Big Brothers Big Sisters

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by JodyS, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. JodyS

    JodyS New Member

    My difficult child son has a father who does not see him anymore. I enrolled him in the BIG BROTHER program because I think it would be good for him. But, I am nervous about a complete stranger spending time with him. I know they do a complete backround check.........blah, blah, but as a mom you worry. Just curious if anyone has ever used this program before for their kids.
  2. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    My easy child is a big sister in the program and has been for several years now. I understand it's a worry anytime you entrust your child in someone else's care. Make sure you ask a lot of questions about their screening process. The program is run very well here and I wouldn't hesitate to use it for my difficult child knowing the caliber of people they select for the bigs.

  3. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    My daughter wasn't in Big Sisters, but she was involved with a mentoring program that was similar...just run by a different organization.

    Her therapist at that time warned me to be careful. That these people aren't trained (they're just volunteers) and that they don't understand the kids' issues and there might be some boundary issues. I heard him, but I thought he was probably being overcautious.

    The woman that was my daughter's mentor whacked to harsh of a word? Ok. Maybe. She was very flighty. And she threw out information like it was fact when she basically didn't have a clue what she was talking about. Like she told me that if I tell the school my daughter needs an IEP they HAVE to give her one. Just like that. Totally didn't understand my daughter. I explained, to an extent, her issues. She didn't believe me. She would just show up. Or she would call me at work and tell me she was going to be there in 5 minutes. It was supposed to be a planned 2 hours every week and I was supposed to be there for pick up and drop off. A lot of times, she didn't even leave the house with her. Another time she called me - after taking difficult child to the pet store and letting difficult child call me at work to beg for this Yorkie puppy that was on sale (for $800) - after seeing how upset difficult child got (can you say meltdown?) and told me that I was right about difficult child. Duh. Ya think I know my kid? She wasn't in therapy for nothing. Then she told me she had watched a show on TV and she thinks difficult child is just an Indigo Child. :faint:

    The problem was that difficult child really liked this woman. I let things go for longer than I normally would have because of that and because I believed that the mentor's heart was in the right place. But she was really crossing a lot of boundaries and I was becoming more and more uncomfortable. To further complicate things, the volunteer was best friends with the director of this program so when I left a message with the director to discuss things and request someone else, the director didn't call me back. She had the volunteer call me. That was an uncomfortable conversation. We never did get another mentor. And difficult child's mentor was also a CASA volunteer. Scary.

    That said, my experience is not the experience of others. Obviously these programs have been successful because they are still in place and still popular. I think I'm just a weirdo magnet. A friend had a son who had a mentor through the same program and it was great for him. It was a totally different experience than mine and difficult child's.

    My advice is to keep your eyes open. It can be a great thing for your son, but if you're feeling uncomfortable let the people at Big Brothers know and they will get someone else for you. Even with my experience, I am considering trying again but this time with Big Sisters. I'm not going to let one bad apple spoil it.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    "Your child is not having learning problems; she's an indigo child, that's why she's so different."

    I think it's a handy label for people to cling to, when they don't want to accept that life and the world is not perfect.

    Whether there really is such a phenomenon as indigo children or not, it is a concept that can be too easily abused, twisted, distorted and manipulated to explain away absolutely anything you choose.

    There was a TV documentary last night on Aussie TV, talking about a particular cult (it exists only in Australia) and the TV program was showing the divide and conquer mind techniques used by those in control. You couldn't question anyone in authority because to do so showed a lack of faith which automatically excluded you from any rights to administrative information such as the books, the files on people, etc.

    This phenomenon goes way beyond religion. I mention it only as an example of how the people who claim to have the information (and who therefore are "special" in some way) are also the ones who determine who can be permitted to have any input or access.

    It's a form of extreme control and you find it in often charismatic but very controlling individuals who use this control entirely for their own purposes. Anything goes. All others exist only to serve them, the ones in control. You can see it in politicians, in self-promoting experts and public 'gurus', in heads or corporations who are much more visible than most. And also in some individuals who simply modify reality (and the understanding of reality in the people around them) to suit their own tastes.

    It sounds to me, Heather, like you got a person like this as your daughter's mentor. I would be wondering exactly who was running that program - maybe the director only did the paperwork.

    These controlling people are experts in everything and of course they never need to check the information they disseminate, because they define the world for themselves. In other words, if they say it is so, then it is so. Sometimes they also remove "unbelievers" from their environment and encourage all "followers" to do the same. Again, I am talking about a phenomenon which goes way beyond religion. The scariest example of these people that I have personally encountered was actually a spokesperson for a medical charity. She would control the information and the people around her very tightly, demanding a high level of personal commitment and fidelity from her friends and allies. Anyone expressing any scepticism at all about her proclaimed viewpoints was 100% censored; she did her best to ensure any opposing viewpoints were obliterated.

    As I write this, I'm thinking about other examples - difficult child 3's current English teacher is a possibility (because she will not believe me when I explain what difficult child 3 can't do, she keeps on pushing and insisting that she has a better understanding of him that I do); difficult child 1's old karate teacher who closed me out of the classes and then systematically abused difficult child 1 for his inability to be perfect then told him, "what goes on in karate class is secret, there is a code, you must never tell what goes on"; my ratbag neighbour who I quite like but know I can never trust. These people are not necessarily a physical danger to your child, but they at best are misguided and irresponsible.

    If your child is no longer being influenced by this person then this is a really good thing. She would have learnt some very bad habits about interacting with other people. The way she turned up, told you that she would arrive with 5 minutes' notice etc - it's typical. Rules do not apply to such a "Special Being".

    As with any person who is going to be interacting with your child, make sure you are firmly in the picture and are aware of what they are doing and how they interact. You can explain to them what your child needs. If the person has their own theory and shares it with you, there is always a possibility they are right or at least have something worth trying; but if they refuse to play by your rules and listen to your concerns, show them the door.

    I find I keep a much closer watch on who interacts with difficult child 3, than I would with a easy child. I need to - he is much more vulnerable, it is really easy to do a lot of harm with simply the wrong word. I can also steer things in a more productive direction, if we're beginning to bog down in stuff that just isn't working. I also can reinforce and support someone who is on the right track and doing really good things for my child.

    Anyone who can't work with this, or who finds my close proximity to difficult child 3 to be a problem for them, I immediately get concerned about.

    I hope I didn't ramble too much, I hope I explained myself. That "Indigo Child" thing just leapt out at me, along with the rest of your description, Heather - the combination told me that you had a wild one there, alright.

    Jody, I think the Big Brother thing is really worthwhile. It will open you up to more possible male figures in his life. I don't think you would need to watch this person any more closely than you should already be watching ANY other person in his life - abuse can come from anyone: friend, foe, family or stranger. I see no reason why you can't do things as a group, you as well. Maybe the Big Brother could work with difficult child to make something with wood. You could either watch, or bring them refreshments, or do your own thing (such as gardening) in the vicinity. Or everyone go on a picnic, and they could kick a ball around. There are many activities which are great for boys to do with another male, but which can also be done with supervision or involvement of another person.

    We need to keep our kids safe, but they need to learn about other people and the sort of people they will encounter in life.

    It's a matter of finding balance.

  5. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I looked into this program for my son. His father chose never to be in his life or acknowledge him at all, so they have never seen each other. My concerns were 1) the LONG waiting list, 2) how dependable would the person be as far as showing up when they said and being around on a regular basis, and 3) how long would they be around before they quit or moved on.

    These concerns were because I was told that in this area, the Big Brothers were usually college students. How many times do college students change their plans without realizing the impact on others? And, I was told that the "good" ones will hang in there until the end of the school year, then they usually leave the area for the summer.

    Ulitmatey, I decided that it would be best for difficult child not to have an experience that could deepen his sense of rejection. I started trying to encourage other types of mentoring relationships- like older, "grandfather" type neighbors that had no grandchildren and who had lived across from us or next to us for years (so I knew they were stable and not "seeking" kids to be around all the time). It did make a difference in difficult child's life by making him feel "special" and giving him something to look forward to.

    I would have done- and still would do- the Big Bros. program if I believed the odds were in favor of the person being a long-term mentor and good role model and who understood that when the day came to move on, difficult child would expect letters written or phone calls occassionally or else he would feel abandoned.
  6. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    Because of my difficult children severe issues we haven't utilized Big Brothers/Sisters programs. But I will say that our PCAs are all college students & for the most part of the last 5 years they all made huge commitments to our family. I believe there was only one PCA who left after only a couple of months. The rest stayed with us on average 18 months.

    Many of those same students are Big Brothers or Sisters. They have talked of how much they enjoyed that program.

    I'd look into it; screen their screening process & when a volunteer is selected ask to be in on the interview process.
  7. dreamer

    dreamer New Member

    My brothers wife used to work in administration for BB BS in California. My children all had Bigs here in IL. My kids got into BB BS becuz my husband was catatonic at the time, our WRAP and SASS persons got us in.
    For my oldest difficult child, the program staff thought it would not be a problem, even with her diagnosis. BB BS decided along with WRAP to find a match for both my daughters at the same time, different Bigs, but they did not want one child to be jealous of the other. Bigs are volunteers, and they get a couple hours of scant training. It is much more difficult to find male volunteers to be big brothers than it is to find big sister.
    So they found 2 people to be bigs for my daughters. For difficult child, a married student preschool teacher, for easy child a single lawyer.
    Now even before that difficult child had a mentor thru the county, (not a vounteer, a paid student therapist who also worked at battered womens shelter)
    difficult children Big met with difficult child twice. AFter the 2nd visit, the big ended it. There had been a BB BS event and the 2 kids and 2 bigs had signed up to do something there, and the bigs offered the littles some cookies, difficult child wanted chocolate, but her big hates chocolate, and got upset that anyone would permit a child tohave chocolate. Well, thats what the big gave as her reason for quitting. easy child and PCs big both said difficult child had behaved wonderfully. So, we never did find out what happened. easy child and her big celebrated 9 years of being matched to each other last month. They have met without fail every week, same nite, same time all these years. SOmetimes they go to park, sometimes a movie, sometimes go playboooard games at Bigs home. Big has come to some school events .....
    My son was not old enough for a big when my daughters got theirs. when he became old enough, the program signed him on, but the wait for male volunteers is LONG. My son did his wait, and while waiting, a couple times staff asked us if maybe he could have a female Big. I said no becuz I felt he REALLY needed a male influence. Staff said more than once my son is gentle and a female might work fine. (my son has no diagnosis or anything like ODD or bipolar or anything) Meanwhile difficult child had been placed back at end of wait list for HR new big sister, and turns out a new one was NEVER found. Eventually a match was found for my son.
    This man was quite strange. BB BS rules here say tht the Big is not tobring friends with, the attention is to belong 100% to the child. The focus is on the child. He wanted to bring his girlfriend. He wanted to cancel plans at very last minute, often did not show up at all and did not call. He never wanted to do anything my son wanted to do, and his interests were quite different than my sons. He got angry when his work had company picnic and we had family plans out of town the same day, and he pouted and had a mini tantrum, becuz he kept saying "But he can bring kids to his company picnic" The match ended completely when this mans mother died, after being matched with my son a few months, but haveing only been with my son maybe 8 times or so- we had a family vacation, our only one ever was very long vacation (for us) and we were VERY excited. This man who did not even really have any bond with my son got enraged that we were leaving on our vacation becuz he wanted our son to be at his side at the entire length of the wake AND funeral for his mother, and delay our vacation. My son was - maybe 8? My son had never met this mans mother. And my son had felt NO bond with this man.
    We never heard from the man again, altho, turns out BB BS also could not ever reach him again to get HIS explanation for what happened. And while BB BS said they put my son back on the waiting list,my sons name never came up again, and it never showed up on any of the occasinal newsletters for Littles on wait list that came. (Tey often do activities for all the littles includeing littles on waiting list)

    Awhile back a county south of me had to end their BB BS program for lack of Bigs, and they transferred the caseload of those littles up to OUR local BB BS.

    Now as for difficult children paid mentor from county? Yikes, that did not go a whole lot better. That person was married, would come get my difficult child and take GG to her hosue often. BUT turns out her husband was violent and physically abusive and my difficult child witnessed phsyical abuse to her mentor more than once, and one time after mentor left this man, he came to mentor whenmentor had my difficult child and he physically attacked mentor and her car. Said mentor continues in employment in county at our main mental health services facility and at our battered womens shelter.....but she stopped mentoring my difficult child after about a year. DCFS was giving me a hard time becuz I wanted to end the relationship sooner. BUT the relationship lasted so long that my difficult child still grieves the loss of this person.

    SO we have had relationships with BB BS and paid mentors as well, and you just cannot know how it will work out.
    PCs match has been wonderful.

    We also had well, Timerlady gets PCAs, we get untitled people who do the same things here......we have had MANY. They were paid for by county. Turnover was massive, partly becuz they pay minimum wage, the hours are often not ones people seek for work, and around here, sometimes clients are quite a long distance away. These persons came in all ages, and from all walks of life. Many were young, students, one was actually still in high school. One was rather elderly and fell asleep driving here one day and was gravely injured. Ironic becuz I had jst complained several times to county that this lady always fell asleep when she was here. I especially hated that program, BUT CPS had required us to have it. Our personal experience was we had more bad experiences than good, by far with THAT program. And we were involved in that for over 5 years.

    Ironically I also worked in the same program, doing the same work, at the same time. I kept saying hey let me have my kids as my clients. LOL. But that is not permitted. LOL. I kept saying well, I will show up, I will not cancel, I will not get "lost" on the way, and I will still be doing "my job" LOL. 2 of those workers brought their own children with. I did not like that and complained, but my complaints fell on deaf ears. VERY often those people never showed up at all and noone called to say noone would show up-----worse, often the charts and records claimed yes someone DID show up but that we were not here. Or that we sent them away. Not True, not at all.

    If you get lucky it can work out wonderfully. Or it can backfire. In our experience there can be times it is worse than nothing. We finally decided that sons Big wanted to BE a Big, becuz ehe wanted a trophy- our son. BUT he could not have cared less about our son, not as a human being, not as a child and did not care about my sons well being, likes or dislikes at all. He just wanted to be able to say "hey look at me, I am a Big" It hurt my son, hurt his feelings for a LONG time after - my son could not figure out what HE had done wrong to make the match bad. My oldest difficult children heart broke every single week when her sisters Big showed up without fail and she had no Big.

    Before we had the Bigs and the mentor, my children had never ever ever been babysat by any other person AT ALL. Myolder kids were at the hospital when my youngers were born, with my husband. I never stayed overnite at hospital giving birth, always went home before 6 hours was up. WITH the newest baby. When I worked, the kids were home with husband. Except for school itself my kids had never been anywhere without me or husband. Not even for 10 minutes. I was very nervous, very scared when CPS set up wrap, sass, mentors and then when BB BS was brought up. Oh I was more than ready for even the shortest break, absolutely, but, I was so nervous. My neighbor has done in home day care since I moved here 20 years ago. She only accepts teachers children, so that she can have all school holidays off. I have reported her a couple times to CPS for awful "accidents" but, they keep on letting her continue, and what I witnes there scares me half to death. (altho it has gotten betetr the last 5 years or so) Our houses are very very close together, so I can very easily see and hear what goes on. She babysat many of my childrens teachers kids......go ahead and try to tell those parents what occurs? They do not believe, - not until it is THEIR child with an obvious injury. BUT then, by the time that happens, they usually somehow want to blame me that their kid got hurt, at my neighbors. Nevermind I warned them. But from witnessing that over 20 years (I worked nites) it scared me about ever letting someone else have one of my children.
    We had one county paid respite provider put my 3 kids in the BACK of an open pick up truck and drive an hour away, to a farm her parents owned, to do CHORES. And the respite worker very often wouldnot get my kids back home on time, often 2 or more hours late, and it would cause my kids to miss doctor appts all the time. Becuz CPS ordered this respite and county was paying, my complaints went to deaf ears.
    BUT it is always good to worry for your children when they are in care of someone else.

    Good Luck.
  8. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    My grandfather worked for the BB organization as a volunteer for my entire life. I saw first hand what having a mentor in your life could do for these young boys who grew into young men. He had numerous success stories over the years. It, along with other ministries, was his contribution back to a society that had helped him as a young orphan. His "littles" who are now grown, still speak about the experiences and lessons he taught them throughout the years.