Everyone is welcome. We defend the potential of all.
We are an organization dedicated to inclusiveness. We celebrate the diversity of every person who walks through our doors; whether a Big, Little, parent/guardian, employee, board member, or community partner. If you are interested in partnering with us on LGBTQ initiative or simply have additional questions, please contact Tasha Bruns-Notsch (she/her) at 320.310.1276 or Tasha@BigDefenders.org.
In June 2022, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota earned an LGBTQ+ Ally Site Badge of Commitment from Mentor Minnesota. Below are the requirements to earn the badge.
Becoming an inclusive and affirming mentoring program is more than hanging safe zone posters and using personal pronouns. This requires a practice of allyship and leveraging our personal empathy to ensure that young people in our care—especially those on the margins—are safe and cared for.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota is committed to creating safer and more affirming mentoring services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth and mentors that participate in our program. We strive to follow nationally recognized best practices outlined in the LGBTQ Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTM. To achieve these standards, BBBS of Central MN participated in a virtual training program and community of practice provided by Dr. Christian Rummell (Mentorist), Nia Clark M.S.W, MENTOR, and MENTOR Minnesota over the course of one year to help guide us in how to put these practices into place. To receive recognition as an LGBTQ+ Ally Site, BBBS of Central MN completed the following requirements, including participation in the training and committing to continue this work toward a culture of inclusion for LGBTQ+ youth:
- Participation of at least two staff in the entire training series (Session topics were: Orientation, Awareness, Practicing Allyship, and Creating an Affirming Program)
- Formation of an LGBTQ+ Ally workgroup that led efforts to update policies and practices found within the LGBTQ Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice, which will include (at a minimum) implementation of:
- Inclusivity/affirmation statement
- Confidentiality policy
- Anti-bullying policy
- Updated screening policies to ensure safety for LGBTQ youth and volunteers
- Matching policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression
- Training for volunteers to support critical moments such as coming out or transitioning
- Referral links for young people and their parents/guardians to access additional care or resources
- Participation of all Ally Workgroup Members in the organization's individual coaching session with facilitators
- Completion by staff and board members of an Online Inclusivity Assessment
- Participation in a community of practice which included engagement with other Allies in the cohort
- Participation in quarterly cohort check-ins
- Commitment to intentionally providing inclusive, affirming and safe mentoring and program culture for LGBTQ+ youth
Learn more about the initiative here.
LGBTQ Bigs FAQ
Thank you for your interest in being a mentor! Our mentors are diverse and celebrated as such.
If you do not see an answer to a question, you have below, please contact Tasha Bruns-Notsch (she/her) at 320.310.1276 or Tasha@BigDefenders.org.
A. We pride ourselves on making BBBS of Central MN a safe place for everyone. Just as we welcome children and families from a diverse array of backgrounds, we welcome volunteers from every background as well. We believe that diversity and uniqueness are assets and by modeling this for youth, we help encourage them to be and believe in themselves. We recognize that the bias that exists in our culture puts LGBTQ youth (and adults) at a greater risk for negative health and safety outcomes, such as depression, bullying, homelessness, suicidality, and substance abuse. We also know that the best protective factor against these risks is for a youth to have a positive, supportive, consistent adult in their life. Be part of the solution by being a Big!
A. Yes! This is one of our areas of expertise. Each and every match is assigned a Program Coordinator, who will introduce you to your match, check-in with you by phone at least once per month, and will provide ongoing insight, training, coaching, and encouragement specific to your match experience. We highly encourage you to use their expertise to help navigate any and all questions that you may have.
A. Nope! When we match our Bigs and Littles, we take numerous factors into consideration including personalities, location, aspirations, likes/dislikes, personal preferences, and life experiences, to make sure our matches are successful from the start. Your Enrollment Coordinator will talk to you about your preferences for being matched so we ensure it’s a great fit for everyone.
A. All Bigs, Littles, families, and matches are covered under our confidentiality policies. These state that any information learned about you in the interview process, matching process, or during a match, is held confidential within the agency and not shared outside of the agency.
A. You bet!
A. As a part of our enrollment and interview process, we ask all of our volunteer applicants about their gender and orientation, in addition to asking about loads of other things to. The reason we ask is so we are able to discuss matching preferences with both the Little, their family, and you as the Big. We also ask our families several questions about their preferences for a Big for their child, to ensure a successful, healthy, happy, comfortable match for everyone involved. It is important to us that everyone can be their authentic self and be accepted as they are, and that we are not sending volunteers into homes and families that might not be accepting11
A. Thank you for asking! Allies make a huge difference in the community and in our program! If you are interested in becoming a Big and are excited to be matched with a LGBTQ Little, please let us know! In addition, if you know any fantastic role models in the LGBTQ community that you believe would be interested in becoming a Big themselves, we would love to talk with them about the program. Please help connect us!
A. It varies. When in doubt, our recommendation is to let the youth lead and for the Big to follow. We would rather youth share their ideas and opinions with their Big, and avoid situations where a Big might push their own ideologies on the child. We are here to help youth find and use their voice, and to walk alongside them as they develop their own unique opinions, views, and identity. When any potentially sensitive topic arises within a match (sexual orientation, religion, politics, etc.), we typically ask that you have a discussion with the Little’s parent/guardian about it, just to make sure that everyone is on the same page and comfort level with the topics being discussed. At the same time, we want to ensure a safe space for youth to talk about what may be on their mind, particularly if they worry about how their parent may respond. We take each situation case by case; this is an example of when you should reach out to your Program Coordinator to discuss what is going on and explore options for the best way to proceed, putting the youth’s safety and needs first.
A. Not at all! We have many wonderful Bigs that are LGBTQ Allies.
A. We do encourage you to be as open and honest about yourself as possible during the interview with your Enrollment Coordinator, as this is how we have such wonderful success in making positive and long-lasting match relationships. Knowing that you are LGBTQ would help us make the best match for both you and a child, as we can ensure that you are matched with a family that appreciates and respects you, for you. However, if you are not comfortable disclosing this during an interview, that is absolutely your right.
A. Our staff are experts at creating matches that are healthy and successful for all match parties from the start. Your safety and comfort is a priority and we would not make a match in which we did not feel that you would be accepted for who you are. Before beginning a match, we’ll discuss the potential Little with you, and then share info about you with the parent and youth. It is important that everyone feels they can be open and be themselves with each other and be welcomed and respected. We use this process with every match in our program for this reason. If there is something about the youth or family you think may not be a good fit, please share that with us during our matching process.
So glad you asked! Click here for more info!
A. Absolutely! At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are looking for a diverse group of volunteers, including age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, and ability. The youth and adults in our program represent a diverse array of all the above.
A. Any information that you share about your gender identity or orientation is protected under our confidentiality policy. We will not share this information with anyone outside of the agency without your explicit, written consent. With that in mind, the Little that you would be matched with and the family of this Little are considered part of the agency. We share information with the Big and Little about each other prior to matching to ensure everyone feels comfortable with the match and can be themselves without fear of judgment from one another. If you have concerns about sharing your sexual orientation or gender identity with the family, please talk with us about this so we can discuss the best path forward.
A. Upon matching, we would first consider your preferences and comfort level that you discussed with your Enrollment Coordinator during your interview. We then consider the needs and preferences of our waiting Littles to determine who may be the best fit for you. With every match, we first call and discuss the potential match with the mentor, and then (if mentor says “yes” to the match), we call and discuss the match with the family. It is important to us that everyone in a match will be accepted and respected for being themselves.
LGBTQ YOUTH/LITTLES AND FAMILIES FAQ
Thank you for your interest in joining our program! Our team is dedicated to serving youth from all walks of life.
If you have a question that has not been answered below, please contact Tasha Bruns-Notsch (she/her) at 320.310.1276 or Tasha@BigDefenders.org.
A. We absolutely respect your child’s privacy and their trust in you. You can let them know that BBBS of Central MN is a safe place for them, but you do not need to break their confidence and disclose their identity/orientation to us if it is against their wishes. At no point would we want you to “out” them to us if they are not ready. Rather, when discussing preferences, you may let us know that you are very open to (or interested in) an LGBTQ Big, if this is your child’s preference.
A. If you feel that you are in eminent danger, contact 911 immediately. However, if you don’t feel that you are in immediate danger, but have concerns for your safety and/or wellbeing or any reason, please reach out to a trusted adult as soon as possible and let them know your concerns. This adult could be anyone that makes you feel safe including your Big, a teacher, or your Program Coordinator at BBBS. If, for any reason, the first adult you talk to does not take you seriously or does not follow up on your concerns, please reach out to another adult.
A. Terrific! Just click on this link and enroll!
A. The waiting period is based on how many Bigs we have that have completed their enrollment process and if that Big’s personality, interests and preferences align with a Little’s. This process remains the same for all active waiting Littles who have completed their enrollment process.
A. Of course! During the enrollment process, we will ask your family and your child about preferences for a potential Big. One of the questions we ask is if you would be comfortable being matched with an LGBTQ Big. During this process, please keep in mind that we also ask your child their preferences, so if they indicate they would not be comfortable with an LGBTQ Big, then we would not make this particular match. However, we would make sure to match your child with a Big that was accepting and supportive of LGBTQ families.
A. Yes! Absolutely. If a Little has changed their pronouns, all you need to do is inform your Big and your Program Coordinator. Your Program Coordinator will be sure this is noted in their file and their pronouns will be respected.
A. We respect your choice to choose what information you want to share. We ask you to share information that will help us make the best match possible for your Little, but also for a Big that we think would work well and respect you, as the parent/guardian. You are an extremely vital part of the match and the overall success of the match.
A. We know that coming out can be a very scary and intimidating process. However, you know your relationship with your Big better than anyone and you are wanting to come out to them for a reason. Trust your instincts and know that your Big is there to support you. However, if you are uncertain of how to approach this conversation with your Big, your Program Coordinator is always available to help guide you through this conversation, if you feel comfortable talking to them first. Your Program Coordinator can help you determine how you want to approach the conversation, what you want to say, what you think your Big’s reaction might be, and how you may respond to their reaction. BBBS of Central MN is a safe place for you and is here to support you.
A. Yes! If your child is more comfortable with themselves and their identity when being referred to by another name than we previously knew, let us know! Your Program Coordinator will make a note in their file. All staff members will refer to your child by their chosen name. The only exception to this may be on legal/confidentiality documents where their full legal name will be listed, but can include their chosen name as well.