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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is affiliated with the oldest and most well-known mentoring program in the United States, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Their mission is "to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth." The organization provides 1:1 mentoring and have served over 2,000 kids and their families in the Chicago area.
Table of contents
- Chicago History
- Enrolling a Child
- Volunteering as Mentor
- Minority and Male Mentorships
In 1904, Ernest Coulter, a New York City court clerk was seeing many boys going through his courtroom. He recognized that these boys needed a caring adult, and that having one could help many other kids stay out of trouble as well. He began to look for volunteers and started the Big Brother movement. At around the same time there were members from Ladies of Charity noticing girl coming through New York Children's Court and they began, what would later be called, Catholic Big Sister. In 1977 both groups decided to stop working individually and they became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Big Brothers Big Sisters is still remaining strong in their mission to find good role models for kids, and they are now in every state of America and an additional 12 countries all around the world.
In 1967 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago was founded and the first board of directors were called to order. Ernie Banks and John B. Hirsch were two of the original serving members, and Hirsch still advises the programming team on the board to this day. After starting, it was in 2007 that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago expanded into DuPage County IL and Lake County Indiana. In 2010 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago expanded again when Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lake County IL merged with BBBSMC. Over the past 10 years Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago have worked hard to double the number of kids they have served and continue to help even more.
Enrolling a Child
Enrolling a child into Big Brothers Big Sisters is free of cost and is done in four steps. First the parent or guardian will need to fill out an online child intake form to tell BBBS about the child. The next step will be to complete orientation and an interview. After going through an orientation into BBBS there would be a very detailed interview with the child and their family, and during this interview the family is able to give any preferences towards the type of Big that would best fit with the child. The third step is to get matched with a Big. After the detailed interview where all preferences were given, BBBS will assess the child and suggest a Big that they think will fit with the child and the family. Finally, the last step is to meet the Big that was chosen. After BBBS suggests a Big and the Family agrees a Match Support Specialist and the Big will set up a meeting either at the family's home or can be done online. During the meeting the child and mentor will be introduced, all rules will be reviewed for each of the parties, and they will talk about intended goals and make plans for the first few outings with the child and mentor.
Volunteering as Mentor
To volunteer to become a mentor one has to fill out an application online, and once viewed a Costumer Relations Specialist will then contact them. The next step after being accepted is to then start the training. There will be a training schedule and although in-person training is highly encouraged, and gives the best results, BBBS offers in-person training and online training. The last three steps include interviews, background checks, references, and are there to make sure that they are matched with the child that best fits and the child will be safe. The third step is the personal interview with an Enrollment Specialist. The personal interview is designed to learn more about the applicant and why they wanted to become a volunteer mentor, and to go into detail about the applicant's interests so that when looking at matches BBBS can find the child that would be the best fit. The next step is the background check. As anyone working with children applicants for BBBS have to have background checks to make sure that they can be trusted with the safety of the child because safety of the child is a very high priority with BBBS. The background check would include FBI fingerprint check, motor vehicle, and state and local courts. Fingerprints of each applicant are taken in the beginning and every 18 months after being matched for safety. The last step is BBBS will contact at least three of the applicants references which will include a spouse or other family member if there is no spouse, a personal reference and a professional one, and/or any organizations the applicant to part of where they interacted with kids.
After becoming a mentor, volunteers will have to stay in the program for at least one year and meet with their Littles at least two to four times a month. When applying to be a mentor BBBS covers the cost to process the application but they will offer applicants the opportunity to help with the costs of screening and processing fees with a Big Deal Program. In the Site Based program Bigs may have occasional gifts for the Little like around holidays but have no additional expenses, but in the Community Based program Bigs are responsible for costs of the outings with Littles. Activities with the Littles can be a wide range between going to museums to playing basketball in the park, so there are many activities that can be done with the Littles that are no to little cost. BBBS helps bigs know of no to low cost events happening in the community and often also provides Bigs with free tickets to some events like sports games, cultural events, museums and many more for outings with the Littles.
Minority and Male Mentorships
In a city with an estimated population of around 2.8 million roughly 52% are minorities and 21% are under 18 years old. There are many kids throughout Chicago that do not have an active positive role model in their life or that have the time to be with them. Especially in the West and South sides of Chicago there are a lot of minority and male children from low-income households that are in need of a role model, but there are not a lot of mentors that are male or a minority.
It is important for kids to be able to see someone that looks like them and someone they can relate to and may be from the same kind of community succeed and thrive so they can know people like themselves can too. There are many kids that don’t have a male role model in their life, adults are too busy with work or don’t have a lot of knowledge/help to pass down, or the adults in their life neglect/don’t try to be with the kids so that is when getting a mentor for the kids could change their life. Even though it is 2022 there is still a lot of difficulties minorities face including the history of the White man being successful while they struggle and the “jokes” and stereotype of being the help, but BBBS bringing in more minority mentors to teach and show these kids that skin color does not determine their success and giving them someone they can look up to can change their life. The same goes for all the young men of Chicago that for one reason or another don’t have a positive male role model in their life to answer questions and show them they are capable of far more than violence and joining gangs.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America - Youth Mentoring, www.bbbs.org/.
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“Enroll a Child.” Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Metropolitan Chicago, bbbschgo.org/enroll-a-child/.
“Volunteer.” Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Metropolitan Chicago, bbbschgo.org/volunteer/.