I Investigated Big Brothers Big Sisters

Like I said I would in my last post on mentorship, I investigated the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Orlando. It seems fairly easy to get into. You have to be at least age 21, fill out a 9 page application and be a solid citizen. They do all kinds of background and reference checks and the fellow I talked to on the phone stated they would visit my house (uh oh put away the beer pong table). On the app, there’s a 15 question questionnaire (example: have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?) and a section where you fill out activities you like/do, things like playing sports and arts and crafts and stuff. From there, I assume, the BBBS folks check you out and eventually match you up with a youth that’s a good fit.

Here’s the tricky part. The commitment is 2 hours every 2 weeks, for an entire year. That’s 4 hours per month spent with your little. You MUST commit to being a mentor for at least year. At first blush that doesn’t seem so bad, but I’m busy and we’re all busy and who can commit to a two hour time slot every fortnight for a year? That means you shouldn’t be moving around or be a flaky mf’er if you’re mentoring an at-risk youth. No one really has the time and resources to do this, but everyone probably should and it’s a good for your soul.

There’s a massive need for male mentors especially, with an average waiting list of 75 boys who needs Bigs. That’s just in my community. Some boys have been on the list for three years.

So I guess it’s put up or shut up. If I get into this I’ll blog about it a bit.

  • Elaine

    Wow, talk about good timing – did you hear about the Michael Baisden event at the Orlando Downtown Rec Center to rally mentors? It was tonight, so I was wondering about your timing with this blog post: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-radio-host-orlando-mentor-tour-20100304,0,4195304.story

  • http://honeyandlance.com Lance

    Very good timing. I attended it.

  • Jonsi

    I’ll shamefully admit that I served as a Big — and I loved it for about 6 months — but I only made it 8 months before things fell apart. A confluence of events overwhelmed me, and my little’s parent was negligent. On two, month long occasions I had 4-6 calls where I spoke to his mom, but they were never returned. I didn’t know if my messages weren’t getting delivered, if my little was being punished (which is against the contract), or if he had lost interest (he was 17). The first time this happened, I involved the office. “Have you heard anything?” The second time, things just kind of fell through. I did have some personal things going on — including a seizure that scared me — but part of me is really upset with myself, because those things were excuses. I could have called every day until I reached him (of course, sometimes I would call and the phone was turned off because she had not paid the bill.)

    Some parents are happily involved. There is a spectrum of kids needing mentors from all sorts of backgrounds. Other parents are negligent. I’m telling my story because if you are going to commit: commit. There are no excuses. The challenge is not finding time to ride bikes in the park or play basketball. It is EASY to make that time. It really is. You will love it. The challenge is in calling and arranging your outings, particularly if the parent is negligent. These kids are used to someone important being unreliable or absent, so you can’t be that guy.

    In hindsight, for me, it was a bad match all around. It took the third time I was supposed to meet with my little, his mom, and my staff contact to even get it off the ground, and the only reason the staff continued at that point was the family was really in dire straights and he had younger siblings looking for mentors too. We even had to meet at her house — against the rules for the 1st family/mentor/staff meeting — wait an hour, and then go to the nearby McDonald’s because she was too embarrassed to have us in her house, where she ordered the entire right side of the menu.

    So, my little NEEDED a mentor. And he was a GREAT kid. I had a blast. I remain disappointed that I did not call every day until I reached him, his mom be damned. I didn’t try hard enough and was naive. Of course, other parents are much more involved and make it easy, so you have a choice too: you can express what kind of kid you want to mentor (age, shy, whatever), and you can even say “I’m busy. It would be best to be matched with someone whose family is supportive, reliable, and involved.” Because it’s not always broken or impoverished homes — sometimes the dad is deployed in Iraq and when he left for his second tour learning problems started happening at school — so if you go into it with an idea of what would be too challenging for you, they can match you with someone else. I know a couple other people who mentored and they not once experienced the challenges I did.

    Just some things to consider. Give it a good hard look, and if you do it, you’ll love it!

  • Hook

    You’re over 30 and still have a beer pong table?

  • http://honeyandlance.com Lance

    I have a regulation ping pong table in my sun room that I use for table tennis, but yes, we play beer pong on it on occasion. And flip cup.

  • http://katwilder.com Kat Wilder

    Lance — I take it all back (what? Did I ever say anything negative?) I love that you are stepping up to the plate.

    Kids need mentors, especially nowadays. It’s such an amazing way to impact someone’s life, and change the world in a small but significant way.

    kudos to you.

    And, you’ll get a lot out of it, too.
    .-= Kat Wilder´s last blog …Who says the L-word first? =-.

  • Ashley

    I am currently a Big Sister in this program, and recently graduated college and got a full time job that I start next week. I called up my match support manager to inform her of the change, and let her know that I would be unable to donate my time to BBBS (my work commute will be about an hour each day there and back, and I’ll be working full time). She snapped back by reminding me that I had signed a year long contract which is up in August, but when I signed up, they also said that if there was any sort of life change that would prevent me from donating my time that we could work something out. My little sister once had a big sister that was removed for “breaking a rule”. Is it my fault that her other sister got the boot? NO. I think it’s sad that a program as well-known as BBBS gives no graceful way of leaving the program besides breaking a rule. A job will ALWAYS come ahead of another adults child for me. If I have to just quit calling/showing up, I will, but it’s sad that there is no other option to quit the program, and how they don’t put a successful JOB ahead of me spending money on a child whose mom has 5 other children she can’t support and another on the way. She’s not MY child.