Researchers at The World Bank identified programs effectively serving children around the world. In 2008, they identified 9 promising approaches to help youth at risk. Mentoring Programs were identified as Promising Approach #6 of 9 approaches, and BBBSA (Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America) was identified as the quintessential U.S. mentoring program.
The majority of research on the BBBS model has focused on community-based mentoring which for over 100 years has been the cornerstone of BBBS mentoring. Since the year 2000, school-based mentoring has expanded rapidly, creating the need to study the effectiveness of the model. Large-scale evaluations of site-based programs have not been undertaken to date.
In the early 1990s, Public/Private Ventures, an independent research firm, studied the impact of BBBS mentoring on children and youth. The study included over 900 girls and boys between the ages of 10-16 from BBBS agencies in eight states in America. By comparing treatment and control groups, the study documented that BBBS mentoring had a positive impact on children’s lives. Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters was published in 1995 and showed that 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 a class
- 1/3 less likely to hit someone
- More confident of their performance in schoolwork
- Getting along better with their families.
Another study on Community-based mentoring in the 1990s was conducted in Ontario, Canada, by Big Brothers of Ontario. This retrospective study evaluated the impact that having a Big Brother had had on young men who were Little Brothers in 1980. The evaluation was carried out in partnership with the Trillium Foundation and the Social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton and District. Project Impact: A Program Evaluation of Big Brothers of Ontario was published in April of 1994. Principle findings included:
- 80% of former Little Brothers attained at least a secondary school diploma compared to 60% of other people in their own age group
- 78% of former Little Brothers who came from a social assistance background no longer relied upon social assistance themselves
- 46% of former Little Brothers who reported having an excellent or good relationship with their Big Brother had graduated from college or university (An additional 17% of the total sample were full-time students at the time of the evaluation)
- 34% of former Little Brothers matched for 4 or more years displayed an observable income advantage over those matched for less than 4 years.
In 1996, the BBBS program model was identified by The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado at Boulder as a Blueprint for Violence Prevention. The BBBS model of mentoring was selected from more than 600 programs as one of 11 models demonstrating the most effective practices in reducing adolescent violent crime, aggression, delinquency, and substance abuse.
Preliminary studies conducted by International Affiliates have also affirmed the positive impact of the BBBS model in their respective country programs. Additional comprehensive studies are currently in progress.
School Based Mentoring emerged as a BBBS model in the late 1990′s. Since then, it has grown rapidly and is now serving more than 130,000 children around the world.
BBBS of America first began evaluating school-based mentoring in 1997 and published Big Brothers Big sisters School-Based Mentoring: An Evaluation Summary of Five Pilot Programs in 1999. The study found that of the students participating in school-based mentoring:
- 64% developed more positive attitudes toward school
- 58% achieved higher grades in social studies, languages and math
- 60% improved relationships with adults and 56% improved relationships with peers
- 55% were better able to express their feelings
- 64% developed higher levels of self-confidence.
In 1999, Public/Private Ventures published School-Based Mentoring, A First Look Into Its Potential, reported that strong relationships can develop between a child and mentor within the school context. The study found that through integration into the school, mentors were able to take on the role of an educational advocate, collaborating with teachers and other school personnel. The findings suggested that well run, school-based mentoring programs were likely to be a powerful intervention for many disadvantaged children and youth.