Community-based Mentoring: Big Brothers Big Sisters
The Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program is designed to help participating youth ages 6-18 ("Littles") reach their potential through supported matches with adult volunteer mentors ages 18 and older ("Bigs"). The program focuses on positive youth development, not specific problems, and the Big acts as a role model and provides guidance to the Little through a relationship that is based on trust and caring. The Big and Little agree to meet two to four times per month for at least a year, with get-togethers usually lasting 3 or 4 hours and consisting of mutually enjoyable activities.
Volunteers applying to be a Big are screened by local Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) agencies for potential safety risks, ability to commit the necessary time, and capability of forming positive relationships with youth. Approved volunteers undergo training, which includes presentations on the developmental stages of youth, communication and limit-setting skills, tips for building relationships, and recommendations on the best way to interact with their matched Little, whose racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic background may differ from that of the Big.
In matching Bigs and Littles, BBBSA agencies often consider practical factors, such as gender, geographic proximity, and availability, as well as the match preferences of volunteers, youth, and parents. Volunteers indicate the type of youth they would like to be matched with, noting age, race, and the types of activities they expect to engage in with the youth.
Youth and their parents state their preference for volunteers, noting such factors as age, race, and religion, and youth also provide their activity preferences. Matching policies may vary across local BBBSA agencies, but in all cases, the parent must approve the match.
The study reviewed for this summary was conducted with eight urban BBBSA agencies and included youth ages 10-16.
Please note that only the community-based model of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program is considered an Evidence-based Practice (EBP) for DBHR prevention grantees.