Frequently Asked Questions About Being a Little

You want the best for your youth, which is probably why you're interested in learning more about Big Brothers Big Sisters!

We've prepared answers to some of the most common questions we receive from parents and guardians about enrolling their youth as a Little.

If you don't find an answer to a question you have, please contact us at 513-867-1227 or and we'll be happy to speak with you.


The Basics: What it Means to be a Little

What is a Little Brother or Little Sister?

A Little Brother or Little sister is a youth who wants to be mentored by an older volunteer in one of our programs.

Who are the youth who want to become Littles?

The Littles who are enrolled in our programs are between the ages of 6 and 13. They are youth with diverse backgrounds and experiences who live in communities throughout Butler County. The majority of Littles face some adversity in their lives, including things like poverty, an incarcerated parent, or some form of abuse in their families. All Littles have amazing potential! Every Little and their family want the child to be a Little - no youth is ever forced to be a Little Brother or Little Sister.

How is it decided which volunteer  a youth will be matched with?

Our staff carefully matches Bigs and Littles based on many factors, including location, personalities, interests, and preferences. We want our Bigs and Littles to be compatible and for the relationship to have the best chance of blossoming. Read more below about how we make a match.

What will a Big Brother or Big Sister actually do with my youth?

A Big Brother or Big Sister spends time with the Little Brother or Little Sister with whom they've been matched. In our Community-Based Program, this means that the Big Brother/Sister will pick up your youth from your home 2 to 4 times a month for a couple of hours or more at a time. In our Site-Based Program, it means that they will spend 90 minutes together once per week after school during the school year, in a group setting. In both types of programs, time spent between your youth and their Big means that they will engage in meaningful conversations in which the Big is encouraging your youth in pursuit of his/her goals, and sharing helpful life perspective. Your youth and their Big will also engage in activities that are fun and enjoyable for both of them.

What is the time commitment?

When we make a match between a Big and a Little, we want it to last for as long as the relationship is beneficial for your youth. We ask everyone involved to commit to at least one year, because when a mentoring relationship lasts for at least one year, it has the most positive impact on the youth. On the other hand, when a mentoring relationship lasts for only a few months, it can negatively affect the youth.

How will I know if the relationship between my youth and their Big is going well?

Any type of relationship requires dedication, consistency, and clear communication. It's no different between Bigs and Littles. It can take a little bit of time for your youth and their Big to get acquainted with each other and for the relationship to feel like it's going well. Our staff will check in with you, your youth, and your youth's Big on a regular basis and provide any needed support. It's very important that you ask your youth questions about the time they spend with their Big - what they did, how it went, what your youth liked or didn't like, how they felt about it, etc. If your youth indicates anything about the relationship that raises a concern, please share that with your Match Support Specialist (the BBBS staff member who will be assigned to support your youth's match with their Big).

Does it cost me anything for my youth to be part of the program?

There is no cost to you to enroll your youth or for your youth to participate in our programs. If your youth participates in our Community-Based Program, we expect for your youth and their Big Brother/Sister to participate in free or low-cost activities. If possible, you are encouraged to contribute to the cost of any activities or outings in which your youth participates with their "Big." If your youth participates in our School-Based Program, you will be required to arrange transportation for them to get home from the school each week.


What is the age requirement for my youth to be a Little?

Littles must be at least 6 years old and no more than 14 years old at the time they enroll in our program. Once matched, your youth can remain matched with their Big Brother/Sister until your youth turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes last.

What other eligibility requirements are there?

Your youth must reside within Butler County. They must be able to form a healthy relationship with an adult, and they must be able to verbally communicate with an adult. There are no strict income requirements for your youth to participate.

Do I, as a parent/guardian, have any eligibility requirements when it comes to enrolling my youth?

Parents and guardians are essential partners in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. You must be committed to the program, which means supporting the relationship between your youth and their Big Brother/Sister, participating in required check-ins with your youth's Match Support Specialist, and actively seeking support or asking questions if you have any concerns while your youth is participating in our program. None of this works without you!

The Application, Screening, and Matching Process

How do I enroll my youth?

All you need to do is get in touch with our office, which you can do in a number of ways:

Once you submit an application, you will be contacted by our Engagement Specialist, who will discuss the types of programs we offer, how our programs work, and any questions you may have about getting started.

What information is collected in the application process?

In addition to your name and contact information, you will be asked to provide general information about your youth so that we have a basic overview of who your youth is, where they live, and which of our programs may be most beneficial for them.

What happens after I've completed the application?

After you've submitted an application and spoken with our Engagement Specialist, we will schedule an interview depending on the type of program you youth will be enrolled in. For Community-Based Programs, we will schedule an interview with both you and your child, in your home, where you'll meet with a member of our Enrollment Team. For Site-Based Programs, we will schedule an interview with your youth at your youth's school, where they will meet with a member of our Enrollment Team. The purpose of the interview is to get to know you, your youth, and your family better, and to collect information about your youth that will help us to determine the right Big to match them with. You and/or your youth will be asked personal questions during the interview, which are designed to obtain the information we need to make the best possible match, and to ensure that your youth's involvement in our program is as beneficial as possible.

So, how is my youth matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister?

When our Enrollment Team completes the interview with you and/or your youth, we will determine a potential match with a Big Brother or Big Sister. When we think we've found a good match, we will share non-identifying information about your youth with the Big, and we'll share non-identifying information about the Big with you and your youth. After sharing that information, both you and the Big are able to approve or reject the potential match. If both you and the Big approve of the potential match, the match becomes "official." Our staff will set up a "match meeting" where you and/or your youth will get to meet with the Big in-person at your home (for the Community-Based Program) or school (for the Site-Based Program). A BBBS staff member will be there to help facilitate the meeting. At this point, you will be assigned a BBBS Match Support Specialist, who will provide ongoing support to you and your youth.

How long will it take for my youth to be matched?

It depends on many factors. We always want our matches to succeed, which means we will take as much time as is needed in finding the best Big for each Little. Unfortunately, there are more youth enrolled in our programs than there are adults enrolled as volunteer mentors. This means that your youth could be placed on a waiting list until we are able to find the best match for them. Typically it takes longer to match boys with Big Brothers than it takes to match girls with Big Sisters, because there are more women who volunteer as mentors than men. If your youth is placed on the waiting list, we will remain in touch with you and we will provide periodic opportunities for your youth to participate in fun activities with our staff and other Littles who are waiting.

What would cause a match to end, and what happens when a match ends?

We work very hard to create and support matches that last as long as possible for the benefit of Littles. But sometimes things happen - for example, sometimes Bigs or Littles and their families move to a different city or state outside of our service area. If your youth's Big moves away, we will work to get your youth re-matched with a new Big if that is what you and your youth want. If you and your youth move away, we will put you in touch with the Big Brothers Big Sisters office nearest to you if you'd like.

Occasionally, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the relationship between a Big and a Little just doesn't work. If, after allowing time for the relationship to develop and addressing any obstacles along the way, the relationship is clearly not going to be beneficial, we will work to re-match your youth with a new Big if desired.

The best end to a match is when the youth ages out of our program, which usually means that they have experienced a long, supportive, and life-changing relationship with their Big. When a Little turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever happens last), their "official" match ends, but they can choose to stay in touch with their Big for as long as they'd like. Sometimes Bigs and Littles keep in touch for the rest of their lives!

Is there anything else about the matching process I should know?

If your youth is matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister in our Community-Based Program, the Big will communicate directly with you in terms of arranging activities/get-togethers with your youth. They will tell you when they will be meeting, where they will be going, what they will be doing, and how long they will be there. You always have the ability to approve or refuse any activity that a Big would like to engage in with your youth. Overnight visits between Bigs and Littles are not permitted.

Additionally, you are required to check in with your BBBS Match Support Specialist once per month during the first year of your youth's match. (Check-ins become less frequent after the first year, but are still required). The Match Support Specialist will contact you to discuss how things are going and to address any questions or concerns you may have. The Match Support Specialist will also speak separately with your youth to hear directly from him/her about their relationship with their Big.

About Bigs

Where do Bigs come from? How do they get involved in your program?

Bigs come from communities all across Butler County. They get involved with our program because they believe in the power of mentoring and/or they are interested in gaining experience as a mentor.

How old are Bigs?

For our Big Futures Program and Community-Based Program, Bigs must be at least 18 years of age. There is no maximum age limit, provided that the Big is physically and mentally capable of safely and effectively serving as a Big. For our Site-Based Program, Bigs must be in 9th grade or older. They can be high school students, college students, or adults from the community.

What is the typical Big Brother or Big Sister like?

There is no such thing as a typical Big. Every volunteer mentor has their own unique personality, experience, and perspective. Some are high school or college students who want the experience of being a mentor. Others are working adults who are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity. Some are retired adults who feel that they have both the time and the life perspective to make a positive difference in a youth's life. Many of our Bigs have been mentored by someone in their own life - whether through Big Brothers Big Sisters or other programs or relationships - and they want to "pay it forward" by being a mentor for the next generation.

Can I request a certain type of Big for my youth?

When our Enrollment Team interviews you and your youth, we will ask you questions about what you're looking for in a Big Brother or Big Sister. We make matches between Bigs and Littles based on many factors, including personality, interests, location, cultural background, and more. We will explore with you and your youth the characteristics in a Big that you feel would be most beneficial for your youth.

What kind of screening process do Bigs go through?

If someone whats to be a Big, they must complete an application, submit to a screening interview, submit to a criminal background check, provide multiple references, and submit to a driving records check. Our Enrollment Team carefully considers all information obtained from each of these steps in determining if the person is suitable to be a Big Brother or Big Sister, and if they are, what type of program and youth they would be best suited for.

How do you prevent a sex offender or other abusive person from volunteering as a Big?

Your youth's safety is the most important thing to us. Everything we do is built around youth safety, and there are numerous national standards of practice that we are required to follow in order to keep your youth as safe as possible. Some of the ways our approach promotes safety for your youth include:

  • Automatically disqualifying a potential volunteer if they have a criminal history related to any of several different types of crime (not just youth abuse)
  • Asking personal questions during the volunteer's interview process, and following up on anything that raises even the slightest bit of concern
  • Obtaining reference checks from different sources, including any youth-serving programs or organizations that the volunteer has ever been involved with
  • Establishing strict requirements regarding boundaries with the youth, including where, when, how, and how often they may meet with a youth

While we do our very best to discourage and prevent sex offenders and other abusive people from applying to be a volunteer with our program in the first place, we rely on consistent and open communication with you once your youth has been matched with a Big. We want to know how the youth's relationship with their Big is progressing, what activities they do together, how the youth feels about it, etc. ANY concerns that you, your youth, or our staff have about a potential volunteer or an established Big should be voiced and will be explored.

What benefits will my youth receive from having a Big?

The most important benefit is that your youth will have the support and encouragement of a caring adult mentor. This kind of support can lead to other benefits that are unique to your youth and/or your youth's relationship with their Big. These benefits might include more confidence, improved grades in school, better relationships with their peers or with family, healthier attitudes about risky behaviors like drugs/alcohol, and other benefits. It's important to know that Bigs are not intended to be a substitute parent, babysitter, or counselor for your youth, nor are they intended to be someone who spoils/buy things for your youth. Our national guidelines set strict boundaries about this, and our Bigs are required to abide by them.

If my youth's Big hasn't experienced the same challenges that my youth or I have, how will they be able to relate to my youth?

Positive relationships exist all the time between people who come from different walks of life. Even when two people have similar backgrounds or experiences, their lives are never identical. Spending time together and developing a friendship doesn't require a Big to have the same life experiences as you or your youth. In fact, having different experiences and perspectives can help enrich the relationship for everyone involved! 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 my youth's Big, or about their relationship, that concerns me?

Bring it to the attention of your Match Support Specialist - it's their job to assess any concerns and to respond appropriately. Be as open and honest as possible with your Match Support Specialist - don't ever be afraid of "causing trouble" by bringing up a concern you have. If your gut is telling you that something isn't right, please speak up and let us know.