Frequently Asked Questions
If you are 19 years of age and older, reside or work in Bergen, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, or Warren counties, and would like to spend time with a child who will benefit from having your friendship and your positive influence, then you have the potential to be a great Big Brother or Big Sister!
Bigs spend one-to-one time with Littles having fun and exploring each others’ interests. They go to the park or beach together, to a ball game, play miniature golf, bake cookies, or any other fun free to low-cost activities that they both enjoy. In most cases it’s these simple activities that foster a special bond and lead to memorable moments for both the child and the mentor that will last a lifetime. Research on our mentoring programs shows that our Bigs have a powerful, positive, and lasting impact on the character and confidence of the children they mentor. Littles who are successfully matched with a Big are:
- less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- less likely to begin using alcohol
- less likely to skip school, and
- more confident of their performance in schoolwork.
Not at all! The most important qualification for a Big to have is a genuine desire to enrich the life of a child by sharing everyday activities and experiences with them. We do require that our Big Brothers and Big Sisters be prepared to make a 1 year commitment to their Little, spending 4-6 hours per month with them, and have a vehicle with current auto insurance. In addition, our highly qualified staff provides Bigs with a mandatory training session as part of our extensive application process.
The process to become a mentor begins as soon as you let us know that you are interested in applying to become a Big through our website, email, or phone. Your contact information will be collected so that a member of our case management staff can call you to discuss volunteer eligibility, explain the intake process, and to answer any questions that you may have. After that initial contact, the case manager will send you an application or you can apply online. Once your application is received, a case manager will call you to schedule an interview. After you are interviewed, the remaining steps will be completed including additional reference checks, home visit, background checks, fingerprinting, and a mandatory mentor training session which is held monthly. Once all steps are completed, your completed file will be assessed for acceptance or non-acceptance, and you will receive a letter indicating this decision. The entire screening process takes between 5 weeks to 8 weeks and is designed to ensure the safety of the children in our program and prepare our mentors for a healthy and successful match.
Our enrollment process is designed not only to ensure the safety of our children, but also to help us select the right Big for each child. We get to know you first, so our case management team can properly match you with a child that we feel will be a compatible and successful match. We take into account your life experiences, personality, interests, experience with children, preferences, and location. We then look at the children in our program waiting to be matched and recommend a match based on all information gathered from the volunteer, child, and parent.
Our Littles are generally between 6 and 17 years old at their time of enrollment, and they come from different ethnic, economic, educational, and family backgrounds. Most come from single parent homes and may be facing social, emotional, or academic challenges. Their parent(s)/guardian(s) recognize that they have a need for a positive role model, and they come to us directly or through a professional referral by a teacher, guidance counselor, therapist, social worker, etc. On any given day, we typically have approximately 100 children who are waiting to be matched. This why our need for volunteers is so urgent.
It is important for Bigs and Littles to really get to know each other. This can happen best on a one-to-one basis and for that reason, we recommend that Bigs not include others in activities with their Littles, certainly not before a good rapport has been established. We understand that over time, it is also valuable for Littles to get to know the people who are important to their Bigs, and we support that, as long as the main focus is the bond between the Big and Little. We also have an option called Couples Mentoring where two married adults can mentor a male child.
Being a mentor costs nothing, although there may be costs associated with the activities Bigs and Littles choose to engage in. We encourage Bigs and Littles to plan activities that involve low or no cost so that the focus remains on the friendship that is being built. For example, it costs nothing to go hiking, jogging, or to spend time in the park, yet these are activities that can lead to special moments for both Big and Littles. Keep in mind that the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency has several events and outings that you can attend, and we often offer free tickets to sporting and cultural events.
One of the things that makes our mentoring program unique is that matches are supported by highly-trained, professional staff. Each match is assigned their own case manager that will provide ongoing support, guidance, problem solving, feedback, and information as needed. Case managers speak monthly (and certainly more often as needed) with the Big, Little, and parent to ensure child safety and healthy positive relationship development.
Absolutely! In addition to our traditional Community Based program, we offer School Based, Workplace, College, and Youth Empowerment Program mentoring programs. Click Here to learn more! We are always looking to create new partnerships with corporations, universities, or hospitals in Bergen, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, or Warren counties.
You don’t need any special skills to be a mentor. All you need to be is yourself
To begin your journey complete our inquiry form and a case manager will contact you promptly with more information.
If you have questions, check out our FAQ or call our agency at 732.544.2224.