Boys wait for years to find a Big Brother match-program asking East County men to ‘Man Up’

2
43
WEB Bigs.jpg

Failing at school, peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, involvement in gangs, crime and low self esteem. These are just a few of today’s problems that many parents lay awake at night worrying about when it comes to their children. It is a constant struggle to keep a grasp on all of the things that can turn a good child into a parent’s worst nightmare. 

Failing at school, peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, involvement in gangs, crime and low self esteem. These are just a few of today’s problems that many parents lay awake at night worrying about when it comes to their children. It is a constant struggle to keep a grasp on all of the things that can turn a good child into a parent’s worst nightmare. 

For a parent dealing with the pressure of raising a child alone, the obstacles sometimes seem insurmountable. And many of them need help. Being a role model, confidant or just a friend to talk to for a child can make a life changing difference.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego has a proven track record of more than 50 years of mentoring youth, but the organization itself is in the middle of a social crisis.

“We need men like a plant needs water,” said Jannette Kutchins, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego program manager, Recruitment & Training.

Kutchins said the lack of men committing four hours a month is leaving many young boys behind, many of them winding up in trouble at home, school or with the law. Though Big Sisters has a waiting list, young girls are matched quickly, but she said for some reason that they cannot understand, young boys wait an average of a year and a half to be matched with a Big Brother. Many of them wait much longer.

“We have 77 boys of all ages waiting for Big Brothers in East County alone,” she said. “There has to be 77 men who are willing to spend four hours a month with these boys that need them.”

Kutchins said this is a state wide epidemic. With all 16 Big centers in California, Big Brothers Big Sisters began a massive ad campaign geared towards men. She said it is a simple message—it is time to Man Up California.

“We need to let men know that they are desperately needed to help guide, influence and spend time with boys that have no man in their lives,” she said.

Amber McCranie, who lives in Lakeside, has two sons and a daughter in the program. Matched in May, her oldest son Aaron, 16, waited four years for a rematch after losing his last Big. Her youngest son, Christopher, 14 is still waiting. She said Christopher had a match that lasted five years, but when the economy tanked, his Big lost his job, went back to school and had to leave. 

McCranie said Aaron, being the oldest is always butting heads with his little brother. She said without a Big in his life, things were much more difficult, he picked on his brother more, seemed angry all the time and began getting in trouble at school.

“Just in the past few months since he has had a Big Brother I have seen a major change,” she said. “He is happier, nicer to his brother and actually sticking up for him at school.”

She said it is such a positive experience for them in so many ways.

“It makes them believe that there is somebody out there who is looking out for them and cares,” she said. “To have someone they can call their friend, not related to them, that cares and likes to spend time with them. I think it is a world of difference for them in their lives.”

Andrew McElyea, 18, from Spring Valley is working in construction. 

He said Bob Brichmann from El Cajon is a friend of nearly nine years and is someone he can talk to about anything. He said Brichmann spent many hours with him, took him places he had never been before, took time off of work to be with him and was always there to help him out when he needed it. 

“If it weren’t for Bob, I would probably have been in a bad situation,” he said. “He helped me with school, kept me away from drugs and always encouraged me to be great in everything I do.”

Kutchins said safety and welfare of the kids is top priority, but it is not a difficult process to become a Big Brother. 

A Big Brother has to be 18, take an online or in person orientation, go through a personal interview a layered background check for identity, criminal or sexual predator history and have three references. Personal, business and community.

“We need to know what they like, their hobbies, interests so we can best match a Big with a boy of similar interest,” she said. “We want them to have a relationship with the boys..”

McCranie said she thinks many people assume that everything is great with Big Brothers Big Sisters and do not realize the problem in getting men to participate in the program.

“Like my Christopher, there are many boys waiting for a friend and role model in their life,” she said. “Whenever they call the house to check in on us, the first question is, ‘Did they find a match?’ To have to say no, that they were just checking in you can tell they are excited about the prospect, but also very guarded in getting their hopes up.”

For more information on how to volunteer go to www.SDBigs.org or www.manupcalifornia.com to see how to become a Big Brother or Big Sister.

2 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here