FAQ for Bigs
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS THE COMMITMENT?
We ask Bigs and Littles in all our mentoring programs to make a minimum commitment of 12 months to the mentoring match (and each other!) For commitment of weekly hours, please see “how often do I meet with my Little?”
I AM NOT SURE I AM QUALIFIED TO BE A ROLE MODEL // I DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT KIDS
You don’t need a specific kind of degree or job or knowledge to be a great Big. You DO need to be a caring, consistent, compassionate adult who is willing to share what life has taught you. Throughout your mentoring experience, you will have a dedicated and professionally trained BBBSU staff member to assist you. We will coach you in building your friendship with your Little and as you help them develop and meet the goals they have set for themselves.
HOW OFTEN DO I MEET WITH MY LITTLE/MENTEE?
We ask Bigs and Littles in the Community-Based program to meet at least twice per month. All activities are arranged by the Big, Little and with the approval of parent/guardian. On average matches spend 7 hours per month together across two to four activities.
DO I CHOOSE MY LITTLE? // HOW DO YOU MATCH BIGS AND LITTLES?
- We don’t just select the next child on our list and match them with the next Big who applies. Each Big and Little are matched based on compatibility and proximity (for Community-Based).
- BBBSU staff get to know each Big, parent and child that enrolls in the program. This is one of the reasons we have such an extensive interview and reference process. We get to know your interests, hobbies, and preferences in a Little. We do the same with each Little.
- Once a volunteer is accepted into the program, our enrollment team begins searching for the Little who will be their best match. Our staff will contact you once they have a possible match and tell you about the Little. From there you decide if you think they will be the best fit.
CAN I CHOOSE WHETHER I WANT A LITTLE SISTER OR A LITTLE BROTHER?
We make same gender mentoring matches based on the gender identity of the Big and the Little. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah is proud to accept people with all sexual orientations and gender identities as Bigs or Littles. People who identify as male will be matched with Little Brothers who identify as male, and females will be matched with Little Sisters. People who identify as gender queer or nonbinary will discuss with our enrollment staff to determine what Little may be most appropriate. Big Couples are matched with Little Brothers since we constantly have a waitlist for boys who enroll in the Community-Based program.
WHERE CAN I MENTOR // HOW FAR DO I HAVE TO TRAVEL?
- BBBSU serves seven counties in Utah (Salt Lake, Weber, Davis, Utah, Summit, Wasatch, Washington). We have dedicated offices in Salt Lake City, Park City, and St. George, Utah. If you live in or near these areas, you can be a mentor! If you are outside these cities, you can still inquire, and we will see if we are able to find a Little in your area.
- If you are applying to the Site-Based or mentor2.0 program, we will try to match you with a Little at the school site nearest to you. For Community-Based Bigs, we try make matches where the Big and Little are located within 30 minutes of each other. We recognize that lengthy travel takes up too much time and can undermine the longevity and quality of a match.
WHO ARE THE CHILDREN (Littles/Mentees) SERVED BY BBBSU?
Our Littles range in age from 6-18, (avg=12). We serve youth who have a lot of potential but who may not reach it because they are facing a number of challenges (risk factors). We prioritize enrolling kids who are living in low-to-moderate income homes. Many of the kids in our programs are from a refugee background, are coping with parental incarceration, or living without one, or both, of their biological parents. For more specific information, please see our annual demographic descriptions of children served here.
HOW DO YOU FIND CHILDREN TO BE IN THE PROGRAM?
BBBSU partners with many local schools and other nonprofits who refer children to our program. Many parents hear about us and apply directly. Either way, BBBSU only enrolls children who meet our eligibility policy and who tell us in our interview that they want to participate. In addition, all parent/guardians must complete an application, child safety training and agree to participate by supporting the match and speaking with us on a regular basis.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO BECOME A MENTOR?
We have a thorough application process (see Six Steps) but the amount of time it takes depends largely on you. You will provide references, and their timely response will speed up the process. You will need to complete online or live training and completing those in a timely fashion will also speed the process. Finally, we currently have a waitlist for Big Sisters. On average from the time you apply, to the time you meet your Little, it will be about one to three months depending on preferences and location.
WHAT ARE THE AGE REQUIREMENTS FOR BIGS?
Community-Based Bigs must be at least 18 years old. Site-Based Bigs can be adults or high school students (Freshmen- Juniors). Mentor2.0 mentors must be college graduates or have equivalent professional or military experience. There is no upper age limit to be a Big.
IS THERE AN APPLICATION FEE/WHAT DOES IT COST TO BE A BIG?
- Big Brothers Big Sisters covers the cost of processing an application. However, we do offer volunteers an opportunity to donate towards the costs of screening and processing fees.
- In the Site-Based and mentor2.0 programs, mentors do not pay for activities. In the Community-Based program, we encourage Bigs to find low-to-no cost activities to do with their Littles. We provide resources and ideas to help with this, and occasionally are able to offer free tickets and admission opportunities thanks to generous donations from partners. BBBSU also hosts regular activities for matches like a summer picnic and our annual Spring Fling celebration where we highlight the graduating matches and the matches of the year.
WHAT KIND OF BACKGROUND CHECKS DO YOU DO?
- All volunteers are subject to multi-level background checks that include obtaining references from people who know them well. Thus, we conduct fingerprint background checks on all adult volunteers. We check your background at the federal, state and local levels including National Criminal Background Check (recurs monthly), Federal Background Check, DCFS Child Abuse/Neglect, Public Domain Search, Motor Vehicle Check.
- References are required from a spouse or family member, employer, and any child- serving organization you have worked with in paid or unpaid roles.
- We ask you to complete a full new check anytime you re-enroll and every 18 months during the match.
ARE THERE RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS TO BE A BIG?
To volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, you must have a social security number that allows us to run a background check.
CAN I VOLUNTEER EVEN IF I HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD?
We handle this on a case-by-case basis. It is important that you disclose this to us and address it fully. In some instances, an offense may not be an obstacle because it is minor or long ago. In other instances, for example, a case that is still open is a disqualifier. Adults charged with a DWI or DUI in the past 5 years are ineligible to volunteer as mentors in our programs.
DO I HAVE TO BE EMPLOYED TO BE A BIG?
Volunteers can apply to be a Big if they are retired, in college or graduate school, or do not work outside the home. However, if you are in the midst of a major life change such as starting a new job, just moved, divorce or marriage, we may ask you to wait a few months until life is settled so you will feel ready to make a new year-long commitment.
CAN I STILL BE A BIG IF I DON’T HAVE A CAR?
Yes. Volunteers who don’t have a car can be a Big in our Site-Based or mentor2.0 program. Additionally, volunteers can become a Big in our Community-Based program if they own or have access to a car they are insured on, use Uber/Lyft, or UTA. It likely will take a bit longer for us to find a Little to match who is on the bus line, but we can make it work.
HOW WILL I BE SUPPORTED ONCE I START MENTORING MY LITTLE?
- Our Bigs are not alone! Once you and your Little agree to be matched, our enrollment staff will arrange a “match meeting” where they will introduce you to each other and the parent/guardian, go over all the ground rules, and help you get started with planning activities. They will also introduce you to the Match Support team and introduce you to your first specialist and share their contact information.
- About two weeks into your match, your Match Support will contact you (usually by phone) and check in. Thereafter they will call monthly for the first 12 months of the match. After that, when things are going well, they will call quarterly.
- BBBSU hosts, and has access to trainings on many different topics, ranging from Cultural Sensitivity, Drug and Alcohol Prevention to QPR Suicide Prevention training. We encourage all Bigs to attend or take trainings as suggested by your Match Support Team. If there is other training or information you would like to know more about, please feel free to suggest it. Someone else would probably benefit from that training as well.
- Anytime you have questions or feel you need support you can reach out to them. The Match Support staff help ensure that you have the ideas and resources you need to have a successful mentoring experience.
- Last but certainly not least, the Parent/Guardian of your Little can be a vital source of support. Most especially for community-based matches, parents can be an important source of information and ideas, and finally they will approve of all outings. If paired at a Site or in mentor2.0, school staff and BBBSU staff who are on site are also always there to help with questions you may have.
WHAT SORT OF TRAINING IS AVAILABLE FOR BIGS?
- Your training will actually begin during your interview. As we ask questions, we will also share information with you about mentoring, building relationships with parents, and information on working with the kids who are facing some of the most common challenges we see.
- If you are accepted and matched, our Match Support team will be available to support you through the process. During your monthly (or quarterly) calls we will offer ideas and advice based on our professional experience and knowledge. When challenges arise, we can also assign additional on-line trainings from our national BBBS experts or share resources.
- In addition, each year we will offer a series of additional training opportunities to all Bigs based on issues faced by our Littles.
WHAT SORT OF ACTIVITIES DO I DO WITH MY LITTLE?
- We do everything we can to make matches where the Big and Little have similar interests. But the most important thing you can do is involve your Little in making the plan for the activities. It empowers them and it helps ensure they will be engaged. So do things you love that your Little also wants to do. Try new things together or introduce your Little to new things.
- In Community-Based matches, you schedule activities when it works for you and your Little and their parent/guardian. You don’t have to spend a lot of money — it’s about the time. Common activities include going to get ice cream or going to a movie, playing catch or a video game, walking the dog at a park, attending a sporting event or concert, or visiting the library or a local rec center.
- Site-Based and mentor2.0 matches participate in activities set by, and at a time/place pre-determined, by BBBSU staff.
CAN I BRING MY SPOUSE, A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER?
In the beginning, it’s important for you and your Little to get to know each other. This can happen best on a one-to-one basis. However, over time it’s also valuable for your Little to get to know the people who are important to you. After three months you may occasionally want to include others in an outing with your Little. You will of course, need parent/guardian permission prior to including others and you will need to notify your match support. Just keep in mind that the main focus is the friendship you develop with your Little and the impact you have on their life.
WHAT IS A BIG COUPLE?
A Big Couple is a pair of Bigs who are in a long-term relationship and want to be matched together to the same Little Brother. Big Couples do not have to be married, but must be in a long-term, committed relationship for at least two years. This is a great option for couples that would prefer a shared experience as opposed to each of them having their own Little. Because Bigs can meet separately to be a Big Couple, each person must meet the volunteer requirements individually.
WHAT IF IT DOESN’T WORK OUT?
We do everything in our power to make matches we think will last. However, we realize that sometimes things come up — Bigs or Littles move, leave schools, or classes, situations change, or something doesn’t work out. We will attempt to mediate the situation, but if it doesn’t work out, we will close the mentoring match. When matches end we do all in our power to have a healthy closure, bringing the Big and Little together and encouraging them to reflect on the positive aspects of their time together. Our Match Support staff will support the closure every step of the way.
HOW LONG CAN A MATCH LAST?
- The goal of BBBSU’s mentoring programs is to empower every young person on a path to graduate high school with a plan for employment, enrollment, or enlistment with a mentor whose impact will last a lifetime.
- We ask for a minimum commitment of 12 months for mentoring matches in all programs. The average match lasts about 30 months in Community-Based and 19 months in Site-Based / mentor2.0.
- Mentoring matches may stay enrolled in the BBBSU Community-Based program until they graduate – some even last ten or more years. When a Little turns 18 or graduates from high school, they will graduate out of the BBBSU program.