Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA)

About This Program

Target Population: Youth aged 6-18 who may come from disadvantaged situations, such as single-parent homes, low-income homes, or homes with an absent parent (e.g., a parent in the military or a parent who is incarcerated)

For children/adolescents ages: 6 – 18

Program Overview

Each youth is matched with a carefully screened and trained volunteer adult or high school mentor, and matches typically meet once a week at school (school-based program) or in community settings (community-based program). Matches can spend their time together talking, doing homework, doing crafts, playing games or sports.In community-based matches, they also spend time doing activities in the community like attending cultural events, going to restaurants or movies, or exploring other interests. Independent Big Brothers Big Sisters of America affiliates provide support, ongoing training, and resources to the mentor (“Big”) and mentee (“Little”) to enable development of a positive and trusting relationship. Affiliates may also organize activities or events for matches to attend. Affiliates are responsible for obtaining their own funding and implementing their program based on the national Standards of Practice and Service Delivery Model. In addition to the foundational mentoring program, affiliates may offer programs for particular populations of children (such as Hispanic Mentoring, Native American Mentoring, Military Mentoring, or mentoring for children of incarcerated parents) or focused on particular activities or skill-development (such as workplace mentoring).

Program Goals

The goals for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) are:

  • Partner with parents/guardians, volunteers and others in the community
  • Hold itself accountable for each child in the program achieving:
    • Higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships
    • Avoidance of risky behaviors
    • Educational success

Essential Components

The essential components of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) include:

  • Every BBBSA affiliate adheres to the national Standards of Practice, which include:
    • Go Governance standards, which guide the structure and oversight of the affiliate including strategic planning, fund development, legal compliance, and other governance issues
    • Human resources standards, which outline processes and policies required in the recruiting, hiring, retention, and development of staff
    • Program standards
  • Aligned closely to the Standards of Practice, the national Service Delivery Model (SDM) guides how affiliates engage with volunteers, youth, and parents or guardians to achieve safe, long, and strong matches with the best possible youth outcomes. The Program Standards and SDM include guidelines on:
    • Child safety and youth protection policies
    • Use of nationwide technology platform for data collection and workflow
    • Outcomes measurement system
    • Volunteer screening, assessment, orientation, and training
    • Youth and parent assessment, orientation, and training
    • Prematch presentation and approval
    • Youth outcomes development planning
    • Match support and supervision
    • Match closure and reassessment
    • Quality assurance

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • General at-risk individual or negative effects of risks in the social or environmental contexts of the children/adolescents' lives
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: The child’s parent or guardian is considered a partner to the affiliate and the Big in a BBBSA program. All affiliates reach out to and involve parents/guardians in the enrollment process (including determining the best match for the child and providing input into developmental goals) and in the support and supervision of the match.

Recommended Intensity:

Between 2 and 4 outings or visits per month for a total of 4-10 hours of mentoring each month

Recommended Duration:

At least 12 months

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Daily Living Settings
  • School

Homework

This program does not include a homework component.

Languages

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) has materials available ina language other than English:

Spanish

For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Insurance (General Liability, Errors & Omission, Auto, Directors & Officers)
  • Affiliation dues ($3,500 minimum)
  • Office space, technology, furniture
  • Phones, utilities
  • Benefits, pension funds for staff
  • Staff salaries
  • Any specialized training for staff
  • Marketing such as recruitment campaign, fundraising for program sustainability, promotion, branding

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Staff qualifications vary depending by affiliate and specific staff role. However, the affiliate's enrollment and match support staff are required to possess a Bachelor's degree.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

There is an extensive curriculum of training available from the National Office, in addition to any customized local trainings offered by affiliates. Training provided by the National Office includes a staff certification curriculum as well as orientation and training resources for volunteers, parents, and youth.

Number of days/hours:

Varies

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) as listed below:

For those interested in starting a new, independent Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) Affiliate, the interested party is provided a checklist by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) Affiliate Support and Compliance department. The checklist contains information on the steps that should be taken while considering starting a new Affiliate, including minimum requirements in the areas of funding, staff, Board of Directors, dues, technology, training, and insurance. In regard to the pre-implementation of a new site-based program with a new partner, it is recommended that local BBBS staff meet in-person with the new potential partner and provide information on the BBBSA model and the commitment that is needed for a successful program. Details of the partnership should be agreed upon and drawn up in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Sample contract agreements are available through BBBS Connect, the proprietary intranet system for all Affiliates. BBBSA can be contacted for more specific information and documentation. Please see the contact information at the bottom of the page.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) as listed below:

BBBSA offers a variety of formal support and resources for BBBSA Affiliates. The BBBSA Affiliate Support and Compliance department oversees Affiliate compliance to BBBSA’s Standards of Practice and Service Delivery Model and provides ongoing support for the network. Through this department, they provide one-on-one CEO onboarding and consultation for new BBBSA Affiliate CEOs. Every three years, affiliates undergo a full audit by BBBSA staff or BBBSA consultants, which can be on- or off-site. During these audits, each BBBSA Affiliate is evaluated on how well they are complying with the 25 Standards of Practice. Audit includes a review of all written Board and Governance policies and procedures to ensure that all minimum requirements of the Standards are included and board approved. Program policies, procedures and processes are also evaluated to ensure compliance, which may result in additional staff trainings or coaching.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) as listed below:

On a monthly basis, compliance reports are pulled by BBBSA staff and uploaded to BBBS Connect, providing Affiliates an idea of areas needing attention (e.g., completion rates of program assessments, such as the Youth Outcomes Survey (YOS) or Strength of Relationship (SOR) Survey). BBBSA has also implemented annual self-assessments for Affiliates to review their compliance to standards, overall fund development plan, and other key areas. This assessment is submitted to the National Office each year and reviewed. Any Affiliates that are out of compliance are provided information on how to address the specific area and are given a specific amount of time to remedy. Every three years, Affiliates undergo a full audit by BBBSA staff or BBBSA consultants.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) as listed below:

BBBSA has developed a Service Delivery Model (SDM) manual, as well as BBBS Standards of Practice. These materials can be found on BBBS Connect, which houses all of the resources BBBSA provides its Affiliates. Board Source, a nonprofit board leadership resource, is made available to all BBBSA Affiliates as well.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has been conducted on how to implement Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) as listed below:

  • Furano, K., Roaf, P. A., Styles, M. B., & Branch, A. Y. (1993). Big Brothers/Big Sisters: A study of program practices. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.
  • Hunte, D. E, Roaf, P. A., & Tierney, J. P. (2004). Big Brothers/Big Sisters: A study of volunteer recruitment and screening. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.
  • Kupersmidt, Janis & Stelter, Rebecca & E. Rhodes, Jean & N. Stump, Kathryn. (2017). Enhancing mentor efficacy and preparedness through web-based pre-match training. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, 7, 197-216. doi:10.18666/JNEL-2017-V7-I3-7945
  • Morrow, K. V., & Styles, M. B. (1995). Building relationships with youth in program settings: A study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.
  • Rhodes, J. E., Reddy, R., Grossman, J. B., & Maxine Lee, J. (2002). Volunteer mentoring relationships with minority youth: An analysis of same‐versus cross‐race matches. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(10), 2114-2133. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb02066.x

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

This program is rated a "3 - Promising Research Evidence" on the Scientific Rating Scale based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The practice must have at least one study utilizing some form of control (e.g., untreated group, placebo group, matched wait list study) establishing the practice's benefit over the placebo, or found it to be comparable to or better than an appropriate comparison practice. Please see the Scientific Rating Scale for more information.

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Grossman, J. B., & Tierney, J. P. (1998). Does mentoring work? An impact study of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. Evaluation Review, 22, 403-426. doi:10.1177/0193841X9802200304

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 1,138

Population:

  • Age — 10-16 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 56.8% Minority
  • Gender — 62.4% Male and 37.6% Female
  • Status — Participants were children who applied to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) affiliate.

Location/Institution: Affiliates in San Antonio, TX; Columbus, OH; Houston, TX; Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; and Wichita, KS; and Community Partners for Youth of Rochester, NY

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Participants were randomly assigned to a Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) program or a waitlist control group; both groups completed both baseline and follow-up questionnaires. Questions were drawn from the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA), Features of Children’s Friendship Scale, along with project derived questions. Over an 18-month period, youth participating in BBBS programs were significantly less likely to have started using illegal drugs or alcohol, hit someone, or skipped school. They were also more confident about their school performance and got along better with their families. Limitations included differences in the length of time the mentoring relationship was maintained and the lack of an active control group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Varied.

Saintonge, S., Achille, P. A., & Lachance, L. (1998). The influence of Big Brothers on the separation-individuation of adolescents from single-parent families. Adolescence, 33(130), 343-353.

Type of Study: Matched comparison study
Number of Participants: 87

Population:

  • Age — 12-17 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 100% Male
  • Status — Participants were youth with mother-headed single parent families involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA), youth with mother-headed single parent families not involved in BBBS, and youth with intact families.

Location/Institution: Montreal

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study investigated the role of Big Brothers in the separation-individuation process of adolescents from single-parent families in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) program.. Twenty-nine adolescents matched with Big Brothers were compared with two control groups (adolescents from single parent families without Big Brothers and those from intact families) on relevant variables. Participants were evaluated by a French Canadian adaptation of the Separation-Individuation Test of Adolescence (SITA). Findings indicated that the adolescents with Big Brothers were less affected by parental rejection than were adolescents in the two control groups. They also appeared to have healthier narcissism than did adolescents from single-parent families without Big Brothers, but were more anxious when relating to male teachers than were adolescents from intact families. Limitations include the small sample sizes and the lack of randomization.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Rhodes, J. E., Haight, W. L., & Briggs, E. C. (1999). The influence of mentoring on the peer relationships in relative and nonrelative care. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 9, 185–201.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 90

Population:

  • Age — 10-16 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 61.7% African American, 23.9% White, 6.1% Hispanic, 2.8% American Indian, 2.8% Biracial, and 0.6% Other
  • Gender — 54% Male and 46% Female
  • Status — Participants were youth with a foster parent, guardian, or extended family member as the custodial parent.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study uses the same sample as Grossman and Tierney (1998). The influence of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) mentoring model on the peer relationships of foster youth in relative and nonrelative care was examined. Youth were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition, and changes in their peer relationships were assessed after 18 months. Measures used included a history of abuse-trauma, monitoring of mentoring relationships, parent report and Features of Children’s Friendship Scale. Results indicate that foster parents were more likely than nonfoster parents to report that their child showed improved social skills, as well as greater comfort and trust interacting with others, as a result of the intervention. In addition, whereas the peer relationships of all nonfoster youth remained stable, treatment foster youth reported improvements in prosocial and self-esteem enhancing support, and control foster youth showed decrements over time. Results also indicated that treatment youth in relative foster care reported slight improvements in prosocial support, whereas treatment youth in nonrelative foster care reported slight declines. All foster youth in the control group reported decreases in peer support over time, with nonrelative foster youth reporting the sharpest declines. Limitations included differences in the length of time the mentoring relationship was maintained and the lack of an active control group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Varied.

Rhodes, J. E., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (2000). Agents of change: Pathways through which mentoring relationships influence adolescents' academic adjustment. Research Child Development, 71(6), 1662.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 1,138 (959 completed both baseline and follow-up)

Population:

  • Age — 10-16 years (Mean=12.25 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 56.8% Minority
  • Gender — 62.4% Male and 37.6% Female
  • Status — Participants were children who applied to the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) affiliate.

Location/Institution: Affiliates in San Antonio, TX; Columbus, OH; Houston TX; Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; and Wichita, KS; and Community Partners for Youth of Rochester, NY

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study uses the same sample as Grossman and Tierney (1998). This study examined the effects of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) model on mentoring relationships on adolescents' academic outcomes by improvements in parental relationships. The parameters of the model were compared with those of an alternative, in which improved parental relationships were treated as an outcome variable rather than a mediator. The adolescents were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control group and administered questions at baseline and 18 months later. The hypothesized model provided a significantly better explanation of the data than the alternative. In addition to improvements in parental relationships, mentoring led to reductions in unexcused absences and improvements in perceived scholastic competence. Direct effects of mentoring on global self-worth, school value, and grades were not detected but were instead mediated through improved parental relationships and scholastic competence. Limitations included differences in the length of time the mentoring relationship was maintained and the lack of an active control group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Varied.

Thompson, L. A., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2001). The impact of mentoring on academic achievement of at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 23(3), 227-242. doi:10.1016/S0190-7409(01)00134-7

Type of Study: Matched control group
Number of Participants: 25

Population:

  • Age — 10-16 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Treatment Group: 92% White and 8% Hispanic. Control Group: 77% White, 15% African American, and 8% Hispanic.
  • Gender — 100% Male
  • Status — Participants were from a single parent home with one other risk factor.

Location/Institution: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The present study examined the impact of mentoring on the academic achievement of at-risk youth involved in mentoring programs at a Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) Affiliate.Academic achievement tests were individually administered to 12 boys in the treatment group (i.e., had a mentor) and 13 boys in a control group (i.e., were on a waiting list to receive a mentor) before and after the program over a nine month period. Tests included the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test. Results indicated that boys in BBBS made significantly higher academic gains than the control group, even after controlling for ability. Limitations include the lack of randomization, preexisting group differences, small sample size, and lack of female subjects.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Varied.

Grossman, J. B., & Rhodes, J. E. (2002). The test of time: Predictors and effects of duration in youth mentoring relationships. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30(2), 199-219. doi:10.1023/A:1014680827552

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 1,138

Population:

  • Age — 10-16 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 57.5% Minority
  • Gender — 62.4% Male and 37.6% Female
  • Status — Participants were children who presented to the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) affiliate.

Location/Institution: 8 BBBSA affiliates

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study uses the same sample as Grossman and Tierney (1998). This study examines the effects and predictors of duration in youth mentor relationships. Adolescents were randomly assigned to either long-term mentorship assignments (treatment) at select Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) Affiliates, or short-term mentorship assignments (control group), and administered questions at baseline and 18 months later. Measures utilized included the Inventory of Parents and Peer Attachment (IPPA), the Self-Perception Profile for Children, other questions relating to grades, attendance, school value, self-worth, and quality and length of relationships. Results indicate adolescents in relationships that lasted a year or longer reported the largest number of improvements, with fewer effects emerging among youth who were in relationships that terminated earlier. Adolescents who were in relationships that terminated within a very short period of time reported decreases in several indicators of functioning. Older adolescents, as well as those who had been referred for services or had sustained emotional, sexual or physical abuse, were most likely to be in early terminating relationships, as were married volunteers aged 26–30, and those with lower incomes.. Limitations included differences in the length of time the mentoring relationship was maintained and the lack of an active control group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Varied.

Rhodes, J. E., Reddy, R., & Grossman, J. B. (2005). The protective influence of mentoring on adolescents’ substance use: Direct and indirect pathways. Applied Developmental Science, 9(1), 31-47. doi:10.1207/s1532480xads0901_4

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 928

Population:

  • Age — 10-16 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 60% Minority
  • Gender — 62.9% Male and 37.1% Female
  • Status — Participants were children who presented to the Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate

Location/Institution: 8 BBBSA affiliates

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study uses the same sample as Grossman and Tierney (1998). This study tested mentoring relationships in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) programs in relation to reducing substance use both directly and indirectly through improvements in adolescents’ self- perceptions and close relationships. Participants were randomly assigned to either the treatment (received mentoring services) or control group and administered questions at baseline and 18 months later. Measures utilized include the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment, Features of Children’s Friendship Scale, the Self-Perception Profile for Children, and questions regarding alcohol and drug use. Results indicate that being matched for longer than 12 months had significant impacts on the frequency of substance use and on parental relationships. Parental relationships mediated the relationship between mentoring and substance use. Limitations included differences in the length of time the mentoring relationship was maintained, the lack of an active control group, and the limited nature of the alcohol and drug use items.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Varied.

De Wit, D. J., Lipman, E., Manzano-Munguia, M., Bisanz, J., Graham, K., Offord, D. R., ... Shaver, K. (2007). Feasibility of a randomized controlled trial for evaluating the effectiveness of the Big Brothers Big Sisters community match program at the national level. Children and Youth Services Review, 29(3), 383. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2006.09.003

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 71

Population:

  • Age — 7-14 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 77% White
  • Gender — 51% Male and 49% Female
  • Status — Participants were families who applied to one of two Big Brother Big Sisters {BBBS) affiliates.

Location/Institution: Southern Ontario

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This pilot study assessed the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) community match programs at the national level. Families were randomly assigned to the BBBS program or a waitlist control. Measures included Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Centre for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale, Hare Self-esteem Scale, Survey of Children’s Social Support, Elementary Level Student and Parent Forms of the Social Skills Rating System, Coping Scale for Children and Youth along with project developed questions. Results revealed beneficial program effects for five outcomes (child self-reports): symptoms of emotional problems, symptoms of social anxiety (fear of negative peer evaluations and generalized social anxiety and distress), teacher social support, and social skills (self-control). Limitations included the small sample size and the use of retrospective measures on the match relationship quality.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Varied.

Grossman, J. B., Chan, C. S., Schwartz, S. E., & Rhodes, J. E. (2012). The test of time in school-based mentoring: The role of relationship duration and re-matching on academic outcomes. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49(1-2), 43-54. doi:10.1007/s10464-011-9435-0

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: Treatment Group: 1,139 and Control Group: 574

Population:

  • Age — Approximately 11 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 794 White, 453 Hispanic/Latino, 372 Black/African American, 212 Native American, 92 Asian/Pacific Islander, and 83 Other
  • Gender — 929 Female and 784 Male
  • Status — Participants were youth enrolled in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program.

Location/Institution: 10 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) Affiliates across the country

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study uses the same sample as Grossman and Tierney (1998). The influence of match length and rematching on the effectiveness of school-based mentoring was studied in the context of a national study of youth in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) programs. Participants were randomized to mentoring or a wait-list control group. Measures utilized include teacher reports, mentor and mentee reports, and a 12-item checklist adapted from the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Results indicate at the end of the first year, youth in intact relationships showed significant academic improvement, while youth in matches that terminated prematurely showed no impact. Those who were rematched after terminations showed negative impacts. Limitations include lack of post-mentoring follow-up, concerns about generalizability to other mentoring programs, and small subsample sizes resulting in reduced statistical power to detect small positive or negative effects.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Tierney, J. P., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of big brothers/big sisters.

Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., Kauh, T. J., Feldman, A. F., & McMaken, J. (2007). Making a difference in schools: The Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring impact study. Public/Private Ventures.

Herrera, C., DuBois, D. L., & Grossman, J. B. (2013). The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcomes for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles. MDRC.

Contact Information

Hillary Bardwell
Title: Director, Foundation Grants
Agency/Affiliation: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Website: www.bbbsa.org
Email:
Phone: (813) 605-7418

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: March 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: February 2018

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2012