Big Brothers Big Sisters of America was recently awarded three mentoring grants totalling approximately thirteen million dollars by the United States Justice Department, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Grants of this nature are awarded to leading national organizations in recognition of their works that strengthen, grow and implement mentoring activities and development programs for youth.
Having a history of over a hundred years, and hundreds of testimonies that show its mentoring program works in America, Big Brothers Big Sisters is indeed an organisation that has positively impacted the lives of Americans. Its mentoring programs of children and youth across all America show that there is hope even when parents are incarcerated, that children and youths will grow in the right direction when they are mentored by older brothers and sisters.
How do the mentoring programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters work? Children and youths at risk (the Littles) are paired off with adults (the Biggies) as their mentors in the hope that these mentors will act as ideal role models in the absence of good parenting models. Instead of being substitute parents, these adults are referred to as big brothers and big sisters to foster closer ties that are void of the negative connotations these Littles have with their biological parents.
Biggies meet up with their Littles on a regular basis that can be monthly or weekly. Meaningful time is spent in the form of chatting over meals, visits to places of interest, or recreation. Through activities spent together, a relationship of trust is formed that allows Biggies to have a positive influence over their little siblings who may otherwise seek out the wrong company in their absence. Biggies soon become a good listening ear to their Littles, and mentor their activities.
Mentors are carefully selected through interviews with professional staff members in the town closest to their homes. If selected, they will be matched to a child or youth in need of a mentor, according to interests, availability and race. Because child safety is top priority, applicants as mentors will be subjected to a background check to ensure a good fit into the mentoring program. They will also provide two references that can attest to their abilities and suitability as mentors.
Once mentors pass the stringent checks, they are matched with a child in their area, according to gender and the kind of children they would like to mentor. Because the mentoring program depends largely on suitable matching, mentors may be assigned a Little in uncertain duration. It is important that mentors are matched to the correct charges or risk unnecessary stress and unhappiness over the mentoring experience. Moreover, unsuitable matching may result in unwanted problems.
Matches are in two kinds: school-based and community-based. School-based matches meet within the Little’s school for an hour a week in the day, during which they share a variety of school-related activities such as reading in the school library, having lunch together, playing together or doing projects together. Community-based matches fit into the Big Brother or Sister’s schedule and involve activities such as outings to sports events or places of interest, and even visits to their homes or meets with other matches.
Parents of children in need of a mentor must approve the selection of the match before mentoring begins. They are also involved in mentoring in various ways and work closely with staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters to ensure success in the mentoring process. The Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program can result in children becoming more confident of themselves, having better relationships with others and being successful in their studies, as well as staying clear of drug abuse and other criminal tendencies that their parents may have been involved in.
The success of the Mentoring Program at Big Brothers Big Sisters falls mainly on the best match, as well as careful monitoring and interaction between the guardians, the Littles, the Biggies and staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters. By keeping their charges gainfully occupied and being there for them, mentors pave the way to healthy lifestyles and interactions that will hopefully keep them off the wrong course of bad decisions and role-modelling. It is therefore vital that aspiring volunteer-mentors avail themselves to the stringent assessments, interviews and background checks.
What happens if you do not make the grade or want to be a mentor, but would like to be involved in the organisation? You may want to volunteer your services or join the staff in a variety of positions related to fund-raising, program development and operations. You may also want to make donations in kind or in cash.
Big Brothers Big Sisters welcomes a workforce from diverse work experiences and ages because it believes that having people from diverse backgrounds work towards a common cause will bring about the best results. There is always somethng more that can be done for the disadvantaged children and youths.