Get a Big

We recruit, screen, match and support mentoring relationships that have changed the lives of thousands of young people.  All children 8 – 17 years of age are eligible to apply for a Big Brother or Big Sister. 

Find a “Big” mentor near you

It’s a big step for your child. But we assure you it’s the right one. Enrolling kids with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area gives them a chance to appreciate their unlimited potential and develop into even more responsible, successful, well-rounded individuals.
Kids matched with a Big have proven to be:
more confident
more likely to steer clear of drugs and alcohol
more focused on school
better able to get along with their family and friends

You know what’s best for your child. So we’ll need your help from the start, informing us of your child’s needs and approving the match.

Testimonials from Parents/Guardians

I'm very satisfied and grateful...

...to this program and I have seen great change in my children in regards to new special interests as well as joy from the bond they share with their Bigs.

My son is becoming more open with others...

...and learning to interact with other adults. His Big is our extended family member and we love him so much!

My son loves and admires his Big so much.

Even though he doesn't see him very often, knowing that Jeff is his Big Brother has a huge impact.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has really helped my child connect with a positive male role model.

My son really enjoys the outing and activities. More than anything, hanging out with Mark brings him joy.

We start by thoroughly screening potential Bigs, meeting national standards of excellence by requiring each volunteer to complete an extensive screening process that includes:

Completion of a formal written application
Background and reference checks
An in-person interview
An orientation and training process that outlines the individualized needs of a child and information and resources on how to encourage your child’s development.

We also provide child safety tips to families, and we welcome your questions and feedback. Throughout the match, our professional staff will be in communication with you, your child, and your child’s Big. It’s the best way to build a strong relationship that will have the greatest impact on your child’s future success.

When it comes to the future of our kids, we’re all in this together. Parents and guardians are involved every step of the way, starting with the initial match. You provide us with information about your child’s strengths and needs, as well as approving the selection of the Big.

Once the match is made, you remain closely involved in many ways:

Approve activities and outings for your child and their Big
Ask your child about those outings, and share what you learn
Report your child’s progress and milestones to us
Participate in training on child safety

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are our Littles?

Our Littles are children from our community who could benefit from having a positive adult role model. The Littles in our program have a variety of living situations; some live with parents, others reside with relatives or in foster homes. Though their situations may look different, all of the children in the program share a need for a caring, consistent adult in their lives. Littles can be enrolled at any time from 2nd grade through 11th grade, and must be able to commit to being in the program for one year or more. Littles can stay in the program until they graduate from high school, and may have the opportunity to participate in other programs beyond that, as well.

How do children come into the program?

Many of the children come to us through their parent or caregiver; others are referred by a teacher, therapist or social worker. All children and their parent/guardians must want to be in our program and are interviewed by a staff member to learn about their specific situation and needs.

Who are the Bigs in the program?

Our Bigs are 21+ and come from diverse backgrounds just like our Littles. They are regular people who have varied education and career experiences. They want to positively impact a young person and are committed to being in a stable enough place in their life that they can commit to at least one year or more.

How do you match children with volunteers?

Volunteers and children are matched together based on similar interests. Our enrollment team works hard to make sure that volunteers are matched with children who enjoy the same types of activities. If you are more flexible in your preferences for a Big, you are more likely to get matched more quickly.

Why choose our program over others?

Big Brothers Big Sisters pioneered youth mentoring in 1904. We are the industry leader in mentoring services to children. An independent national study found kids involved in our mentoring programs were more likely to graduate and stay out of trouble when compared to their peers without mentors. They also found kids improved their school grades and relationships with others.

Additionally, our programs continuously show results, characterized by three data-driven elements that most mentoring programs do not feature:

  1. Professional supervision: screening and training of the Big, considerate creation of each match, and professional supervision.
  2. Longevity: Each relationship is unique and different, thus it takes time to develop. That’s why we require matches meet to 2-4 hours per week for a minimum of one year.
  3. Developmental relationships: we support friendships between adults and kids that develop over time. This proves to be highly valuable when the adult includes a kid in age appropriate day-to-day activities.

Does Big Brothers Big Sisters have any results to prove success?

We measure the impact of services by administering a nationally-accepted test known as the Youth Outcomes Survey. This survey supports positive short-term and long-term outcomes for youth in three main areas: educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, and increased social and emotional well-being.

What is your service area?

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area has been serving families and volunteers in the Bay Area since 1958. Since 2017, we serve nine Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano & Sonoma. We have an office in Oakland and professional staff living throughout our service area. If you live in the service area, you are welcome to apply. There are some geographic areas that have more volunteers than others which may impact your wait time. If you move to an area outside of our service area, consider looking for another Big Brothers Big Sisters agency to enroll your child with by visiting the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America website.

If I was part of another Big Brothers Big Sisters agency program, do I need to apply again?

Yes, each BBBS agency is independent from others, so a new application and interview would need to be completed.

When can I see my Big?

As a Big/Little team, you decide together what you want to do and then your Little gets approval from their parent/guardian. We recommend that you keep a consistent schedule of outings and get together on a regular basis. The outings will also depend on the comfort level of you, your Little, and your Big.

What are some good ideas for outings with my Big?

Share an activity that gives you something in common to talk about. Go to the library, check out a book and read together. Buy a comic book to read together. Play a board game. Go on a nature walk. Hit a bucket of golf balls at the local driving range. Take a ride in the car with the radio on and talk about the music you like. You want to select activities that give each of you a chance to learn more about one another. Most important: keep it simple and enjoy yourselves!

Am I responsible for paying any money?

The parent/guardian and Little are not responsible for paying any money. The Big is responsible for any costs incurred on an outing; however, the quality of the time with their Little is more important than the amount of money they spend. That’s why we discourage our Bigs from spending a lot of money on their outings, and as a Parent/Guardian, you should not expect your Big to be buying their Little nor other family members various items. The goal of the relationship is for the Big to help their Little see the world through a different lens so they can inspire their Little to become something they never thought possible.

Will my Big have a car?

We do not require Bigs to have a vehicle, but the Big is responsible for picking up and dropping off their Little for activities. Usually pick up and drop off is done at the Little’s home; however, other options can be discussed with the Littles’ parent/guardian and Match Support Specialist. During your enrollment interview, please let our team know if you do NOT want your Little to take public transportation.

Can I enroll more than one child?

Yes, families may enroll more than one child and complete a Family Interview for multiple children on the same virtual video call. Note, our policy is to match one Big to one Little, so if you enroll two children, they will be matched with different mentors and you will need to coordinate with two different Bigs. As such, it can take different amounts of time for siblings to get matched, especially since we often have fewer male volunteers than female volunteers.

Will our Big become a replacement parent?

No, Littles have a parent or guardian in their life already. What they need is a Big to spend quality, one-on-one time with them. Someone to have fun with, someone they can confide in, someone like you!

Will Bigs be bringing their spouse, a friend, or other family members on outings?

In the beginning it’s most important for the Big and Little to get to know each other. This can happen best on a one-to-one basis. However, if the parent/guardian is open to it, over time it’s also valuable for your Little to get to know the people who are important to their Big. As a parent/guardian, talk with your Big about your comfort level with this.

Can the Little visit the Big’s house?

Child safety is our number one priority, and as such we have strict rules around home visits. As part of the Big’s interview, we will assess the safety of their home, and they will not be allowed to have home visits until the match has progressed for a few months and they get permission from the parent/guardian and Match Support Specialist. Overnights are strictly prohibited.

What if the match doesn’t work out?

If you are still interested in enrolling your child in the program, we can attempt to re-match your child with a new mentor; however, note that this can take time, and we often like to give preference to children who haven’t had a mentor yet. The strongest mentoring relationships have strong partnerships between parent/guardians and Bigs – so we strongly encourage you to build a strong system of communication with your Big.

Can my child stay in the program longer than one year?

We encourage Littles and Bigs to stay matched beyond one year whenever possible. At the one year mark, our Match Support Specialist checks in with all parties to confirm continued interest in staying matched. Many of our matches stay enrolled in the program until the Little graduates from high school, and many continue informally beyond that.

Will my Little get a Big with their same gender expression?

We welcome volunteers and youth of all gender expressions. Because we often have more female-identifying volunteers than male-identifying volunteers we make the option available for Little Brothers to get matched with a Big Sister if they would like to be matched more quickly. You can express this preference during your enrollment interview.

How can I get more involved?

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