Those at Big Brothers Big Sisters understand that many caregivers have questions when first considering enrolling their child into a mentoring program. The staff provides answers to common questions and invites you to learn more about the agency and programs to understand how your child can benefit from receiving support from a caring mentor.
What Programs Are Offered?
- Community-based program – A Big can meet with your child in the community at a time convenient for you, your child, and the volunteer. Activities are chosen between the Big and Little and can include both parties’ specific interests and hobbies. Typical outings involve playing sports, shopping, getting food or ice cream, and spending time outdoors. Bigs and Littles work on goal setting and achievement during outings. As Bigs and Littles are spending time one-on-one in this program, all volunteers are over the age of 18.
- Site-based program – Bigs and Littles can meet at your child’s school or other site typically on the same day and at the same time each week. This program takes place during the school year, and during program sessions, matches often spend their time having lunch together, doing schoolwork, participating in social emotional learning activities, and developing a relationship. Bigs and Littles also create a goal plan and work on goal areas throughout their relationship. As this program is supervised by BBBS staff, volunteers can be high school students, college students, or adults.
What Does the Volunteer Screening Process Include?
All volunteers must:
- Submit an application
- Complete an orientation and training process
- Provide positive references which meet the agency’s criteria to accept a volunteer
- Complete an in-depth face-to-face interview
Volunteers over the age of 18 must also:
- Agree to a multi-layer criminal history and driver’s record check
- Participate in a home inspection
- Submit a background check form for anyone in home over the age of 18
Once all screening is completed, a professional decision is made by BBBS staff regarding the appropriateness of each individual to volunteer with a child.
How Are Volunteers Trained?
All volunteers complete initial training before they are placed with a child.
Training topics include:
- Information about the agency’s vision and mission
- Volunteer obligations and appropriate roles
- Expectations for the match relationship
- Ground rules, guidelines, and policies
- Relationship building and child development
- Child safety and youth protection information
Volunteers are also provided with coaching, training, and additional information throughout their match relationship. This includes any pertinent information that may be beneficial to the match relationship or the growth of the child.
What Happens After My Child Is Matched?
Once your child is matched with a volunteer, a mentoring specialist will be assigned to the match. This individual will be your primary contact person within the agency.
Once a match is decided:
- An in-person introduction will be held among your mentoring specialist, you, your child, and the volunteer either at the BBBS office or your home. The mentoring specialist will go over rules, expectations, and goals for the mentoring relationship. You will also exchange phone numbers and emergency contacts at this time.
- The volunteer may take your child on an activity following the introduction meeting. It could be grabbing something to eating, going for a walk, or getting to know you and your family– whatever you feel comfortable doing.
- After the introduction, the match will begin planning consistent activities together, at least two times per month.
How Does the Agency Communicate With Me and My Child?
Your mentoring specialist will contact you regularly for match support. Match support is done monthly within the first year of the match and quarterly after the first year.
The goal of match support is to:
- Provide you with feedback about the match
- Find information and resources that may be helpful to your child
- Give activity ideas to the Big and Little
- Assist with relationship development between you and the volunteer
- Provide resolutions for any conflicts or issues that may arise
Mentoring Specialists are available at anytime for questions, concerns, or emergency situations.
How Does the Agency Encourage Youth Outcomes?
When a child is enrolled into the program, an interview is done with both the caregiver and the child. Child strengths, skills, and goals are explored through these interviews, so staff better understand how a mentor can assist each individual child. Staff use interviews, along with supporting information, to make the most successful matches possible between volunteers and children. At the beginning of the match, a Youth Outcome Development Plan is created. This plan includes three goals, along with steps and tools for the match to work on goals together during outings. Often, growth in goal areas is observed just through children receiving encouragement and support from a Big. Your mentoring specialist will continue to follow-up about your child’s progress through match support. The match will be provided with suggestions for conversations and specific activities which will assist children in goal areas.
How Has COVID-19 Changed Guidelines and Policies Regarding Match Relationships?
The BBBS staff continues to keep all Bigs, Littles, and caregivers informed of how the agency is handling the COVID-19 situation. Currently, matches are permitted to meet in-person if safety measures are taken. All matches are provided with updated guidelines and policies that must be followed during outings to ensure the health and safety of all involved in the match relationship.
If you’d like your child to participate in a mentoring program but are uncomfortable with in-person meetings, there is a virtual mentoring option.
For further information about the agency or programs or to begin the enrollment process, you can call (330) 339-6916 or visit www.bigs4kids.com.