Whether you’re looking for a Big Buddy for a boy you care for, or you’re considering becoming one, you'll find these Frequently Asked Questions helpful in moving towards making a difference. If there's something else you'd like to ask us, please don’t hesitate to make contact with us anytime.
For mums and caregivers of boys:
Q: What are the costs involved?
A: There are no charges for the Big Buddy service; we are a registered charity and this is covered by donations and grants. However, if your son goes on an outing with his Big Buddy you’ll need to consider what costs will be incurred, and what you can afford in the same way you would for any activity your child takes part in – this should be discussed with your Big Buddy.
Q: How do you ensure the emotional and physical safety of my boy when meeting with a Big Buddy?
A: We pride ourselves on our screening process of Big Buddys, in fact, we are more rigorous than any other school, club or agency in the country.
Q: My boys' father is not a good role model and is only very occasionally present in his life. Will this disqualify me from applying for a Big Buddy?
A: We operate on the basis of providing Big Buddys for boys without dads, except in exceptional circumstances. We’d love to hear from you so we can carefully establish how much contact your son does have with his father. We’d then make the decision about whether our operational guidelines allow us to find your son a Big Buddy.
Q: My son’s father is alive, but he has never had anything to do with our son’s upbringing. Can I still apply to find a mentor?
A: Yes, you should apply. Depending on the amount of contact your boy has with his father, we may contact him, with your permission. We then look at two things before proceeding: whether the father can confirm his support for the match; if your situation fits within the bounds of our service criteria.
Q: Can you explain why you don’t get involved if a boy’s father is around occasionally?
A: Based on many years of experience we have found that placing a Big Buddy in a boy’s life when his father is occasionally present can be psychologically challenging for that boy. He will likely have to deal with feelings of ‘split loyalty’ which are not helpful to his development, let alone the awkwardness that can occur if the father then chooses to develop a better relationship with his son. It’s imperative for all parties that we establish matches where there is clear space for a Big Buddy relationship.
Q: I would like a Big Buddy for my daughter who has no father; is this possible?
A: Unfortunately, it is not in our scope of work to find Big Buddy's for girls. We know that male role models are incredibly valuable in a girl’s life, but it is not part of a short or medium-term plan for Big Buddy, nor are we aware of another agency doing good work in this important area.
Q: How long do the mentoring relationships last for?
A: We ask Big Buddy's to connect for at least one year. However, most Big and Little Buddies are matched for several years, with a significant number saying the match “lasts a life-time.”
Q: Why don’t some matches work?
A: On occasion, life circumstances of Big or Little Buddies change in a way that is unforeseen, and the match is no longer logistically possible. Sometimes, however, once the match has had some time to develop, both or either parties feel it is not meeting their expectations and they decide to bring the mentoring relationship to a close.
Becoming a Big Buddy
Q: I’d like to volunteer to become a Big Buddy but I already have my own dependent children and wonder if it is advisable to take on the extra commitment. Can you help?
A: It’s a fair concern and it usually depends on how old your children are and how you manage your time with and around them. A Little Buddy will only need your individual attention for a few hours, one day a week, but we do ask for a regular commitment on that time. If you genuinely feel you can offer this without impinging on commitments to your own children then we’d love to hear from you.
Q: I’d like to volunteer to become a Big Buddy but would like to know if it makes any difference if I am single or married.
A: Your relationship status is not a concern for us. Whether you are in a relationship or not is far less important than who you are as an individual. Essentially, we’re looking for men of character – not saints, but men with a good heart and the kind of sound ethics that will help shape a boy’s future.
Q: What sort of backgrounds do the boys come from?
A: We have Little Buddies from all kinds of backgrounds, with the common thread of living in single-parent families without their fathers. Some boys live with a grandmother or other female carer. We see boys who’ve had a tough life, to the extent that Child Youth and Family (CYF) have referred them to us. Others come from safe, sound homes where their only remaining need is a positive male role model. Then there’s everyone in between. When we negotiate a match, we share all of this knowledge (as permitted by the carer) to help potential mentors make a decision.
Q: Can I talk to someone who is already a Big Buddy?
A: Absolutely. We’re more than happy to put you in contact with an experienced Big Buddy who can answer questions from his current or past experience. There are also some great stories from Big Buddies that will offer you some helpful personal insight.
Q: Does mentoring cost the Big Buddies money?
A: There are no standard charges incurred by volunteering to be a Big Buddy. However, given that you’ll be going on outings and engaging in activities that sometimes do incur a cost, we suggest you discuss this with the boy’s mother or carer. Naturally, she will expect to cover or contribute to most of her son’s costs. Our general advice is to keep these to a minimum where possible, but we appreciate that this is ultimately your decision.
Q: How long do the Big Buddy relationships last for?
A: As a minimum requirement, we ask mentors to commit to being a Big Buddy for at least one year. However, most Big and Little Buddies are matched for several years, with a significant number saying the match “lasts a life-time.”
Q: Why don’t some matches work?
A: On occasion, life circumstances of Big or Little Buddies change in a way that is unforeseen, and the match is no longer logistically possible. Sometimes, however, once the match has had some time to develop, both or either parties feel it is not meeting their expectations and they decide to bring the relationship to a close.
Q: One of the character referees you ask for is a woman relative who is not my mother; what happens if I don’t have any?
A: In these instances we’re happy to receive a reference from a woman who can claim to have known you well over a significant time period, meaning several years. If you were unable to produce any references from women who are not relatives we would have to carefully consider your suitability.
Q: Are there any challenges to consider around religious preferences?
A: No. We make no judgements on religion as we consider this to be a personal preference. In some cases, however, a religious preference is important to either or both parties; at that stage, we would take this into careful consideration.
Q: What about cultural differences?
A: We do not make categorical judgements on cultural differences, but we do take it into consideration to make sure matches have the best chance of working out. Our experience shows that same-culture matches can work as well as cross-cultural matches. To achieve this we ask for openness and honest opinion from all parties.
Q: I’m in a long-term relationship; what part would my partner play in my being a Big Buddy?
A: The first response to this is another question: what part does your partner want to play? The key relationship here is that between you and your Little Buddy, so partners tend to play a supporting role which blends in with the 2+ hours a week you spend with your Little Buddy.