What are some common barriers that I might encounter when implementing BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS (BBBS)?

  • For most sites, one of the greatest challenges is recruiting youth and volunteers to participate.  It can be especially difficult to attract male and African American volunteers. It can also be challenging to attract volunteers who are interested in mentoring older youth, ages 13 and above. Careful consideration should be given to planning for recruitment and a site’s budget should reflect ample funding for staff time and marketing expenses. Key relationships with potential referral sources should be forged, such as with school district administrators and human service organizations.

Creative marketing approaches need to be developed specific to each community and it is advantageous to engage staff or community members with marketing and public relations expertise.

  • Conducting background checks of volunteers and securing child abuse clearances can be a lengthy process. The Department of Public Welfare now allows BBBS affiliates to request that clearances be sent directly to them. However, this is a new process and it has posed challenges for previous grantees. It is important to understand the process and establish internal systems for requesting clearances.
  • Sites have reported that, for home visitations, staff members need to possess skills that have been gained from and experience and backgrounds in human service, counseling, and education fields.
  • BBBSA reports that more than 20% of matches close by the 6 month point and they are striving to increase the strength and length of match relationships. Research indicates that youth need to be engaged with their mentors for a minimum of 6 months before the relationship begins to become viable, that early termination can have cause possible harm, and that the benefits of mentoring emerge over a relative long period of time. Influences leading to match termination include, but are not limited to the following:
    • Youth eligibility or ability to participate in the program may be impacted by factors such as changes in family structure, illness, and residence.
    • Volunteers can become discouraged by a perceived lack of appreciation.
    • Volunteers may feel that the personal investment involved in dealing with a troubled youth is too demanding and detracts from social or family obligations.
    • Youth may perceive their mentor or relationship as unsupportive, disappointing, or overly demanding.
    • If not appropriately matched, the relationship may weaken due to a lack of chemistry or shared interests.
    • Social distance can exist between middle class volunteers and lower income youth and racial and cultural differences may also strain relationships.
  • It is imperative that matches are interacting frequently. Agencies must be prepared to educate volunteers of the importance of consistent contact, and to invest in providing matches with frequent interaction opportunities and suggestions for independent activities.
  • Data collection and survey administration can pose challenges due to low literacy populations, the age of participants, and variations in available data analysis systems. It is important to understand BBBSA’s recommendations for survey administration. It is also necessary to develop systems to track survey completion and analyze survey outcomes as required by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). The EPISCenter has developed tools to summarize survey data, but identifying an evaluator to aid in reporting and communicating outcomes may prove helpful.
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