Rather than increase the number of kids served, Martinez says the organization has had to step back and look at caseload sizes and the capacity of the professional staff. It can only do as much work as it can afford to do, and its approach today requires things like more training so Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio can be a trauma-informed organization.
“When people think about the relationship, they think about one-to-one support,” she says. “But what most folks don’t really know about the organization is the support that happens behind the scenes that we refer to as match support.”
The nonprofit’s community-based program always connected with families in the home, but now volunteers and staff are also stepping outside of schools — conducting home visits, visiting with parents, asking questions about what other services are needed in that home, and creating more opportunities to bring parents together. Martinez estimates Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio has a 60/40 split between community and school programs, with more on the school side.
“Not only are we connecting directly with the family to make sure that they are very involved with what’s happening in the relationship between their child and the adult volunteer, but that we’re also serving as an ally for that family,” Martinez says.
The nonprofit is still finalizing what its next steps will look like, whether that’s more partnerships or something else.
“We’re really just jumping in with two feet now in a very intentional way,” she says.
Martinez believes not only should Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio support the child, if it builds up the family, that in turn will build the community.
“There’s much more room for growth in this space,” she says. “There’s a lot more work that we still have to do in order to see the results that we want to see community-wide.”
The mentoring gap is a national trend. More children are growing up without the adult support they need in order to be successful as a result of poverty, opioids or parental incarceration.
“There are whole host of supportive services that children need, but as a foundation, that adult stable support is critically important,” Martinez says.