Recruiting Little Sisters: A New Need
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas matches kids in our community with caring adult mentors who offer encouragement and support so each child can reach their full potential. We can’t match and help kids however, who are not part of the program. In 2022, BBBS is now in the unique position of having Big Sisters waiting for Littles – which means we can sign up more Little Sisters than ever before!
COVID managed to “change the rules” for nearly everyone’s work, especially organizations working with children. During the last 18 months we have seen a significant and consistent decrease in youth inquiries, according to BBBS Vice President of Programs, Joe Strychalski.
“I think we’re seeing a number of factors come together,” said Joe. “Typically, (pre-COVID) around 70% of volunteers wanting to be Bigs were Big Sisters, while around 70% of Littles applying to get a Big were Little Brothers. This meant Little Sisters were usually matched quickly, while most Little Brothers had to wait longer to be matched. During COVID we’ve seen both a natural attrition of participants (moving, loss of contact, etc.) and an ability to match some of our kids waiting the longest. However, we have also seen our queue of Little Sisters go from very small to almost non-existent as the number of potential Big Sisters has increased.”
When we first noticed this trend, we began taking steps to actively recruit Little Sisters. “We increased our marketing efforts and connected with other local youth/family service organizations,” said Joe. “Consequently, especially in the last 6 months, we’ve experienced some significant increases in youth inquiries, especially for Little Sisters, but we still have the capacity to match more.”
There are currently around 200-250 Littles on our waitlist, with about 85% of those being boys. Unfortunately, only about 40% of our “ready to be matched” volunteers, or Bigs, are Big Brothers. So, there is also an ongoing need for more men, and men of color, to become Bigs.
“We recently reached out to all of our currently matched and ready to be matched families to notify them of our ability to enroll more Little Sisters which resulted in a significant increase in youth inquiries,” said Adriana Adams, BBBS Director of Customer Relations and Enrollment. “We’re also regularly contacting our youth service referral partners to keep them updated on our ability to enroll and match youth. In addition, we are continuing to promote and offer an Info Session to equip youth/family-service organizations to refer youth to our program.”
One of the newest challenges in the recruitment process has to do with the changing demographics of Central Texas. “Basically, more of our kids and families are moving out of central/east Austin toward the suburbs,” said Joe, “while more of our volunteers are moving into downtown/central Austin. This makes it difficult to create quality matches that are within a reasonable travel distance.”
The current situation seems unique to BBBS of Central Texas. “Most every agency I’ve connected with has historically seen a similar imbalance in Big Brothers to Little Brothers and Big Sisters to Little Sisters as we’ve seen. Many agencies also saw decreases in youth inquiries throughout the pandemic,” said Joe. “Where I think our challenge is unique is the extreme impact on our families of all the changes Austin is experiencing. The cost of living, especially the cost of housing, is driving many of our families to the outskirts of our service area and beyond. This, coupled with the effects of COVID over the past 2 years, has created some new circumstances and needs.”
Joe says that there are several ways the community can help:
- Connect us with families, or organizations that support families, who may benefit from enrolling kids (especially Little Sisters) in BBBS. They can call 512-442-4646, email email@example.com, or Sign up to Get a Big here
- Schedule a Youth Recruitment Info Session or recommend the session to a youth service organization. To schedule, contact Joe Strychalski at 512-807-3607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The resources are available,” said Joe. “So, let’s spread the word. We don’t want any child to miss the opportunity of having a mentor who can positively impact their life.”