What is the minimum time commitment to be a Big?
Volunteers must be willing to commit to being matched with a Little at least one year and meet with their Little two to four times per month.
Is there an application fee?
Big Brothers Big Sisters currently covers the cost to process an application. However, we do offer volunteers an opportunity to contribute towards the costs of screening and processing fees through our Big Deal Program.
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 a volunteer is between jobs we require they be employed at least one month before applying to be a Big.
How old are your Bigs?
Bigs must be at least 18 years old to mentor is our Site Based program and at least 21 years old for our Community Based program.
Who are the Little Brothers and Little Sisters?
In our Community Based program, Littles generally are initially enrolled between 7 and 14 years old. Youth are enrolled through high school in our Site Based program. We serve all youth, and any child is welcome, including those living in single parent homes, growing up in poverty and coping with parental incarceration.
When would I meet with my Little?
In the Community-Based Program it’s up to you and your Little, but most matches meet on the weekends. Bigs and Littles in the Site-Based Program generally meet after school or in the evenings.
How much does it cost to be a Big?
There are no additional expenses in the Site Based program outside of an occasional gift around the holidays. In the Community Based program Bigs are responsible for the cost of outings. However, we encourage no cost/low cost activities. We often provide Bigs with free tickets you can use to take your Little to sports games, museums, cultural events, etc. Also, your Match Support Specialist will let you know about low/no-cost events in the community.
Can I be a Big if I don’t know much about kids?
Yes you can! You’ll have a dedicated and professionally trained Match Support Specialist who will assist you throughout the duration of the match with helpful suggestions designed to specifically enhance your relationship with your Little.
How do you match a Big with a Little?
We conduct in-depth interviews with the Bigs, Littles, and parents/guardians enrolling in our program so we can get to know all parties and can make the best match! We make matches based on common interests, personalities, preferences, and geography.
Where can I mentor?
Bigs are matched in our Site Based and Community Based program in our four county service area which includes Cook, Dupage, Lake County, IL and Lake County, IN.
How far will I have to travel?
We encourage Bigs in our Site Based program to choose a location they can commute to relatively easily. In our Community Based program we ask if Bigs are willing to drive up to 45 minutes but we try make matches where the Big and Little are 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.
Does BBBSMC accept LGBTQ volunteers?
Yes. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago values diversity, and no person will be denied equal opportunity under applicable laws to volunteer because of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Preferences, fit, and similarity of interests are taken into consideration. As part of the matching process, we will disclose such information to the parent/guardian. If preferences are not aligned, BBBSMC will work to find a Little who we believe will be a good match for you.
What kind of background checks do you do?
All volunteers and employees are subject to background checks that include obtaining references from people who know them well. Also we conduct a National Criminal Background Check (recurs twice a month), Federal Background Check, DCFS Child Abuse/Neglect, Public Domain Search, Motor Vehicle Check, and fingerprinting. In addition, in our Community Based program, anyone who lives in the Big’s home who is over the age of 18 must complete 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, it is a disqualifier.
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 one of our Site Based programs. 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, Zip Car, a rental car or CTA.
Are there residency requirements to be a Big?
Yes. All volunteers either must be a US citizen and have lived in the US at least 12 months prior to applying to be a Big, be a legal US resident for the past 2 years, or have a valid student or worker visa for the past 2 years.
What kinds of things do Bigs and Littles do together?
In the Community Based program Bigs and Littles do normal, everyday activities that ultimately build friendships and change lives! Going out for icecream, going to a baseball game, cooking a meal, visiting a museum – the Big and Little can decide what they want to do together! In the Site Based program fun and engaging activities are led by the Program Coordinator.
What outcome areas will I focus on with my Little?
In both the Community Based and Site Based programs, Bigs and Littles set goals around three outcome areas: Educational Achievement (improving attitudes about school, improving grades, addressing truancy, discussing career aspirations, etc), Avoidance of Risky Behavior (peer pressure, drug and alcohol use, gangs, making healthy choices), and Socio-Emotional Competency (developing healthy peer relationships, self-confidence, etc).