Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring (CBM) Program

Program Goals
The goal of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring (CBM) is to support the development of healthy youths by addressing their need for positive adult contact, thereby reducing risk factors for negative behavior and enhancing protective factors for positive behavior.

BBBS CBM focuses on meeting the needs of communities that are facing hardship by helping youth withstand the many negative effects of adversity. The program is intended for youth between the ages of 6 and 18 who often come from single-parent households and low-income neighborhoods. In some cases, they are coping with the stress of parental incarceration. Youth targeted for this program are at high risk of exposure to violence and trauma at home and in the community.

Program Theory
As with other mentoring programs, CBM is loosely based on the theory of social control, where attachments to prosocial, supportive adults, a commitment to appropriate goals, and a mutually trusting relationship between the mentor and mentee (adult and youth) can allow the child to begin to feel more socially accepted and supported. The increased level of support from adults allows youths to view themselves in a more positive light and engage in more constructive behavior. Youth who are more socially bonded have more to lose from misbehavior.

Key Personnel
Most mentors in the BBBS CBM programs are adults from 22 to 49 years old. Staff supervision and support are critical to ensuring that the mentor and youth meet regularly to build positive relationships.

Program Components
The program involves one-to-one mentoring between a Big Brother or Big Sister (the mentor or adult) and a Little Brother or Little Sister (the mentee or youth) that takes place in a community setting. The match between the adult and youth is the most important part of the intervention, because this pairing can lead to a caring and supportive relationship, which can be crucial for youth at high risk.

Compared with the BBBS School-Based Mentoring program, mentors in CBM programs spend more time together with mentees (about 3 to 5 hours a week, 2 to 4 times a month, for at least 1 year). Goals of the one-to-one mentorship are established between the BBBS case manager and the parent/guardian, along with the child. One goal is to develop a relationship that is mutually satisfying, where both mentor and mentee wish to come together freely on a regular basis. Other goals may include better school attendance or grades, improving relationships with family members, learning new skills, or developing a new hobby.

Matches tend to engage in developmentally appropriate social activities such as going to a movie, shopping, attending a sports event, going to a restaurant, reading books, going on a hike, going to museums, or simply hanging out and sharing thoughts. According to Grossman and Garry (1997), “Such activities enhance communication skills, develop relationship skills, and support positive decision-making.

BBBS provides local agencies with mentoring program guidelines about screening, matching, training, supervising, and monitoring mentors/volunteers. Local BBBS affiliates recruit and screen volunteer applicants for matches; the affiliates also screen youths, who usually come from single-parent households and who must (along with their parents) desire to enter into a match. The BBBS affiliate carefully matches adult volunteers with youngsters on the basis of backgrounds; on the stated preferences of adult volunteers, parents, and youths; and on geographic proximity. Although individual agencies may customize their programs to fit specific needs, the national infrastructure oversees recruitment, screening, matching, and supervision. The screening and matching process provides an opportunity to select adults who are most likely to be successful mentors and match them with adolescents who share a common belief system.

Additional Information
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., with a network of nearly 400 agencies nationwide, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves nearly 250,000 children in mentoring programs.

Intervention ID

10 to 16


Study 1

Substance Abuse

Accordnig to results from the Tierney, Grossman, and Resch (2000) study, mentored youths in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring (CBM) program were 46 percent significantly less likely to initiate drug use and 27 percent less likely to initiate alcohol use, compared to control group participants.

Antisocial Behavior

Compared with the control group, mentored youths were 32 percent less likely to have struck someone during the previous 12 months.

Academic Performance

Compared with the control group, the mentored youths earned higher grades, skipped fewer classes and fewer days of school, and felt more competent about doing their schoolwork. For these school-related outcomes, the changes were larger for girls. None of these results were statistically significant, however.

Prosocial Behavior

Researchers also found that mentored youths, compared with their control counterparts, displayed significantly better relationships with parents. They also had significantly greater trust of parents, a result that was especially true for male mentees. Emotional support among peers was higher than controls, especially for minority male mentees who also scored higher than their control counterparts on intimacy in peer communication. Youths receiving mentoring did not score significantly higher than youths in the control group on scales measuring global self-worth, social acceptance, or self-confidence, nor was there a difference between the groups in frequency of participation in social and cultural enrichment activities.

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