About BBBS and Mentoring

To learn more about BBBS or to get involved with the program please email Tom Baker at tbaker@bbbspgh.org or call 412-204-1217.

For more than 46 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh has been recognized as the premier mentoring organization in the region. Since 1965, we have matched more than 19,000 children with responsible, caring adult mentors. Preventative in nature, our program unites the agency staff, volunteer mentors, and parents/guardians who work together to deter the occurrence of problematic behaviors in children before they are able to take root. Through role modeling, guidance and friendship, our volunteers fill a void for children who are critically in need of stable and supportive bonds with caring adults.

Big Brothers Big Sisters typically enrolls children between the ages of 6 and 13. However, once matched, a child may remain enrolled in the program until age 18 or graduation from high school, and many of the friendships continue long afterward. Services are available to all single-parent children residing within Allegheny, Washington and Greene Counties regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender or creed.

The children who are enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters have problems associated with personal development, school, family and/or the community. A large percentage of the children in the program reside in high-risk environments where substance abuse, criminal involvement, teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, and/or dependency on federal assistance are present in the home or in the immediate community.

Big Brothers Big Sisters offers a positive, broad-based program that focuses less on specific problems after they occur and more on meeting youth’s most basic developmental needs. The BBBS professional staff conducts volunteer orientation and training, rigorous screening, thorough assessment and careful matching of children with volunteers. The agency staff also conducts ongoing support and supervision of each match to help insure that all parties get through the rough spots in the relationship in addition to improving the child’s long-term development.

There are five primary components to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program that makes it so successful:

  1. Proactive recruitment of children and volunteer mentors;
  2. Rigorous screening to insure appropriate matches, including enrollment interviews, personal reference checks, criminal background checks, personal visits, and other collateral information;
  3. Intensive and ongoing training for volunteers in areas of human needs, child development, relationship building, and single-parent families;
  4. Appropriate matching of volunteers and children utilizing all parameters possible and involving the approval of the parent and volunteer; and,
  5. Ongoing supervision and support of matches are required. Matches are regularly monitored by professional staff to insure that the needs of the child are being met.

It is undisputed that one-to-one adult mentoring works as a strategy for supporting at-risk children. An independent research study conducted by Public/Private Ventures, a national research organization with more than 25 years of studying child development, concluded that compared to similar youth, children enrolled as Little Brothers and Little Sisters were:

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs;
  • 27% less likely to begin using alcohol;
  • 52% less likely to skip school;
  • 37% less likely to skip class;
  • 33% less likely to resort to hitting someone;
  • more confident of their schoolwork performances; and,
  • better able to get along with their families.

According to the results of a recent nationwide, major school-based mentoring study conducted by Public/Private Ventures, teachers reported the following improvements in children who were enrolled in the BBBS School-based Mentoring Program:

  • 64% of students developed more positive attitudes towards school;
  • 58% achieved higher grades in social studies, languages, and math;
  • 60% improved their relationships with adults:
  • 56% improved their relationships with peers;
  • 64% developed high levels of self-confidence;
  • 62% were more likely to trust their teachers; and,
  • students were less likely to repeat a grade.

In partnerships with school districts, theBBBS School-based Mentoring Program offers the following benefits to our schools and communities:

  • complements existing No Child Left Behind efforts;
  • results in improvements in academics and in social skills for children;
  • connects schools with valuable community resources through corporate, senior and college volunteer mentors; and,
  • in school districts where high school students mentor younger children, the service experience improves the odds that the older student will avoid high-risk behaviors.

Others agree with these findings. According to Parade Magazine, “New evidence is emerging that after generations of widely diverse public and private efforts to help troubled youths, there may be no more effective program than Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

Similarly, the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development has concluded that prevention/intervention initiated during early adolescence is extremely effective in producing long-term results. “Barely out of childhood, young people ages 10 to 14 are today experiencing more freedom, autonomy, and choice than ever at a time when they still need special nurturing, protection and guidance. Without the sustained involvement of parents and other adults in safeguarding their welfare, young adolescents are at risk of harming themselves and others. A crucial need of adolescents is for an enduring stable, supportive bond with a caring adult.”