Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Blueprints Program Rating: Promising
A community mentoring program which matches a volunteer adult mentor to an at-risk child or adolescent to delay or reduce antisocial behaviors; improve academic success, attitudes and behaviors, peer and family relationships; strengthen self-concept; and provide social and cultural enrichment.
- Antisocial-aggressive Behavior
- Close Relationships with Parents
- Close Relationships with Peers
- Illicit Drug Use
- Positive Social/Prosocial Behavior
- Truancy - School Attendance
- Mentoring - Tutoring
- Community (e.g., religious, recreation)
Continuum of Intervention
- Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)
- Late Childhood (5-11) - K/Elementary
- Early Adolescence (12-14) - Middle School
- Late Adolescence (15-18) - High School
- Male and Female
- All Race/Ethnicity
- : Promising
- : Effective
- : Effective
- : 3.0-3.1
Program Information Contact
- Kristin Romens
- Big Brothers Big Sisters National Office
Brief Description of the Program
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) program matches adult volunteer mentors with an at-risk child, with the expectation that a caring and supportive relationship will develop. Mentors are selected, screened, and matched by BBBSA staff, and staff monitor the relationship and maintain contact with the mentor, child, and parent/guardian throughout the matched relationship. Matches are made based on shared goals and interests of the child and adult volunteer. Mentors are expected to meet with the child at least 3-5 hours per week for a period of 12 months or longer. Ongoing case management by BBBSA staff provides supervision of the relationship, and can provide advice and guidance to the mentor, as well as support and encouragement.
See: Full Description
An randomized evaluation of youth in 8 Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations demonstrated:
- Cuts illicit drug initiation 46%
- Reduces alcohol initiation 27% (marginally significant)
- Less likely to hit someone.
- Significant reductions in truancy and cutting class.
- Marginally significant positive effects for Grade Point Average.
Significant Program Effects on Risk and Protective Factors:
- Positive effects on competency about schoolwork.
- Improvements in quality of relationship with parents and marginally significant improvements for peer emotional support.
Subgroup analyses showed different results for white males, white females, minority males, and minority females. Minority males showed stronger results for initiating drug use, minority females showed greater program effects on academic outcomes, and white males improved more than the other groups on family relationship outcomes.
Of the subgroups, only minority males showed a significant difference for initiating drug use, with 70% reduced likelihood compared to minority control individuals. Minority females significantly improved on perceived ability to complete schoolwork, number of times skipped class, and number of times skipped a day of school, though white males improved on perceived ability to complete schoolwork and white females showed significance for number of times skipped class and number of times skipped a day of school. For family relationships outcomes, white males were the only group to improve significantly for parental relationship, trust, and communication. White males were also the only group to increase the number of total attended social and cultural events. Of the peer relationships outcomes, only minority males showed significant improvement on emotional support.
Risk and Protective Factors
- Individual: Early initiation of antisocial behavior, Early initiation of drug use*, Favorable attitudes towards antisocial behavior, Favorable attitudes towards drug use
- Peer: Interaction with antisocial peers
- Family: Family conflict/violence, Family history of problem behavior
- School: Low school commitment and attachment*, Poor academic performance*
- Neighborhood/Community: Extreme economic disadvantage
- Individual: Academic self-efficacy, Prosocial behavior*, Prosocial involvement
- Family: Attachment to parents*
- Neighborhood/Community: Opportunities for prosocial involvement, Rewards for prosocial involvement
*Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.
Training and Technical Assistance
Training for Big Brothers Big Sisters is available for executive directors, middle managers, and case managers, and takes place at state, regional, and national conferences. Courses offered include how to carry out the functions of executive director, how to implement the Standards and Required Procedures for One-To-One Service, and effective fund raising. Specialized workshops are conducted at these conferences, such as child sexual abuse prevention or volunteer recruitment. Some specialized training may be conducted at a local agency or for a group of agencies in a particular locale, upon request. A national training calendar is provided semi-annually listing the various courses and locations.
Upon recruitment, volunteer mentors also receive an orientation and training, to learn more about the expectations of the agency and the children being served. Training for volunteers is recommended, but not mandated, and is executed by each individual agency currently. Training for all volunteers will be required with the implementation of new standards on January 1, 2014. These trainings either take place prior to the match, or after the match is made. Training information includes presentations on the developmental stages of youth, tips on relationship-building, and recommendations on the best way to interact with youth. There is a training manual, called the Volunteer Education and Development, which contains ten two-hour training modules that focus on relationship building, communications skills, values clarification, child development, child abuse, sexuality, substance abuse, problem solving, and refocus and recharge. The national office provides train-the-trainer courses for local agency staff to gain the training skills necessary to provide this curriculum. This training is also provided online for volunteers.
Brief Evaluation Methodology
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) program has multiple evaluations, both as randomized control trials and quasi-experimental designs, which have been conducted at various locations and among a variety of demographic groups. However, these studies are typically very small and lack methodological rigor. The best study, which does meet quality standards, was conducted by Public/Private Ventures beginning in 1991. Randomization of subjects into treatment and control groups was accomplished, with half the sample then placed on a wait list for a mentor match. This evaluation included eight BBBSA offices nationwide, with 1,138 youth included in the study, and data was available 18 months after assignment for 959 youth. Outcome aims have examined a wide range of effects, including delaying initiation of substance use, academic performance, relationships with family and peers, self-concept, and social and cultural enrichment.
De Wit, D.J., Lipman, E., Manzano-Munguia, M., Bisanz, J., Graham, K., Offord, D.R., O'Neill, E., Pepler, D., & Shaver, K. (2006). Feasibility of a randomized controlled trial for evaluating the effectiveness of Big Brothers Big Sisters community match program at the national level. Children and Youth Services Review, 29, 383-404.
DuBois, D.L., & Neville, H.A. (1997). Youth mentoring: Investigation of relationship characteristics and perceived benefits. Journal of Community Psychology, 25, 227-234.
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.
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, 199-219.
Thompson, L.A., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2001). The impact of mentoring on academic achievement of at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 23, 227-242.
Tierney, J.P., Grossman, J.B., & Resch, N.L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.
Turner, S., & Scherman, A. (1996). Big brothers: Impact on little brothers' self-concepts and behaviors. Adolescence, 31, 874-882.