What is a Big Brother or Big Sister?
A Big Brother or Big Sister is a volunteer mentor who develops and nurtures a positive, supporting relationship with a child who is enrolled in one of our programs. Bigs provide youth with support, counsel, friendship, positive reinforcement and constructive example. A Big is an older, encouraging friend who helps a child realize their potential.
Why should I become a Big Brother or Big Sister?
Where do we start? There are so many benefits to becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. As a Big, you have the opportunity to help shape a child’s future for the better by empowering that child to achieve their full potential. In fact, mentoring is one of the most effective means of positively influencing the life of a child. Not only are you helping youth improve their self-confidence, academic performance and decision-making skills – but you get to have a lot of fun while doing it! You and your Little can share in activities you already enjoy, have wonderful conversation and go on new adventures together. In fact, many of our volunteer mentors (Bigs) tell us that their time with their Little Brother or Little Sister is one of the favorite parts of their week! Being a Big Brother or Big Sister is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling things you will ever do!
Why choose our program over others?
There are other mentoring programs you can choose, but we pride ourselves in being the leader in mentoring services for youth – in fact, Big Brothers Big Sisters pioneered youth mentoring over 100 years ago! We know our stuff and our results demonstrate that!
An independent national study found kids involved in BBBS mentoring programs were more likely to graduate and stay out of trouble when compared to their peers without mentors. They also found kids improved their school grades and relationships with others.
We achieve continued success of our program with a thorough screening and training process for our Bigs and a proven method for creating meaningful and successful matches. Trained match specialists take time and care when finding your Little Brother or Little Sister and provide long-term support to ensure longevity of the match and happiness of all parties involved.
To put it plainly, BBBS has a proven track-record of success and deep knowledge of how best to create and support our mentorship pairs. As a Big Brother or Big Sister, you can be certain you’ll receive the support you need to truly make a difference in the life of a child.
What is the time commitment?
We ask our Bigs to commit to meeting with their Little 2-4 times per month. Depending on the activities and availability of your Little Brother or Little Sister, this should equate to a minimum of 6-8 hours a month. Each relationship is unique and takes time to develop, so it is important that our Bigs commit to a minimum of one year. Of course, we hope you’ll continue your mentoring relationship well past the first year, as many of our Bigs choose to do! In fact, some of our current Big Brothers and Big Sisters have been matched with their Littles for more than 7 years!
Is there a financial commitment required?
There is no cost to you to apply or to go through the screening process to become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Once you are matched with a child, you are expected to engage in free or low-cost activities with your Little. The emphasis is on spending quality time together, so we do not require or even recommend that Bigs spend a lot of money. The simplest activities are often the most fun. It Is Important to enjoy activities that build your friendship and provide opportunities for learning. The most valuable thing you can give to your little Is your time and presence. Our team will also share discounts, ideas and opportunities throughout the year for free and low-cost activities you can do with your Little.
Who can be a Big?
Our Big Brothers and Big Sisters come from diverse backgrounds (just like our Littles!) but all have one thing in common, a belief that every child has incredible potential. Bigs come from all walks of life and do not require any special degrees or skills- just a desire to positively impact the life of a young person.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters must be at least 21 years old and live or work in Sacramento, Yolo or South Placer County. You must be a high-school graduate or hold a GED, have a valid driver’s license & current automatable insurance and meet specific criminal and driving history guidelines.
Does BBBS accept LGBTQ volunteers?
Absolutely!! At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are looking for a diverse group of volunteers including age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status and ability. The youth and adults in our program represent a diverse array of all the above.
I have a criminal record, am I still eligible to be a Big?
It is important that you disclose any criminal record to us so that it can be addressed fully. If you have a minor offense and/or a misdemeanor conviction from long ago, you may still be considered based on the discretion of the CEO. This will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
We are not able to accept volunteers who have any felony conviction, any arrest matter currently pending, a misdemeanor conviction within the past 2 years, or an alcohol/drug related conviction within the past 3 years.
Are there other eligibility requirements?
Yes, our Bigs must have a viable means of transportation, a current driver’s license and maintain liability insurance as required by the State of California. Bigs must not have been treated for substance related addiction in the last 5 years and must not currently use illegal drugs or participate in underage drinking. Lastly, you must be able to make a minimum 1-year commitment.
Application, Screening & Matching Process
How do I become a Big Brother or Big Sister?
Just fill out our simple online inquiry form HERE. After it’s completed, you’ll hear from a Big Brothers Big Sisters staff member to help you with the next steps which include an interview and background check. So many of our volunteers tell us that becoming a Big was the best decision they ever made! What are you waiting for? Take that first BIG step today!
How am I matched with a Little Brother or Little Sister?
At Big Brothers Big Sisters we are very thorough and thoughtful about our matching process. We conduct in-depth interviews with the Bigs, Little and the parents/guardians so we can get to know all parties and make the best match possible! We make matches based on common interests, personalities, preferences and geography. We truly pride ourselves in creating lasting, meaningful and fun matches for both the Bigs and the Littles!
What information is collected in the application process?
In addition to your personal information, you will be asked to provide references, submit a criminal background check and your driving record will be reviewed.
What happens after I’ve completed the application process?
After the application steps are completed, we will schedule an interview where you’ll meet face-to-face (or virtual during COVID) with one of our Match Support Specialists. The purpose of the interview is to get to know you better as a person, to understand your interest in volunteering as a Big and learn about your interests, background and personality. Then we’ll put this information to work and find the right Little Brother or Little Sister for you!
How long does it take to get matched?
In some cases, we are able to match you within as little as a month, but often it takes longer. We want to get you matched quickly, but there are many factors to consider, most importantly our commitment to finding the best Big for each Little and the best Little for each Big. Once you have completed the application and interview process you can be sure that we’ll be working to find the right match!
Am I able to make requests about the child I’ll be matched with?
We make matches between Bigs and Littles based in part on location, personalities, interests, and cultural backgrounds. For example, we would be more likely to match an energetic, active child with a Big who is also energetic and active and we would be more likely to match a child who lives in the Elk Grove with a Big who also lives in Elk Grove. During the interview process, our Enrollment Specialist will ask many questions that will help us to get to know you and to determine the best match. If you indicate preferences for specific characteristics about a child (such as race, religion, or other characteristics), our staff will explore this with you in-depth.
All about Little Brothers or Little Sisters
How do children get selected to be a “Little”?
Little Brothers and Little Sisters come from communities all across Sacramento, Yolo and South Placer Counties. The Littles get involved with our program because they, their family, a school official, a teacher or another professional has identified that having a mentor would be beneficial for that child. Most of our Littles are enrolled by their parent or guardian.
Do Littles and their families go through an application & screening process?
Yes. The Little’s parent or guardian applies to enroll their child in our program, and both the child and their family are interviewed. The child must be able to verbally communicate and to form a healthy relationship with an adult. Throughout the application and interview process, our Enrollment Team obtains a clear picture of the child’s needs, personality, family dynamics, history, and other factors, so that we can find the best possible match for them. The child’s parent or guardian must commit to supporting a match and to communicating regularly with our staff.
If I haven’t experienced the same challenges as my Little, will I be able to relate to him/her?
Positive relationships exist all the time between people who come from different walks of life. A Big is not a counselor or therapist. A Big’s role is not to diagnose or fix anything about the child or their life. Spending time together and developing a friendship doesn’t require the Big to have the same life experiences as the Little. In fact, having different experiences can help enrich the relationship for both! Plus, every relationship takes time to develop, which is part of why we require a commitment of at least one year.
What if I see or hear something about the child or his/her life that concerns me?
Please bring any and all concerns to the attention of your Match Support Specialist – it’s their job to assess any concerns and to respond appropriately. Don’t wait until a scheduled check-in with your Match Support Specialist. They are always available to support you.
How old are Little Brothers and Little Sisters?
Littles range in age from 7 – 16 when they enroll in our program. Once a Little is matched with a Big, they can stay matched until the Little turns 18 or graduates from High School, whichever comes first.
What is the typical Little Brother or Little Sister like?
There is no such thing as a typical Little. Every child has his/her own unique personality, characteristics, history, and challenges. Most of our Littles face adversity of some kind in their lives, which is what makes having an adult mentor so important and beneficial. The one thing that we can say with certainty is that all our Littles have one important thing in common – they all possess tremendous potential worth defending!
You’ve Been Matched! Now what?
What type of support do Big Brothers and Big Sisters receive once they’ve been matched?
Once you are matched with your Little, a Match Support Specialist from the agency will be in regular contact with you to provide assistance and give feedback. Any time you are unsure about what to do or how to handle a situation, you will have a Match Support Specialist there to help. They’ll help you with ideas for activities, guidance for handling possible difficult situations, and feedback on how you are making a difference.
What type of outings or activities should I do with my Little?
There are endless ways to spend time with your Little! Each match Is unique and the types of activities you’ll do will depend on both you and your Little’s Interests. Which activities you choose are not nearly as Important as the time you spend together. We encourage you to share activities that gives you something in common to talk about. Go to the library, check out a book and read together. Buy a comic book to read together. Play a board game. Hit a bucket of golf balls at the local driving range. Learn a new hobby together. Play sports, ride bikes or go fishing. Attend a musical performance, live theatre or a sporting event. Check out a local museum or local park. You want to select activities that give each of you a chance to learn more about one another and that exposes your Little to new experiences. Most important: keep it simple and have fun!
How much money should I spend on my Little or on our activities together?
The quality of the time you spend with your Little is the most important, so we don’t encourage spending a lot of money on outings with your Little. The goal of a Match relationship is to help the Little see the world through a new lens and, in doing so, inspire the Little to embrace their biggest and brightest possible future. This doesn’t require spending money. Play a board game together. Share the pizza you were going to have for lunch anyway. Go for a walk at a local park. Read and discuss the same book. Our local agency also offers donor-supported group activities as well as free or discounted tickets for a variety of outings.
Can I bring my spouse, a friend or a family member on outings?
In the beginning its most important for you and your Little to get to know each other. This can happen best on a one-to-one basis. However, over time it’s also valuable for your Little to get to know the people who are important to you. Just keep in mind that if you’re spending lots of time with others, your Little may begin to feel jealous or neglected. The main focus is the friendship you develop with your Little.
Can siblings or friends of my little participate in our activities?
Yes, but we strongly encourage one on one meetings for the first three months and then for at least half of your activities onward. This is to ensure that there is trust formed first and foremost with yourself and your Little
How often should I get together with my Little Brother or Little Sister?
Being a Big requires a commitment to meet with your Little Brother or Little Sister at least once a month for 4-6 hours. Many of our Bigs also stay in contact in other ways between outings (texts, phone calls, Zooms).
How long does a match last?
We ask for a minimum commitment of one year for each match we make. It is very important that you can commit to a year of mentorship in order to build a meaningful relationship. One of the most valuable pieces of our program is the reliable, consistent support and friendship that a child receives from a trusted adult. Many of our matches last well beyond one year and often turn into friendships that up lasting a lifetime!
What if it isn’t working out?
We do everything in our power to make a Match that will last and most do. However, we understand that sometimes there is a Match that isn’t working out for any number of reasons. Efforts will be made to address any situation that arises and find appropriate solutions. Your Match Support Specialist will be there every step of the way to handle your questions or concerns about your match. It is rare, but there are times that we must end a match. Our staff is here to support you and will ensure it is handled in the best possible way for both the Big and the Little involved.
When you support Big Brothers Big Sisters, you change lives for children in our community.