Volunteering to Be a Big Brother or Big Sister - Part I
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Volunteering to Be a Big Brother or Big Sister - Part I

Do you have what it takes to be a Big Brother/Sister?

Volunteering to be a Big Brother/Sister is not as easy as it’s made out to be on television or in books. Someone who is interested in becoming a mentor cannot simply walk into the agency and say, “I want a kid.” It just doesn’t work that way. The Big Brother/Big Sister agency is responsible for matching a mentor with a child in a safe and controlled manner. Unfortunately, the process is rather long and discourages a lot of prospective volunteers from getting involved.

Here is some information about the first steps of becoming a Big Brother/Big Sister:

1. The first step of the process is to obtain some information about the agency. This can be done through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters website, and/or by calling the agency. A person who is interested in volunteering for the agency should get a clear idea on what the agency is all about before just trying to jump in.

2. The second step is to attend an information session. The session is open to about ten individuals at a time, and typically occur at least twice a month. Attending an information session is extremely beneficial, because it allows the prospective volunteer to learn more about the agency, the kids who are in need of mentors, and what kind of mentors are required. Information sessions also allow a future volunteer to ask questions.

3. The third step is to fill out all the paperwork with the agency, and to grant permission for the agency to conduct a police background check (they don’t want to be handing a child over to someone who steals cars for a living, after all!). Typically, the volunteer will be responsible for contributing some money toward the background check, but it’s not all that much.

4. The fourth step is to obtain three references: A personal reference, a professional reference, and a family reference. The volunteer must know these references for a minimum of two years for them to be useful. If the volunteer has not known the references for at least two years, then the references will be discounted and the volunteer will not be able to continue in the volunteering process.

5. After the reference step has been completed, the prospective volunteer will be scheduled for a home visit. This visit allows for the agency to ascertain whether or not the volunteer’s home is acceptable for a child to be in, and also allows for the agency to ensure that the volunteer really does live at the provided address. Typically, an extensive interview (about two hours long) will be conducted during the home visit.

6. The sixth step is to attend four hours of training at the agency. The reason for the training is not only to enlighten the volunteer on the procedures that the agency expects the volunteers to follow, but also to give the volunteers some tips and ideas on how to spend time with the “Littles”. The training covers such topics as abuse (by the volunteer or in the child’s home), travel, ideas for outings, tips on how to handle a difficult child, et cetera. The training is really just a quick overview of a multitude of topics, but it is very important and very useful.

Completion of each of these steps in no way guarantees that a volunteer will be accepted as a Big Brother/Big Sister. The agency member who conducts the interviews/training keeps detailed notes on each candidate, and the notes are later reviewed to see if the volunteer would make an appropriate match with a child. The idea is to ensure that the volunteer will be a good influence on the child, and will bring something positive to the child’s life and experiences. An inappropriate volunteer can cause long-term emotional damage to a child, and that is just not acceptable.

Part II of volunteering with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters agency will follow shortly.

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