- Do you offer any activities or ideas for activities?
Yes! We host some activities throughout the year for Bigs, Matches, and Families. Sometimes we offer events for everyone to come together, and include our community partners. Additionally, we work with local organizations to offer free or reduced price tickets to things like: sports games, dance performances, theater performances, conventions, and more. We send out a weekly newsletter full of activities, events, and educational/training offerings.
- What is the time commitment for a mentor?
Mentors commit to a minimum of one year in a match, starting the date they meet their Little. Matches meet 2-4 times monthly throughout the year. More than 75% of matches meet the one-year commitment and our average match length is just over four years.
- What kinds of experiences do Littles have?
We enroll youth 6-16 who are seeking an additional supportive adult in their lives. Our youth come from all different family structures, experiences, identities, cultures, etc. A large percentage of youth in our program live in single parent/caregiver households and more than half are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). Some have experience with trauma/abuse, parental incarceration, and socioeconomic disparity. We serve neurotypical, neurodiverse, and autistic youth, youth living with parents, grandparents, extended family, resource parents, etc. This is not true of all youth in our program.
- Are all Littles from single-parent families?
Our Littles have all different kinds of living situations. While we do see a high number of inquiries from single parents, we also serve youth living with two parents or caregivers, grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings, resource (foster) parents, etc. Mentors are not expected to fill the role of any missing or absent parental figure.
- What if I’ve never worked with youth before?
Prior experience working with youth is not required to become a mentor. Our staff supports volunteer candidates throughout the enrollment process, which includes training designed to equip volunteers with the skills and mindset needed to support Littles. During an interview, a volunteer will be asked about comfort level with a variety of situations/support areas. If there is an area you want more support/training in, we can assign additional training. Once you are matched with a Little, BBBS staff will contact you regularly to check in about your match and offer support/input as needed/requested. Youth in our program are seeking a friend who will spend time with them, listen to them, and have fun.
- If I’ve been a Big in a different state, do I need to re-enroll?
Yes, all BBBS sites operate individually and have variables in enrollment processes. Prior experience as a mentor is fantastic, but all mentors new to BBBS Columbia Northwest must complete the entire enrollment process.
- If I’ve been fingerprinted for another volunteer or work position, can I transfer those records?
No, BBBS sites conduct their own fingerprint-based background checks. This is a BBBS National child safety standard.
- Can my Little meet my partner/roommates/friends?
It is OK for a Little to interact with other adults living in a mentor’s household if the match is spending time together at the mentor’s home. A Little should never spend time alone with a non-mentor,
regardless of their comfort level. BBBS emphasizes 1:1 matches and while we do run basic background checks on all adults living in a mentor’s home, we expect mentors to be the adult responsible for the child during the match activity.
- How do I log in to The Learning Exchange?
The Learning Exchange is a training resource website created and maintained by BBBS National. Once a volunteer candidate has completed orientation, they will receive instructions via email to log in. Log in should be the email they inquired under and the temporary password BiggerTogether1. If there are issues accessing TLE, the volunteer will need to contact BBBS National for a password reset.
- Why do I need to provide my SSN for enrollment?
A SSN is required for BBBS to run layered background checks. This is a child safety standard requirement per BBBS National.
- Does BBBS ever make cross-gender matches?
Yes. BBBS traditionally matches female identifying mentors with female identifying youth, and male identifying mentors with male identifying youth. We sometimes, depending on comfort and preference, match female identifying mentors with male identifying youth. We strive to match nonbinary/genderqueer/transgender mentors with nonbinary/genderqueer/transgender youth, especially when the youth has requested a queer mentor. Our 100+ year name is binary, but our agency’s work is not.
- What is the volunteer enrollment process like?
The volunteer enrollment process includes, in order, completing an application, virtual Pre-Match Training, virtual enrollment interview, and an in-person fingerprint appointment. Once all these steps are completed, the Enrollment & Matching Team will process the file before notifying a mentor of their acceptance or denial to the program.
- Are there any off-limit activities?
No, there is not a list of off-limit activities. However, if you choose to participate in higher-risk activities (rock climbing, boating, mountain biking, etc.), discuss ahead of time with parent/guardian, youth, and Match Support Specialist. BBBS has a High-Risk Activity Waiver form that can be signed.
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