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1 Welcome to Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters! We have a lot to tell you about our agency and what you and your child can expect from us. We ve been around since 1970 when we started out as the Y-Pals program, an initivate created by the local YMCA and sheriff s department. Then, in 1986, we became afflilated with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a network of over 300 agencies. The program was established to provide children the opportunity to develop a one-to-one relationship with an adult outside of their family. These adult volunteers are called Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The Big Brother or Big Sister serves as a role model for the child and provides support and friendship. Each member of our staff comes from a different background, but they all have one thing in common: they are trained professionals with a strong commitment to children and their families, pursuing the goals of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Big Brothers and Big Sisters are special friends a person who is there for a child as a source of comfort and support, as well as someone with whom the child can have fun. He or she is not a parent or someone who disciplines the child, but rather an important adult in the child s life. A Big Brother or Big Sister serves as an emotional resource for the child. A mature individual with a well-defined sense of self can make an enormous difference in the life of a child. To become a Big Brother or Big Sister, a volunteer must... Be at least 18 years old Have access to a car & proof of insurance Complete a one-on-one interview & training Pass several background checks Keep regular contact with HBBBS staff Be a high school graduate or have earned their GED Be able to serve for an extended period of time meet with their Little Brother or Little Sister 3-4 times a month Provide multiple character references Be of good moral character who will be a positive role model

2 At Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters we understand how difficult it can be to let a new person come into your life and become close with your child. This can be very scary. You may wonder if this volunteer is reliable and trustworthy. That is why our agency is so careful when screening potential Big Brothers and Big Sisters and when monitoring the matches we make. What was the reason you decided to look into matching your child with a Big Brother or Big Sister? Maybe some things have been happening recently that led you to believe an additional, supportive adult would be helpful at this time. It is important to note that the match between your child and his or her Big Brother or Big Sister will not be a quick fix for these issues. It takes time for the relationship to develop and for your child to become comfortable with the match. Sometimes, some children appear to be more rambunctious or aggressive as they begin to get into the relationship. Wait it out and give it time. Call your Program Specialist if you are feeling uncomfortable and let us work with you to look into what is happening. Although a Big Brother or Big Sister helps fill the gap than an absent parent has left, they are not a substitute for that parent. Instead, they are a special friend for your child. A Big Brother or Big Sister is a person with whom your child can develop a close relationship one which will help your child to grow. We hope that our volunteer will become a significant and important influence in your child s life. Just as you have high hopes for this match, your child will also be thinking about what the Big Brother or Big Sister can do for him or her. Children may think the Big Brother or Big Sister is a person who will take them everywhere they want to go or buy them everything they want this is not the case. You can help your child as you talk about this new relationship and explain that the focus of the friendship is being together, talking, having fun and trying new things that usually do not cost a great deal of money. On the topic of money, it is important to note that our program is available at no charge to our clients. Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters receives funding from the United Way and annual fundraising events. The first step in starting a match is the parent interview where you will talk with one of our Program Specialists. She can meet with you and your child at your home or in our office during a time that is convenient for you. You will learn more about the program and the Program Specialist will understand what you re looking for with the match as well as your family situation. Your help is very important at this time. Complete and accurate information about your child and family situation is vital to a successful match. After your interview is completed, your child will have the opportunity to interview with the Program Specialist as well. This will help your child learn about the program and it will allow us to make a better match by getting to know your child and his or her interests and hobbies. Once the interview process is complete, you will be notified if your child has been accepted. It may take time to find the right volunteer to match with your child. Your Program Specialist wants to make sure she is able to pair children with a Big Brother or Big Sister that has similar interests and personality traits in order to give the match the best chance for success. When the right volunteer is found for your child, your Program Specialist will talk with you about him or her, and you can decide if this person sounds like a good fit. When you agree to meet, the Program Specialist will arrange a match meeting where the Big Brother or Big Sister is introduced to the Little Brother or Little Sister and they can begin to get to know each other and plan upcoming activities.

3 After your child has a Big Brother or Big Sister, your #1 priority is now to keep in touch with the Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters staff. Talking with your Program Specialist is something you must do and it is required for you and your child. We need to know how things are going in the match. Does your child feel safe? Are you happy with the activities your child and the volunteer do together? Do you have any other concerns? You should contact your Program Specialist often during the first six weeks of the match and, after that, you will keep in touch on a monthly basis. At the end of the first year we will ask for an evaluation, just to find out how things are going. After that, we suggest you give us a call every 3 months to check in. Please also let us know if you move or change your number so we are able to get ahold of you when the need arises. If your situation changes, you become concerned, or if your child begins to experience problems with the match, school or anything else, do not hesitate call your Program Specialist right away. Let us know if you see patterns develop both good and bad. Parents and staff need to build a working relationship based on regular, open communication. We want to ensure the match is successful and that your child is thriving. Your Program Specialist will also be talking with the volunteer on a monthly basis and can share with you any feedback that you may find helpful. Sending your child off with a stranger is not easy. No matter how much you have wanted a Big Brother or Big Sister for your child, it still takes some getting used to. This volunteer will become an extremely important person in your child s life, as well as your own, and this introduction is a big step. It takes time, but we can help you work through this transition. What can you expect from the volunteer? He or she will work with you to pick up your child & when you can expect them home. He or she expects you to want to know about the kinds of activities that he or she will do with your child. If he or she is going to be very late, he or she will call you. He or she should contact your child by phone at least once a week to chat and set up plans for their next outing. He or she will take your child out 3 or 4 times per month, unless other arrangements have been discussed. Barring any unforeseen difficulties, you can expect the relationship to last for a year, or longer.

4 What can you do for the volunteer? Have your child ready on time. Unless arrangements are made, you must be home when the volunteer brings your child home. Do not deny your child s visit with the Big Brother or Big Sister as a form of punishment. Do not involve the volunteer in personal family matters independent of the match. Discuss money with your child. The match should primarily participate in no cost and low cost activities. Let the volunteer know when things are going well. This makes the volunteer feel good about what he or she is doing. Children can t always say what they are feeling. Do not talk about your child s issues with the volunteer while your child is present. If your child is having problems in school and you d like to discuss that with the Big Brother or Big Sister, that is totally fine but it is best to do so when your child is not around. You can also contact your Program Specialist for additional assistance. Let the volunteer know about any special conditions that your child may have, like allergies, limitations or medications. If there are any activities that your child should avoid, please tell the volunteer. Along with everything listed above, we d like you to develop a relationship with the Big Brother or Big Sister. This relationship will exist to support and further your child s friendship with the volunteer. The relationship will be working and functional in nature not social. In other words, it would not be good for your child if you formed a personal relationship with his or her Big Brother or Big Sister. We ask that you be warm and friendly, but please focus the attention on supporting your child s relationship with the volunteer. Being late Sending along another child Using the volunteer to do errands Everyone is on a tight schedule nowadays including the Big Brother or Big Sister. Please be there when the volunteer arrives to pick up your child and when they return home. Do not change the schedule without first discussing it with the volunteer. Remember that when your child goes to an activity with the Big Brother or Big Sister, this is their special time. We understand that sometimes it is hard for other children to be left at home while the other is off having fun, but having another child participate in the activity between the volunteer and the Little Brother or Little Sister defeats the purpose of the match. The time that your child and the Big Brother or Big Sister spend together is limited and precious. While you may desperately need bread from the grocery store or a package picked up at the post office, do not ask the volunteer to do these things. Both your child and the volunteer will resent these chores and it will cause more problems than the errands are worth. Borrowing money We know that finances can be tight, but asking to borrow money from a Big Brother or Big Sister is not acceptable. He or she might find it difficult to say no for fear of jeopardizing the relationship with your child, so we ask that you never put him or her in that position. Developing a social relationship You and your child s Big Brother or Big Sister will get to know each other in a working relationship to make sure everything is going smoothly. However, developing a social relationship is not acceptable. Please do not meet the volunteer for a drink or asking to set him or her up on a date with your friend. The Big Brother or Big Sister is a special friend for your child and it sends conflicting messages to your child if he or she sees the volunteer interacting with you in that manner. It will also make the volunteer feel uncomfortable, so we ask that you do not put him or her in that position.

5 Our volunteers come from all income groups. While we expect some money to be spent on your child, we hope that it is kept to a minimum. The activities planned should require little or no money. However, should a special activity be planned, you will be responsible for covering the child s expenses. Again, we ask that you never ask to borrow money from your child s Big Brother or Big Sister. The time will come when the match must end. We hope that all of our matches last until the child graduates from high school, but this not always the case. This decision will be mutual or the natural result of the relationship. Premature endings can cause disappointment and unhappiness. Job changes, marriage and moving are a few of the circumstances that prevent a match from continuing. You can help make the parting easier for everyone by showing understanding, patience and being supportive. Help your child talk about how he or she feels about the match ending. Saying goodbye to a close friend can be very difficult and your child may have feelings of disappointment, anger, sadness or indifference. Talk with your child and let him or her know that you understand these feelings and so does the volunteer. A lot of things were covered in this handbook. If you have any questions, please reach out to our agency for more information. We are a service agency and we are here to help you. We look forward to working with new families and take great pride in knowing we ve made a difference. Ready to enroll your child in our program? Call Stop by our office at 6201 Havelock Avenue in Lincoln Visit our website at

6 6201 Havelock Avenue Lincoln, Nebraska

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