easy! Just login to see your giving history and print a copy of your tax receipt.

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How can I make a gift?

You can donate by debit or credit card, PayPal, check or money order. (If you're sponsoring a child, you can choose a monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual schedule.)

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What is child sponsorship?

Simply put, you're investing in the life of a child.

You're connecting the child with a team of people who are ready to help. Who is part of the team? You, of course, as the child's sponsor and champion. Plus, everyone at the community center: doctors, dentists, tutors, social workers and more. Our staff here in Kansas City is on the team, too. And most importantly, your child and her family also becomes a part of her own team.

If you choose, you can exchange messages and photos to keep up with what's going on in your child's life. You can even visit! By reaching out to your child, you can offer encouragement when the going gets tough.

  • Did you know? Children raised in poverty experience many losses, but often the greatest one is hope for a better future. By becoming a child's sponsor and joining a team, you can kick-start better opportunities, and your child will grow up with the knowledge that you (despite your distance) believe in her.

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Do you help kids in the United States?

Yes, we have a unique program in Little Rock, Arkansas, a state where nearly 1 in 3 children live in poverty. Child poverty in the U.S. is a major issue. Currently 15% of the population in Arkansas lives below the poverty line. And in many cases, kids feel the impact the most.

There are about 3,000 CI kids in our U.S. program, which provides after-school programs, summer camps, health education, dental care, computer education and college-prep courses.

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Am I my child's only sponsor?

If you're participating in our international program, then yes! Our U.S. program works a little differently  you join a team with other sponsors (because costs are so much higher).

Also, you may not be your child's first sponsor. Your child may have had a previous sponsor who couldn't continue their support due to financial reasons or other life circumstances.

The upside? Our kids know that lots of people  but in particular, you  are interested in their lives and encourage them to have better futures!

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Can I cancel my sponsorship or monthly giving commitment?

Yes, at any time. If, for any reason, you can't continue sponsoring your child, you can cancel your monthly giving by calling or contacting our Care Team. If you have a temporary financial hardship and would like to plan on renewing your sponsorship in the future, please call us so we can discuss ways you can stay connected with your child. 

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What happens if I can't continue being part of a child's team (or have to cancel sponsorship)? Does my child lose the benefits of the program?

No way. We make a commitment that we'll be a part of their lives until they graduate from our program. Our team members around the world have invested time in our kids' futures, and we work to find a new sponsor as soon as possible.

If you run into financial hardship, we may be able to suspend your monthly gift commitment for a short time and keep you as a child's sponsor. Please call our Care Team at 800-888-3089 to learn more.

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Can I suggest a new sponsor for my child (such as a family member or friend)?

Yes, absolutely. Just contact our Care Team to connect us with your (willing) family member or friend.

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Can I sponsor more than one child?

Yes! Being a part of many children's lives is incredibly rewarding and a wonderful way to learn about different countries around the world.

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What can go wrong?

Our children live in very tough circumstances beyond their control. Sometimes a child's family may move and the child will no longer have access to our program. In those instances, we can introduce you to another child.

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Can I contact my child?

You can write and send photos anytime. (We can't overstate how much your child would love to hear from you. Our kids especially love getting pics!) If you want to send messages, it's easy through our online writing tool, or you're welcome to kick it old-school and send letters to Children International, PO BOX 219055, Kansas City, MO 64121. Make sure to include your full name, account number, your child's name and your child's ID number.

Not sure what to say in your letter? Check out these great tips and topics.

Please keep in mind that other than photos, we can’t forward anything of any value with your letter. The bureaucracy, customs and other fees that can be involved make it a real challenge. If you want to send something to your child, consider providing an extra gift instead.

Important note for Ecuador mailings: If you're using traditional paper-based communications  letters, greeting cards, postcards and photos  leave out extras like stickers or bookmarks. (You wouldn't believe the headaches they cause in customs as well as the time and cost to process them. Sometimes it can even take extra weeks or months to arrive!)

We also want to point out that our child-protection policy is very strict. Our kids are the top priority, so we review (and translate) every letter before sending it to your child. But don't worry. There's no judgment on any misspellings.

Finally, we also prohibit connecting with your child on social media or sharing any personal contact information. In fact, if your child reaches out to you via Facebook (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) or contacts you directly, it could jeopardize her enrollment in the program.

If we seem overly worried, just know that everything we do is to protect the well-being and safety of our kids.

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Wait, back up. Why would my sponsored child have access to Facebook?

Poverty looks different depending on the country. In fact, more people have access to a cell phone than a toilet. So, your child may have access to technology (including Facebook) even though her life is extraordinarily difficult. Here are a few other facts about global poverty and technology you might find surprising.

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Can I send Children International funds to buy my child a gift?

Yes, we consider these to be "extra gifts." Because of the time it takes to deliver an extra gift to your child, the minimum amount is $50. If your gift is $100 or more, you can let the family decide how your gift should be used or you can make note of suggestions, such as buying groceries or getting your child a bed or clothes. Plus, you'll receive photos and a thank-you note from your child with a detailed list of purchases!

It's actually pretty thrilling  and fulfilling!

But you can support your child and the other children in the community in other ways that provide even greater long-term impact, such as helping to fund a community center or giving directly to our programs.

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What about gifts for birthday and Christmas?

Every kid in our program receives a birthday gift and a Christmas gift. Every one! About two months before Christmas and again before your child’s birthday, we’ll send you a letter giving you the opportunity to make a holiday donation. Then we combine all our sponsors’ contributions to make sure every kid gets a gift of equal value for these special occasions.

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Can I ship a gift directly to my child?

Sponsors frequently ask if they can send packages directly to their kids. But here are three reasons we don’t recommend it:

  1. It can be very expensive to ship items internationally.
  2. Customs often adds extra fees (+ taxes + extra shipping charges).
  3. Your package may never arrive.

Instead, we prefer that you send an extra gift if you want to give your child additional support.

However, if you’re willing to take the risk and pay these extra expenses, drop us a note via email or call us. We’ll give you all the details, including the address of our office in your child’s country.

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Can I visit my child?

You should definitely visit your child! Imagine how great it would be to see the impact of your sponsorship in person! You can learn more about planning a visit here.

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What happens when my child graduates from the program?

Celebration! This is an incredibly momentous occasion! Whether you've been your child's sponsor for 12 weeks or 12 years, you've helped her cross the finish line. Our goal is for every child to graduate from our program healthy, educated, employed and empowered to break the cycle of poverty. But we can only do it with your help.

If you want to keep in contact with your child after she graduates, we'll provide info about how to stay connected. If you'd like, we can also introduce you to another child who needs a team member, so you can continue to help kids in poverty.

If you have other questions, please reach out to our Care Team. We'd love to hear from you!

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