What Are The Guidelines For A Big Brother Or Sister?

Thursday, July 9th 2009, 5:02 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Terry Hood, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Tulsa is rallying to help its volunteers and children after a former volunteer is charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy.  John Gisler is accused of molesting a young boy he was mentoring.

The case has many wondering how Big Brothers, Big Sisters goes about screening its volunteers.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Oklahoma wants its volunteers and families to know it's committed to child safety and says there is an extensive process to becoming a volunteer responsible for mentoring a child.

Forty-one-year old John Gisler was charged with three counts of sexually assaulting a teenage boy; most of it took place inside his home.

The news came as a shock to Gisler's west Tulsa neighborhood.

Related Story 7/8/2009: Neighbors React To Gisler's Sex Charge Arrest

"It sickens me," said Kert McCarty, Gisler's neighbor.

Police say the abuse started in early 2006 and ended last year. The two were a matched pair in the Big Brothers program.

The CEO of Big Brothers declined to talk on camera but says the safety of the children in its program is the top priority.   To become a Big Brother or Big Sister - "Bigs" as they're called - you start by filling out an application. Part of it asks for three references: an employer, a friend, and a family member.

After that, Big Brothers says it conducts an extensive background check through interviews with acquaintances and police records. They also perform an assessment of the potential volunteer's home environment.

Once the pair is made, Big Brothers says it works with the volunteer as well as the child about healthy development - including training on child sexual abuse prevention.

"It's not an overnight process," said Scott Smith, Big Brother volunteer.

News On 6 sports anchor Scott Smith is a Big Brother volunteer and was recently named Big Brother of the month for June. He says the process of becoming a "big" was very thorough, adding everyone performing his background check took it seriously.

He hopes this latest news doesn't prevent others, either children or volunteers, from turning to Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

"I can't think of one negative thing to say about my own personal experience with Big Brothers," Smith said. "I think it's been an awesome experience. It's awesome to see kids' lives change, and it's really unfortunate that there's creeps in the world."

The CEO of Big Brothers says there are no restrictions from preventing a "big" from bringing his little brother to his home. She would not say how long Gisler has been out of the program.