More than a year and a half ago, April Roberts happened across a copy of the March 29, 2018, Parsons Sun and saw an article from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Labette County.
The organization was hoping to help children on its waiting list and first featured a boy named Chase who was hoping someone would want to be his Big Brother.
Eight-year-old Chase’s grandmother, Christy Stephens, had adopted him and his two siblings — his little brother who is now 5 and his sister who is 14.
Stephens said the children’s parents had been in quite a bit of trouble.
“I wanted the boys to know how to treat a woman. I wanted them to see how a family should be together,” Stephens said of signing her grandsons up for BBBS. “And I wanted them to have other opportunities.”
Stephens works full time in Independence for Greenbush Education Service Center and then tries juggling all of her grandchildren’s extracurricular activities when not at work. It keeps her hopping.
Some people have a perception that children in BBBS are problem children, but Stephens said that is not the case.
“Chase is a good kid,” she said. “He does well in school. He loves sports. Joining Big Brothers Big Sisters is just about having more people to love your kids and more people to mentor them and expose them to opportunities that maybe you can’t.”
The article that ran in the Parsons Sun about Chase caught the attention of many people who stepped forward to be interviewed, including April and Wes Roberts.
Before that, the Roberts family had never considered BBBS.
“I wasn’t really familiar. I knew a few people who had done it, but I didn’t know what all it entailed. I didn’t care when I saw it was him,” Mrs. Roberts said.
“When they were little, they went to church and we were their children’s church teachers, so we knew of him, so when we saw the article, we thought, ‘This is a good opportunity.’ We were really excited,” Mrs. Roberts said. “Wes kept telling the lady, ‘We’re not going to do it unless it is him.’ He probably would have, but he really wanted it to be him.
“He was probably a year or two old when we first met him,” Mr. Roberts said of Chase.
The Robertses said they were impressed with how hard BBBS works to ensure children are matched with people of similar interests.
“I’m a teacher and I tell you that interview was longer than my teaching interview. They interviewed both of us separately for probably an hour and a half to two hours. And the paperwork was very thorough. It was a lot. … It took three months to match. There’s several steps. They are very thorough. When you are having someone come into your home they need to be.”
Mrs. Roberts said. “When she told us we matched, they had us go to his house where he was comfortable and meet him for the first time officially and go from there.
“We did the family match, because otherwise it would just be one of us going and doing that. We just thought it would be better if all of us were part of it. Chase lives with his grandma and his two siblings and she takes very good care of him. She’s amazing, but being with us is family a dynamic he’s not really used to, so we thought it would be best.”
The Robertses have four children of their own. A set of triplets, age 3, and a daughter who is 8, the same age as Chase.
At first, the Robertses would take Chase out for something simple, like a snow cone, something short so he wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Then they gradually added time.
Over time, they would invite Chase out to their farm for activities,
“They play like the best of friends and fight like brother and sister,” Mrs. Roberts said of her oldest daughter and Chase. As for the triplets, she said, “They get along excellent and Chase is amazing with them. He is very caring of them.”
The family has tried to spend at least twice a month with Chase, which is the goal. It may be having lunch with him at school or taking him out to do something.
“You have to wait a year before you can do an overnight. For the one year, we took them to Great Wolf Lodge for a weekend. He’s been to St. Louis with us. And we do a lot of things just in the community, like go bowling. We’ve been to see him play soccer, football, baseball. He likes sports a lot. It’s not things that are overwhelming for us,” Mrs. Roberts said.
The family said Chase’s grandmother is very supportive of the time they spend with Chase, allowing them the chance to include him in a variety of activities.
“She always makes it happen,” Mrs. Roberts said of Stephens. “She really wants him to be able to go and have those experiences and do stuff. He’s a good boy.”
Chase said he is appreciative of the Roberts family including him. It is with them he saw his first professional sporting event, a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. He has enjoyed other firsts, too, like going up in the St. Louis Arch, riding a Razor and riding on a tractor.
“It’s definitely different for him,” Mrs. Roberts said.
Stephens includes the Robertses in various aspects of Chase’s life, like sending them copies of his grade cards.
“He’s a good student. He likes school. He’s bright,” Mrs. Roberts said. “He is good about calling if he has made an accomplishment. He’s very conscientious for an 8-year-old. He doesn’t want to upset us.”
The Roberts family said having Chase involved with their family in activities a couple of times a month has been great.
“I don’t feel like what they expect is overwhelming at all. We both have full time jobs,” she said of herself and her husband. “Wes has more than a full-time job and we have four kids. I do feel like the family match was best for us because we can incorporate Chase.”
Mrs. Roberts said she knows some families are hesitant to allow their children to be involved in BBBS because they are concerned about having people come into their home and that they will judge them.
“That’s not what it’s about. I’m not going over to his house to spy on his life,” Mrs. Roberts said. “We just want what is best for him. I feel like Big Brothers Big Sisters would never put you in a situation where you felt uncomfortable. A lot of the interview has to do with would you be OK in this situation or that situation.”
For example, some children’s parents may be incarcerated or some children may have special needs.
“They really feel you out for your comfort level and they wouldn’t put you in a situation where you aren’t comfortable. They really tune into what you’re OK with, because they want the match to work.”
While he adores his grandmother and places his love for her just one step below his love for God, Chase said he very much likes getting to spend time with the Roberts family.
“It’s been really nice,” he said, sharing about some of the times he has spent with them, mostly recalling simple activities.
Stephens said she would encourage any parent, grandparent or guardian to allow their children to participate in BBBS.
“It’s not about taking anything away from you as parent or a grandparent. It’s about making your children’s lives better and providing them greater opportunities in life,” Stephens said.
Mrs. Roberts said BBBS has been there every step of the way, too, making sure both families are happy with the match.
“I’s been great. I’ve been impressed with the program and they stay in touch. They do a really good job. Every month Cassidy (Owen, senior mentor support specialist) would contact us, and Chase’s grandma, every month to get both opinions and see how it was going. They really stay in contact with you to see if there was a problem, you could work it out. I felt like they did an excellent job of that.”
For more information on how you can sign up your children to be a Little, or sign up to become a Big, call (620) 644-9061 or (620) 644-9062, or visit the Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters website.