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Meet our child protection expert: Part 2

Why World Vision? In the second of this two-part Q&A (if you missed it, read part 1 here), Matthew Stephens, senior specialist for child protection with World Vision, explores how our community development work and child sponsorship program help protect children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence.

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5. Child slavery and child sex trafficking are both criminal activities, and World Vision is not a police force. How do World Vision’s partnerships allow us to work proactively on these issues within the scope of our organization?

Working in partnership with a host of stakeholders to tackle issues like child slavery and trafficking is an unquestioned necessity. No one organization can eradicate child slavery, but World Vision plays a critical role toward this grand goal. The key to addressing slavery and trafficking is seeing the comprehensive nature of a response -- from prevention to protection to restoration -- as a continuum of care rather than a single intervention.

In part, our aim is to respond to the root causes of exploitation -- poverty, unequal access to education, violence within families, drug abuse, inadequate knowledge and harmful attitudes, among others -- to create a transformational shift in communities such that child slavery and trafficking cease to exist.

Sadly, this is not the reality. World Vision specifically supports the removal of children from exploitative situations by ensuring that legally-mandated authorities have the ability to respond to these situations in a child-sensitive way. World Vision provides training for law enforcement and local partners to this end; mobilizes communities to refer cases of exploitation to these authorities; and holds governments accountable to their obligations to respond to exploited and trafficked children.

World Vision also works with its government and local partners to provide immediate care and support to children removed from these situations, and often coordinates a restorative response to ensure that all survivors receive full and comprehensive care, as well as assistance to be reintegrated with their families and communities whenever possible.

6. Unfortunately, not all of our child protection work happens preemptively. How do we help children recover after abuse, slavery, or trafficking?

When a child has been removed from an abusive or exploitative situation, World Vision works immediately with families to secure critical care for survivors of violence, which may include material support, medical care, short-term shelter, psychosocial support, and legal services. We may provide these services directly or facilitate referrals to professional service providers in communities. In all cases, World Vision coordinates with providers to ensure that survivors receive comprehensive care and monitors the situation to ensure that these children are not at risk of additional harm.

The World Vision trauma recovery center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, helps formerly trafficked girls recover. The World Vision trauma recovery center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, helps formerly trafficked girls recover. (Photo: Jon Warren/World Vision)

The path of recovery is often challenging. Immediate care for critical needs is the first step in a longer process of healing. When a child suffers abuse or exploitation, World Vision works together with communities to facilitate the return of survivors to family and community-based care whenever possible. We provide long-term reintegration services to survivors, including life skills and vocational training, opportunities to return to school, placement in psychosocial support groups, and work to address the harmful stigma so often attached to surviving exploitation.

7. Do only sponsored children receive protection?

Absolutely not. World Vision promotes a holistic, protective environment around children. When working together, this system can dramatically help to prevent and respond to abuse, exploitation, and violence against all children.

In addition, World Vision works to mobilize and strengthen communities to protect all children -- from advocating for national policies that protect the rights of children, to building the capacity of children themselves to represent their peers in community decisions related to their protection. Sponsored children are beneficiaries of this approach, but the protective environment we seek extends to all children in the communities we serve.

8. As a Christian organization, how does our faith drive our child protection work?

Faith is the cornerstone of our approach to protecting children. World Vision believes that every child’s life has value and purpose in God’s sight. Our commitment to protect children from harm is the result of the belief that the “kingdom of heaven belongs to ones such as these [children]” (Mark 10:14); that our faith requires us to “seek justice and defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17); and to care for the “fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 10:18).

We believe that God has created all children in His image and that it is our obligation as Christians to defend and protect them. We take up this task, together with local churches, believers, and faith-based partners around the world as a reflection of Christ’s love and grace.


Child sponsorship is the cornerstone of World Vision’s approach to community development. Join us! Change a child’s life for good. Sponsoring a child helps provide life-saving basics, as well as protection from abuse and exploitation. Consider sponsoring a child today!

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