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Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

3 Ratings: 3.3
A non-profit organization whose mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring organization in the United States. We have been the leader in one-to-one youth service for more than a century, developing positive relationships that have a direct and … see full wiki

1 review about Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

My experience was kind of a mixed bag.

  • Feb 27, 2010
  • by
Let me state from the outset that I am fully supportive of the goals and objectives of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.  It is an organization that has been doing yeoman work for more than a century now.  I believe that being a Big Brother or Big Sister could easily be one of the most gratifying experiences of your life.  Having said that I thought that it might be useful to make anyone considering becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister aware of some of the problems I encountered when I applied to be a Big Brother some 25 years ago.  

The year was 1985.  I was 34 and single at the time and had never been married.  I still lived in the tightly knit blue collar neighborhood that I grew up in.  Over the years I had played the role of unofficial "big brother" to a number of kids in the neighborhood.  I would take them to ball games and to the beach and maybe to a movie from time to time.  All the parents knew me and entrusted me with their sons.  For the most part I thoroughly enjoyed the role and fostered trusting relationships with these teenagers.  I had an uncanny ability to relate to them.  But by 1985 the last of these kids was graduating high school and no longer required a "big brother" as such.  I considered taking a break from it but ultimately decided to apply to my local Big Brothers chapter.  Within a couple of weeks a young man arrived at my apartment to conduct an interview with me.  He had questions to ask....lots of questions.  I had no problem with most of them until he began asking me questions like "How many times a month do you date?"  I was appalled by this line of questioning and told him so very politely but in no uncertain terms.  Frankly, as far I was concerned it was none of their business.  How would you feel if you were asked such a question?  Do you think it was out of bounds?  After one or two more questions along the same lines I told the interviewer that I was considering withdrawing my application.  In fact at that point I had lost all interest in becoming a Big Brother but allowed the application process to continue only because I felt that  if I withdrew it would appear that I really did have something to hide.  I realize that these organizations have to be extremely careful in the vetting process but it seemed to me that they were going just a bit too far.   About six or eight weeks later I received  notification that my application had finally been approved.  At that point I promptly called the office and advised them that for the time being at least I was no longer interested.  I hated to disappoint a youngster who was looking for a Big Brother but the application process had really turned me off.

Fast forward now to 1992.  I had been married for several years and my wife and I were still childless.  I thought that this might be a good time to re-apply to be a Big Brother.  This time I was quickly approved and within a matter of weeks I was introduced to my new little brother who I shall call Andy. Andy was about 12 at the time and had been without a man in his life for several years.  My hope was that we would quickly bond and that I could help to guide him through the difficult teen years.  Over the next couple of years Andy and I would spend most Saturdays together.  He loved to bowl and enjoyed an occasional trip to a ballgame or the movies.  The relationship was OK but we never really became all that close.  You never really know how these matches are going to turn out.  Frankly towards the end I think we both were becoming kind of bored with it.  By the rules of the Big Brother program the relationship came to an abrupt end when Andy's mom had her boyfriend move in with her.  I never saw or heard from Andy again. 

So there you have it.  I tell you this story not to discourage you from being a Big Brother or Big Sister but to let you know about some of the possible pitfalls and outcomes.  Not every match will work out.  Each relationship is different and some blossom while others do not.  You just never know.  For me, the informal relationships with kids from the neighborhood were far more rewarding.  In fact, I am still in touch with three of the four kids to this day.  One of them was the best man at our wedding.  He was just 18 at the time!  And some years later I was the best man at his wedding.  Meanwhile, I salute the tens of thousands of men and women across America who give of their time to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs.  You really can make a substantial difference in a child's life. My experiences notwithstanding, if you are so inclined I would urge you to give this organization a serious look. There are an awful lot of kids out there who would benefit from a relationship with you! 
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February 27, 2010
I never looked in to this program but have a friend that was a foster parent for many years before adopting. His experiences were mixed. Like your "big brother" experience, some relationships end abruptly with court rulings or more permanent placements...his last grew into a full time commitment with an adoption. My friend is also a member here at Lunch.
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