This program offers one-to-one mentoring in a community setting for at-risk youth between the ages of 6 and 18. This program is rated Effective. It was associated with a statistically significant reduction in initiating drug and alcohol use and antisocial behavior among mentored youth, compared with non-mentored youth. Mentored youth also showed statistically significant improvement in relationships with parents and academic performance (i.e., better grades and fewer absences).
This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., with a network of nearly 400 agencies nationwide, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves nearly 250,000 children in mentoring programs.
Tierney, Grossman, and Resch (2000) found that mentored youth in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring (CBM) program were 46 percent less likely to have initiated drug use and 27 percent less likely to have initiated alcohol use, compared with non-mentored youth in the control group at the follow up. This was a statistically significant difference.
Mentored youth were 32 percent less likely to have exhibited antisocial behavior (i.e., struck someone or stole or damaged property) during the previous 12 months, compared with the non-mentored control group youth. This was a statistically significant difference.
Mentored youth experienced statistically significant improvements in academic performance, including earning higher grades, skipping fewer classes and fewer days of school, and feeling more confident of their ability to complete schoolwork, compared with non-mentored control group youth.
Mentored youth demonstrated statistically significant improvements in quality of their family relationships, compared with non-mentored control group youth.
Tierney, Grossman, and Resch (2000) used a randomized design to conduct an extensive, 18-month evaluation of the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring (CBM) program from 1991 through 1993. Eight local BBBS CBM sites were enrolled because they had large caseloads (to ensure an adequate number of youths for the sample) and were geographically dispersed. The 1,138 adolescents enrolled in the study were randomly assigned to be immediately eligible for a mentor (n=571) or put on a waiting list (n=567). They were ages 10 to 16. Slightly more than 60 percent were boys, and 56 percent were minorities. Many lived with one parent and were from low-income households with a history of family violence, substance abuse, or both. Statistical analysis indicated that groups were equivalent at baseline.
Youths in the intervention group received, on average, almost 12 months of mentoring, which consisted of meetings about three times a month, with each meeting lasting about 4 hours. Parent/guardian and youth surveys were administered at baseline and 18 months later. Case manager data collection forms were collected at baseline, at the time of a match, and 18 months later and included information on the child, the family, and the mentor. A key informant interview provided background information on the agency and its program practices. The major outcomes of the study were alcohol and drug initiation, antisocial activities (e.g., getting into fights, stealing or damaging property), academic performance, and relationships with family. The researchers used items from numerous instruments to measure results, including Self-Perception Profile for Children, School Value Scale, Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment, Features of Children’s Friendship Scale, and Self-Image Questionnaire for Young Adolescents.
A multivariate analysis model was used to estimate effects on BBBS participants. The model used baseline and 18-month data and controlled for a number of baseline variables, including age, gender, and race/ethnicity; the agency providing the program; household characteristics; and whether the youth had repeated a grade or was a victim of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The effect of the mentoring program on gender and racial/ethnic subgroups were estimated using a series of subgroup-treatment interaction variables.
The cost of the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring (CBM) program is approximately $1,000 per mentor match.
There are principal documents available for local Big Brothers Big Sister (BBBS) affiliates, including the Standards and Required Procedures for One-to-One Service
(Big Brothers Big Sisters 2003) and the Program Management Manual
(Klein 1988). Please visit https://www.bbbs.org/community-based/
for more information.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. 2003. BBBS Standards and Required Procedures for One-to-One Services: Big Brothers Big Sister of America.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Grossman, Jean Baldwin, and Eileen M. Garry. 1997. Mentoring—A Proven Delinquency Prevention Strategy.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/164834.pdf
Klein, L. 1988. Program Management Manual
. Philadelphia, Pa.: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
McGill, Dagmar E., Sharon F. Mihalic, and Jennifer K. Grotpeter. 1998. Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Book 2: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.
Boulder, Colo.: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/174195NCJRS.pdf