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What is Big Brothers Big Sisters of America?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) is a charity organization which helps children develop to their full potential through the use of mentoring relationships with adults. Children who participate in the organization are assigned a big brother or sister who agrees to serve as a mentor and role model, ideally for an extended period of time to create continuity for the child. In addition to operating extensively across the United States, the group also works overseas.

According to records kept by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, participants in the program are far less likely to drop out of school, start using drugs, or commit crimes. Children in these programs also tend to be much more confident and outgoing, which gives them a greater chance at success in the world. Any child can join, although the program often includes a number of low-income and at-risk children, under the assumption that they are the most likely to benefit from supportive mentoring relationships.

The organization's roots can be found in the early 1900s, when mentoring organizations for young boys were established in several American cities, and got its name when Big Brothers of America and Big Sisters International merged in 1977. Today, it is regarded as a premier charity, regularly earning high marks from organizations which monitor charities, and it is one of the foremost mentoring organizations in the United States.

Because of the obvious inherent risk in allowing unrelated adults to spend unsupervised time with children, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is very careful to screen the adults who wish to participate as mentors in the program. When someone volunteers, he or she is carefully interviewed, and the organization performs a background check and home inspection. The organization may also ask for proof of insurance and registration on any vehicles the child might ride in, and it requires impeccable references.

Mentors who participate in the group's programs are incredibly varied. Some are professionals such as doctors, teachers, lawyers, and firefighters who hope to inspire the younger generation with their careers, but artists, tradesmen, and people in a wide variety of walks of life are welcome as well. The organization usually endeavors to make the best match possible between child and mentor, to promote a healthy and lasting friendship; some participants continue to remain in contact after the little brother or sister comes of age, illustrating the powerful connection which can be created.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon89144 — On Jun 08, 2010

I'm a grandmother looking for a young mature man to mentor my granddaughter who lives in saratoga springs utah. She is 13 and had no closure when her father was sent off to prison.

She has a good step father but he has no idea what she is feeling and what she is looking for. She needs a professional who is interesting and who could give her guidance and help fill the hole that is in her heart. If some good man could take the time to give her guidance and make a difference in her life I'm sure he would be blessed. Helping a 13 year old find out just how special she is would be the greatest gift of all. He would be a hero in her life forever.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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