Frequently Asked Questions About Your Child Being a Little
You want the best for your child, 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 child as a Little. If you don't find an answer to a question you have, please contact us at 513-867-1227 and we'll be happy to speak with you.
Your child's future is bright! We're here to help ignite it.
The Basics: What it Means to be a Little
A Little Brother or Little sister is a child or youth who wants to be mentored by an older volunteer in one of our programs.
The Littles who are enrolled in our programs are between the ages of 6 and 14. They are boys and girls 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 child is ever forced to be a Little Brother or Little Sister.
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.
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 child 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 child and their Big means that they will engage in meaningful conversations in which the Big is encouraging your child in pursuit of his/her goals, and sharing helpful life perspective. Your child and their Big will also engage in activities that are fun and enjoyable for both of them.
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 child. 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 child. On the other hand, when a mentoring relationship lasts for only a few months, it can negatively affect the child.
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 child 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 child, and your child's Big on a regular basis and provide any needed support. It's very important that you ask your child questions about the time they spend with their Big - what they did, how it went, what your child liked or didn't like, how they felt about it, etc. If your child 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 child's match with their Big).
There is no cost to you to enroll your child or for your child to participate in our programs. If your child participates in our Community-Based Program, we expect for your child 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 child participates with their "Big." If your child participates in our School-Based Program, you will be required to arrange transportation for them to get home from the school each week.
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 child can remain matched with their Big Brother/Sister until your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes last.
Your child 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 child to participate.
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 child and their Big Brother/Sister, participating in required check-ins with your child's Match Support Specialist, and actively seeking support or asking questions if you have any concerns while your child is participating in our program. None of this works without you!
The Application, Screening, and Matching Process
All you need to do is get in touch with our office, which you can do in a number of ways:
- Click here to enroll your child online
- Call us at 513-867-1227
- Email Jessica Huentelman, Engagement Specialist, at Jessica.Huentelman@bbbsbutler.org
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.
In addition to your name and contact information, you will be asked to provide general information about your child so that we have a basic overview of who your child is, where they live, and which of our programs may be most beneficial for them.
After you've submitted an application and spoken with our Engagement Specialist, we will schedule an interview with both you and your child, in your home (for the Community-Based Program) or at your child's school (for the Site-Based Program), where you'll meet with a member of our Enrollment Team. The purpose of the interview is to get to know you, your child, and your family better, and to collect information about your child that will help us to determine the right Big to match them with. You and your child 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 child's involvement in our program is as beneficial as possible.
When our Enrollment Team completes the interview with you and your child, 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 child with the Big, and we'll share non-identifying information about the Big with you and your child. 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 your child 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 child.
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 children enrolled in our programs than there are adults enrolled as volunteer mentors. This means that your child 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 child is placed on the waiting list, we will remain in touch with you and we will provide periodic opportunities for your child to participate in fun activities with our staff and other Littles who are waiting.
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 child's Big moves away, we will work to get your child re-matched with a new Big if that is what you and your child want. If you and your child 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 child with a new Big if desired.
The best end to a match is when the child 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!
If your child 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 child. 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 child. 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 child'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 child to hear directly from him/her about their relationship with their Big.
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.
For our Big Futures Program, Sports Buddies 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.
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 the life of a child. 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.
When our Enrollment Team interviews you and your child, 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 child the characteristics in a Big that you feel would be most beneficial for your child.
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 child they would be best suited for.
Your child's safety is the most important thing to us. Everything we do is built around child safety, and there are numerous national standards of practice that we are required to follow in order to keep your child as safe as possible. Some of the ways our approach promotes safety for your child include:
- Automatically disqualifying a potential volunteer if they have a criminal history related to any of several different types of crime (not just child 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 child, including where, when, how, and how often they may meet with a child
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 child has been matched with a Big. We want to know how the child's relationship with their Big is progressing, what activities they do together, how the child feels about it, etc. ANY concerns that you, your child, or our staff have about a potential volunteer or an established Big should be voiced and will be explored.
The most important benefit is that your child 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 child and/or your child'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 child, nor are they intended to be someone who spoils/buy things for your child. Our national guidelines set strict boundaries about this, and our Bigs are required to abide by them.
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 child. 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.
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.