My Child Contacted Me on Social Media

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  • Updated 3 years ago
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URGENT MESSAGE!!!
My sponsored child (MELAT HAILU - from ETHIOPIA - sponsored by me for a minimum of 4 years) appears to have contacted me through Facebook and I am suspicious of this. It says she logged on via a Nokia Phone on May 6, 2014 for the first time. She claims she is my sponsored child and she needs help. My sponsored child, Melat Hailu has NEVER mentioned having internet, NEVER mentioned having a cell phone, NEVER mentioned needing additional help outside of what is sponsor monthly plus birthday and Christmas. I would like this looked into to confirm that my sponsored child NOW has a CELL PHONE and is using it to contact me through Facebook! I do not have a way to contact this young lady fast enough to see if it is REALLY her. I'm concerned someone has broken into the Compassion Data Base and is using my sponsor information and my sponsored child's information as some sort of sick joke.
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Ruann Wood

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Posted 5 years ago

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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Ruan,

I'm so sorry for frightening experience!

It is very common for children in our programs to have access to internet. Many places in the developing world have what is called an "Internet Cafe" where people can pay to use the internet on a computer for pennies per minute. It is also very common for people in the developing world to have cell phones. The phones that they use are not iphones but are cheap versions of phones that we maybe used ten years ago. In most parts of the world, you sign up for use of a phone by the minute and you do not have to sign a contract. This means that people can pay a dollar or less and have access to phone calls, text, and even the internet on their phone for a time. 

All of your information is secured at our USA office. We take information security very seriously. That is one reason why we handle all child letters directly. These letters are sent to our USA office and then on to our office in Ethiopia. Even our staff in our field offices do not have access to your personal contact information. 

Your child is told your name only. She may be aware of the city or state that you live in if you told her this kind of information in your letters. Regrettably, with just your name and where you live, it is quite easy to find you on Facebook. That is most likely what she or whoever contacted you did. 

Most likely your child was simply curious and wanted to know more about who was generously sponsoring her. However, as the world becomes more and more digital, we have asked all of our children to not contact their sponsors directly on social media. Compassion takes your information and privacy very seriously and we want to protect you as a sponsor. We cannot protect you when we are not involved in the child/sponsor communication process.

I would recommend ignoring that friend request or private message and maybe consider changing your privacy settings on your Facebook page. We will take this opportunity to remind your child of our program guidelines. To read more about our policy on this and the reasoning behind it, feel free to read our blog post on the subject. 
(Edited)
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Andrea Rowe Igleheart

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Facebook.


I found and friended 2 of my sponsored child's adult siblings on Facebook. We do not communicate often, but when we do they are very respectful and thankful of my sponsorship for their brother. This connection is a blessing to me. Can Compassion take their brother away from my sponsorship because I communicate with family members outside of Compassion? I only send communication and donations to my sponsored child through Compassion. Thank you, Andrea
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kbjkmsat kbjkmsat

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Facebook with Child's relatives?.


I rarely do Facebook. However, there was a message from my sponsored child's sibling generally asking if I was the sponsor of their brother. Haven't responded yet... What is Compassion's policy about outside communication like this? What have other sponsors done?
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Andrea Rowe Igleheart

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My sponsored child's 2 sisters are adults and live a 3 hr plane ride from the family. I have been FB friends with them for yrs and they were never inappropriate. I only sent funds thru compassion program. Compassion found out and removed my sponsored child from their program. I have been very upset that the child will be the one to pay the penalty of being removed from their program. I have been his sponsor for 8 yrs. I'm disappointed and was angry for a time but God will find a way for me to continue to help this child.
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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Andrea, I am so sorry that you have been disappointed and angry with us about this policy. I know that we have spoken with you about this before, but you are always welcome to call us at 800-336-7676 and we are happy  to discuss this with you further. We appreciate and take your feedback into consideration. Regrettably, this is a serious legal issue for Compassion and we have to ask that children, families and sponsors respect our policies. We cannot protect sponsors and children unless we are involved in the communication back and forth. Because of the seriousness of the situation, after sponsors, families, and children have kindly been asked several times to discontinue direct contact, we have had to remove children from our program. 
(Edited)
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Jean Gillespie

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I am so thankful to read that Compassion takes the guidelines seriously and seeks to maintain security at the level with which I am very comfortable.  I chose Compassion because of its high rating in such matters.
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Aimee K.

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Luther Ison

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
My sponsored child has "Friend Requested" me and my son via Facebook. Is there a policy/recommendation about contact via social media?.


What are the security risks and privacy risks by communication outside of Compassion?
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Emily

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Luther, I see that one of our representatives has emailed you today in response to your inquiry. I have also merged your inquiry into the above conversation as others have also had this question. Please let me know if you need further clarification or have other questions about this. We do appreciate you letting us know about this situation so that we can gently remind your child and their family about Compassion's policies. 
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Amber Hurm

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
What do I do if my sponsored child's parent reaches out to me on social media?.


My sponsored child's parent recently sent me a message on Facebook simply asking if I was his daughter's sponsor. I haven't responded but what should I do in this case?
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Emily

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Hi Amber! Thank you so much for communicating this to us before responding to this Facebook message. The thing is, we cannot even guarantee that the person contacting you is who they say they are.  We also cannot monitor the communication that would take place over social media and thus cannot ensure the safety of our children and sponsor's. We ask our sponsor's to not reply to messages from their children, or family members and friends of children. We also ask that you not respond to any friend requests. We have written a blog on this subject to explain this policy further and the risks involved in communication outside of Compassion's normal letter process, that you are certainly welcome to read. Please let me know if you have further questions and I would be happy to clarify anything or discuss this further with you. 
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Frank

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Sponsored child is impersonating me on Facebook.


A child my wife and I have sponsored for several years has contacted us on Facebook via an account he created to impersonate me.  He has his own account it seems, but he chose to impersonate me and friend contacts on my wife's Facebook page (mine is locked down pretty tight).  

I messaged him directly and asked him to stop and he deleted the account.  Now he is using different first names, but the same last name as ours.  I reached out to Facebook and they did nothing.  I've waited a few weeks, hoping he will stop. He has not, just opening different accounts and friend requesting people. It seems like a cry for attention, but honestly, this is no way to do it.  

I have had a few embarrassing conversations with people explaining the situation that "I" was not the one friend requesting and one couple is outright avoiding me because they never met me and apparently "I" friend requested the wife and it was not wanted...I feel about 2 feet tall. I am sure I can explain it, but why am I having to? This child knows better, and I want to cancel my sponsorship.  How do i begin this process?
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Emily

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Frank, I am so very sorry that this is happening to you and that you were forced to have some very uncomfortable conversations because of this situation. I completely understand your frustration because of this invasion of privacy and I appreciate you making us aware.  It is very important for Luis to follow Compassion guidelines as well as honor you and your wife's privacy and I want to research this further. 

Please rest assured that I have contacted our field staff in Colombia today to look into this situation for you. It is possible that Luis is the one who has been communicating with you over Facebook and creating false accounts under your name. However, in the past I have also seen situations where someone acts as a sponsored child in one of our projects and tries to communicate with sponsor's on their behalf. Regrettably, in this digital age it is difficult to tell if it is actually your child who is contacting you over Facebook by just looking at the account. Compassion takes your information and privacy very seriously and this is one reason we strongly advise sponsor's to not respond to communication from their child over social media because of the risk of developing problematic situations. Our project staff will address this situation with your child and his family and remind them of our guidelines. 

Again, please accept my sincere apologies that this situation has brought you to the point of wanting to discontinue your sponsorship. I have stopped your automatic donations for Luis effective today. Because we value you as a sponsor and the difference you and your wife have made for Luis over the past several years, I wanted to give you the option of waiting to hear back from our field office staff with the information they find before cancelling him off of your account. I want to find a resolution to this issue for you and make certain it is your child who is communicating with you over Facebook. It can take 8-10 weeks to receive a response from our staff and if you would like, we would be happy to cover your support for Luis for the next two months while we wait to clarify this situation. I will contact you personally once we hear back from his project in Colombia. If you would rather me cancel your sponsorship at this time, please let me know and I will update your account. 
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newsponsor

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This is terrible. I wouldn't want to expose myself and my family to potential risks by joining whomever may pose on facebook under my sponsored child name. I am not even sure if I would continue sponsoring the child whose relatives black mail or impersonate me on social networks.
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Greg Bolling

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled My sponsored child friend requested me on Facebook.

My sponsored child Heidy sent a friend request to my Facebook. I did what Compassion wanted-- I didn't respond to it and I blocked her from my Facebook page. The communication wasn't anything more than the friend request. I'm 99% sure that it's her and not someone else. I don't want anyone to get into trouble over this.. just a reminder that that type of communication isn't allowed.

I kind of blame myself for this-- we have a great relationship through letter writing, but I definitely need to write more often. It's obvious that she wants to know more about me.

I won't lie though-- turning down the friend request and blocking my child sucked pretty bad.
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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Greg, I know that must have been hard to turn down her request. I am so sorry to make you do that but appreciate your cooperation. We will very gently remind sweet Heidy of our policies. I wouldn't blame yourself but just make it a point to write a little more often. In looking at your account, I think you write fairly frequently already but I know that your child would love to hear from you even more often. :) Thank you so much for all that you are doing for sweet Heidy! 
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Serena Elizabeth Freitas

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I recently had an uncle of my sponsored child contact me on fb and promised that he only wanted to thank me, send me some photos, etc. Then today I received a phone call from Uganda (dreading getting my phone bill) and he is now asking to come and visit me in the states later this year. I don't want her to get in trouble or to seem like a jerk but I'm not sure how to handle this without offending them or getting her kicked out of the program :/
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Emily

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Serena, thank you so much for communicating this information to us. I understand that it may be exciting to receive communication from your sponsored child or her family through social media however, these types of situations can be problematic for both parties. Compassion takes information security very seriously and for the protection of both you and your sponsored child, Compassion does not allow direct communication between sponsor's and their children (or their families) outside of letter writing. 

Regrettably, we cannot guarantee that the man you have been speaking with is actually your child's uncle. You do not need to worry about responding to the uncle about visiting you in the United States. 

We will take this opportunity to remind your child and her family of our program guidelines regarding communication outside of letters and that a visit to see you here in the U.S. is not possible. If you're ever interested in meeting your child, it is important that you contact Compassion first and we are happy to set up a visit for you.

I would strongly recommend ceasing contact with your child's uncle and blocking him from your friends if you had accepted a request from him. I might also suggest changing your privacy settings on your Facebook page. You may also want to consider contacting your phone company and changing your phone number. This is only a suggestion and not part of Compassion's policy however, contact information can be located using your name and phone number and changing this information can avoid future calls from the uncle or other unwanted contacts.

To read more about our policy on this and the reasoning behind it, you'r welcome to read our blog post on the subject. 
(Edited)
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anna

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled fb friends.

hello, I got a friend request on fb from someone who had the last name of my sponsored child. it is not my sponsored child, so I was wondering if I would be aloud to accept it? I know the risks and everything, so I just wanted to make sure it is ok. I am guessing it is an aunt but I do not know. Also, I heard after your child graduates you can stay in contact but not through compassion. how does that work, and does that apply if the child leaves the program?
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Emily

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Anna, thank you for bringing this to our attention to verify first :). We do ask that you not accept friend requests from a child's friends or family members either. Family members of your child are also required to follow Compassion's guidelines of not communicating with a sponsor through social media because of the same risks you mentioned you're already aware of. You can read more about them on this forum that I merged your inquiry to if you'd like. 

Once a child graduates from our program, we do not recommend staying in contact with them because Compassion will no longer be facilitating the relationship between you and your child and translation can become difficult, but it is possible if you have had a writing relationship with the child for more than two years. We have a conversation that further elaborates on this titled, 'Can I keep in contact with my child after graduation?' There are a couple of circumstances in which this option is not available. These situations include if the child has moved or if they have been out of Compassion's program for more than three months. At that point, it would not be possible for Compassion to reach your child and get them your information for continued communication.
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Debi

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Having seen a number of posts about social media and other such concerns, I'm wondering about the possibility of communicating using preferred name (e.g., "George" or "Mr. Henry") rather than full name. Presumably it would require a change in systems, so not a quick fix, but perhaps worth considering as systems are being overhauled?
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Debbie Skacel Tovar

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Debi, you would be asking kids who might have been lied to during their lives, to put trust in a person who is under a false name.  Then what happens when they do graduate, and find out that you have been lying to them this whole time.  I have a very trusting relationship with my older kids, and I can't imagine what this would do to them to find out that Compassion asked us to lie to them the whole time we are sponsoring them.  Also, what do the people do that visit them?  Oh, the name on my ID isn't really me, no, I'm really the 'George' you have been writing too.  Also, there are so many people that don't believe the kids really exist, and that someone is writing for them, and basically you are suggesting we do pretend we aren't who we say we are.  We have to face the fact that these kids are living in a tech world, and do have access to the internet, so hopefully Compassion and the other big organizations that operate the same way will come up with some new ways of doing things in the future.
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Debi

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Oh my. And no.

To clarify, Debbie, i was simply giving a hypothetical example of a sponsor named George Henry who might be addressed as "George" or as "Mr. Henry." I am not suggesting that I or anyone else misrepresent ourselves. I was not suggesting use of false names, not suggesting that we lie, not suggesting we pretend we aren't who we say we are, and not suggesting that Compassion encourage or even allow such behavior.

Incidentally, this idea is not my own. It is based on a different big child sponsorship organization that has come up with this as a new way of doing things in our increasingly tech-based world.
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Debbie Skacel Tovar

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Oh!  I thought you meant you wanted us to choose a name such as George or Mr. Henry and use that.  I do have to tell you, though, that after reading and thinking about this, I suddenly felt really uncomfortable with a facebook 'friend.'  I had unfriended some people that belong to a Yahoo group that I am a member of only because we do everything on the group, and most of them don't do fb, and if they do, I was hearing everything twice.  One person, a guy, supposedly, right away sent me a friend request.  After reading this, I realized that we don't have any guys right now that are active in our group.  I'm like umm, so is it one of the ladies calling herself by a guy's name (maybe her husband?), or is this a guy who I totally don't know at all.  So unfriended him again :)  I can see that your idea would work, if it's a common name like ours, but if they have a strange first name, knowing these kids, they would find them :)
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Sandy

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I never thought about not giving my children my full name and have sent postcards of the town and state where I live, so it is simple to find me on Facebook. And I have indeed received Facebook friend requests from two of my older teen boys. I ignored both requests, following Compassion's policy. After they graduate the program we have the option of signing a release of some kind so we can contact the child directly if we choose. For most of my children, the language barrier would prevent further communication; however, several of my children I would love to stay in contact with when they leave the program and I hope it is possible.  
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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Great idea, Debi! Because our child and sponsor letters are currently printed with a label using information that is automatically relayed from our system which includes sponsor full names and numbers, considerably large changes would need to be made to redact last names. However, we are currently working on updating these systems and we may be able to work this in. I will pass this idea along. :) 
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Tiffany

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My child who I've sponsored for over a decade has tried to connect with me on Twitter. Her profile image looks like her photos, I'm reasonably sure it's her. She first contacted me about a year ago. I followed the organization's advice not to respond or connect, and now recently she's direct messaged and tried to connect with me 6-8 times. She seems disappointed and upset that I'm not engaging with her online. I'm not sure what to do. I think she may be graduating from her program soon though she's not yet aged out of the Compassion support network. So I'm not sure how to proceed.
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Emily

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Tiffany, I'm sure it's been difficult to hear her disappointment and then feel conflicted as you want to follow the guidelines but also want to let her know you're not ignoring her. I want to thank you so much for contacting us and for resisting the temptation to communicate with her so that Compassion can continue monitoring the communication between the two of you, for both of your safety and privacy. 

Because she has continuously tried to direct message you and connect with you over Twitter, I want to contact our country office today to request that our staff gently remind her of the guidelines and that she's unable to communicate with you outside of Compassion while she's still registered in our program. Regrettably, I couldn't locate your account under your first name or email. Would you mind posting her child ID number here? 

I know that you want her to complete and succeed to the end of our program as much as we do :). You're a great sponsor! Thank you so much for being a positive influence and good example to her over the years!
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newsponsor

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Instead of just ignoring sponsored child's requests on social media, wouldn't it be appropriate to write back to the child thru Compassion, "..Somebody contacted me under your name on facebook. Unfortunately, I can't respond to your facebook request because of Compassion communication policy. Violation of the Compassion communication policy may result in your removal from the sponsorship program"
(Edited)
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Emily

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Hi new sponsor! I can definitely understand where you're coming from in this. It can feel rude to not respond at all, right? But because Compassion really wants to monitor all communication between our sponsors and children truly for the safety of you both and protection of your privacy, Compassion asks that you not respond at all. If a response is given to the request/message from the child, then it might encourage or tempt the child (other individual acting as your child) to continue responding because they were successful in getting your attention the first time.

We do encourage sponsors to let us know however, whenever your child attempts to communicate with you over social media. When you let us know of these situations, we will contact our field office and they will gently remind your child or whomever, of the guidelines. Not only this however; if it wasn't them, it will help the project staff to identify that there's a fake account for your child and if it's a family member or friend doing this on behalf of your child, they can address this issue.