GCDF wishes to elaborate on further details it's proposed long term strategy to support online contact between Sponsors and their Sponsored Children in order to resolve questions:
The normal rules of child sponsorship programs never allow Sponsors to directly contact their sponsored children in order to protect the children from inappropriate contact. Letters are reviewed and social media contact is banned.
GCDF will always review written correspondences and prohibit contact using third-party social media services.
However, after going through an approval process to verify that the Sponsor (The sponsor is viewed as the person that the sponsored child relates to as his/her sponsor, typically, the child of the Donor paying for sponsorship. This would be the child of the American/British parent paying for sponsorship.) is actually also a child (and perhaps the same gender? or at least a close age), the Sponsor can engage in a limited level of direct contact using a private communication platform created by GCDF. Below are the proposed details:
- Only Sponsors that meet certain criteria, which we anticipate will be that the sponsor is also a child and possibly the same gender, will be capable of contacting the sponsored child directly through the GCDF communication platform.
- Ineligible or not yet verified sponsors will still be able to use the communication app, but they can't communicate directly to the sponsored child. Messages to and from ineligible sponsors are reviewed by staff and volunteers to ensure appropriateness. It's not much different than using our letter writing correspondence system, but the messages will be delivered faster as they aren't translated.
- Contact will be limited to a few messages in a given week. This can be for example 5 video messages, 4 messages, 2 pictures in a week. By allowing unlimited contact, Sponsors and the Sponsored Child risk losing interest in their relationship because the conversations risk becoming too casual, like with the hundreds of other friends they have already on other social media platforms. By imposing a limitation, it forces the two children to place thought into their messages, keeping their messages substantive and of more interest to each other. Messages by one child will have greater value to the other. Since video messages typically involve more creative work to produce and aren't purely casual talk, allowing more video messages compared to text messages each week between the two children may be allowed. Children sometimes get into disputes online, but with the message quota in effect, children will place greater thought in their messages drastically reducing the chance of misunderstandings that may result in unwanted contention. Additionally, the limitation prevents Sponsors from being bombarded with messages from their sponsored child; further protecting their relationship. We will likely limit correspondences from unverified sponsors to the child to only a few a week.
- Messages are not translated. GCDF staff and volunteers simply won't have the resources to translate messages sent via the communication platform. Fortunately, most sponsored children begin learning English at an early age (2'nd grade at around 7 to 8 years old). The online tool provides an opportunity for the child to practice his or her English by writing to his/her Sponsor in the English language.
- GCDF, the Child's School, and possibly the Children's parents will be able to monitor the correspondences. Since the contact between the child sponsor and the sponsored child is instant, tools to provide oversight to protect the children are essential. We plan on providing parents with a login to read the correspondences between the children. Also, since most sponsored children are participating through their public school, the child's teacher and school administration will have access to read the correspondences between their students and their sponsors. The knowledge that correspondences are observed by responsible adults will significantly deter disqualified people from trying to use the platform. It will also deter children from using the platform to harass. The child can have access to a button to mark a message as concerning, allowing all adults with access to observe the chat to review the message and take appropriate action. If a child that is a sponsor is participating through a program by their USA/UK school, the school staff may also have access to observe all student correspondences.
- School Assignment benefits. As noted under our article "School Assignments", there is an educational benefit that exists for the sponsored children (and even the sponsor that is a child). Allowing a more direct form of contact allows children to use the platform in real-time for their educational benefit. For example, a Ukrainian child may be assigned a school assignment to create a short video for his/her sponsor showing her art class drawings while speaking in English. The school may also have limited access to turn off the message quota tool in order to allow the child to send a school assignment message to his/her sponsor.
How does GCDF plan on verifying the eligibility of Sponsors to use the GCDF communication tool? By allowing Gymnastics, Cheerleading, and Dance clubs in the USA/UK to verify the Sponsor. Permit the club to charge a fee so they can generate profits for the service. GCDF will not take any portion of the fee. Let the school/club determine the fee (competition between the clubs will keep the costs reasonable). GCDF would provide the Club with a web-login to our system with limited access to verify the eligibility of the child sponsor and give them access to use the communication tool.