Today on the blog, you’ll hear from Casey Campbell. Casey is our Director of Enrollment and Matching and has been at BBBSCI for over 11 years. As the Director of Enrollment and Matching, Casey interviews our Bigs, Littles, and their families. She also oversees our intentional matching process to ensure we’re pairing Bigs and Littles together for successful relationships. She took some time to answer commonly asked questions about our enrollment process and give you some info on all the behind the scenes work that goes into each and every match.
Question: “How long will it take me before I’m matched?”
Answer: The “it” question. After working at BBBSCI for eleven years, I often take for granted my awareness of the process. This question is such a difficult one to answer, as so many variables are at play.
My stomach goes into knots when I realize I will be meeting with a child and family, who have been waiting months, even years – YES, YEARS – to even get to the point of an interview. Many people are unaware that our process is designed to gain information on youth/families upfront to ensure eligibility. We don’t want anyone to wait if there is another program that is a better fit. We proceed with eligible youth for interviewing based upon our influx of volunteers. Once a child is interviewed and accepted into our program, we hope to be able to match within a much shorter time frame. We are cautious about meeting with a child/family, getting their hopes up, and having them sit and wait for an additional extended amount of time.
On the flip side, I always find myself trying to clearly articulate a potential wait time for our volunteers. We have amazing volunteers, who are giving their time to mentor a young person within our community. The advertised “need” for mentors and volunteers is everywhere! It’s more than understandable when a volunteer is confused that there might be a potential wait time to be matched.
Question: “Why is this?” “I don’t understand?” “Aren’t there hundreds of kids waiting to be matched?”
Answer: One of the reasons I’ve stayed with BBBSCI for 11+ years, is because of my confidence in the intentionality of every part of the process. Our interviews are designed to ensure two main things; 1. our program is the best fit for you (youth/family/volunteer), and 2. the interview provides us with the detailed information we need to create a successful match relationship.
Two initial factors related to matching time are gender identity and location. As an agency, we match based upon gender identity. We match heterosexual Big Couples (a couple in a romantic relationship for more than two years who are volunteering together) and male same-sex Big Couples with a Little Brother due to a higher need for male volunteers. Similarly, we do this with Big Friends (either two males or male/female friends of two plus years). On the flip side, we match Big Sisters, female same-sex Big Couples, and female Big Friends with Little Sisters. Unfortunately, BBBSCI tends to get more Little Brothers vs. Little Sisters, and more Big Sisters vs. Big Brothers. This often can lead to Little Brothers waiting for a Big Brother, and even Big Sisters waiting for a Little Sister. In addition to gender identity, we take into account where a Big lives vs. a Little lives. We try hard to match within a 20 minute drive time, if possible, as we know a longer drive time can impact the frequency of match outings and the strength of the relationship. It’s not uncommon that where our Bigs live exceeds a 20 minute drive from where our Littles live. We look at this closely prior to making a match, as we never want to jeopardize the longevity of a match relationship.
Question: “Aside from gender identity and location, can’t you just match people?”
Answer: As an agency, we average a two year match length. Although we ask for a one year commitment, our ultimate goal is to develop life-long relationships. To do this, we want all parties to feel as if their match is the best fit for them. At interview, we explore a variety of topics to ensure we are able to do this. We look at personality, interests, hobbies, current/past experiences, strengths, areas that might be challenging, expectations, goals, etc. We also specifically ask preferences of the parent, child, and volunteer as we never want to place someone in a match that would make someone uncomfortable. Some areas might be identified as “hard” preferences, and others might be more negotiable if the “right” person is identified.
In the end, it’s not a perfect science, but it is done with a great deal of intent and strategy. We want and hope our matches are successful, fulfilling, and develop into long-lasting relationships. We value the time our youth, families, and volunteers have given to us and hope to provide a service that contributes to an amazing community. At any point of the process, we are more than happy to speak with you to answer any questions or concerns you might have.
About the Author: Casey is the Director of Enrollment and Matching at BBBSCI. She has been with the agency since 2007. Her favorite part of her job is meeting with Bigs, Littles, and their families because “everyone has their own story and there are some pretty amazing people in this world!” When she’s not at work, you can find her spending time with her friends and family, doing anything outside, or having a dance party / wrestle mania with her son, Dominic.