From Leader to Leader
In this week’s Innovation,
we recognize Rainbow Days.
I AM likeable, capable, unique and valued.
I CAN treat others like I want to be treated.
I HAVE strengths, capabilities and people who care about me.
I WILL make healthy choices and be alcohol, tobacco and drug free.
I BELIEVE I have a purpose.
Substance use is one of the most powerful predictors for future behavioral and health problems, including delinquency and interpersonal violence.
In 1982, Cathey Brown, a former school teacher and counselor, began a support group for young children of alcoholics in the Dallas area. During the weekly support group sessions, the children discussed how to manage their feelings, cope with problems and make healthy choices. The demand for these groups grew — “We started with 7 children. Then we grew to about 30 or 40, which I thought was a lot, and now we serve about 9,500 children a year,” says Brown—who is the founder and CEO of Rainbow Days, Inc.
Rainbow Days services include alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention programs and support groups conducted in schools, recreation centers, chemical dependency treatment centers, churches, and shelters for homeless families. Activities are designed to foster positive peer support and help children learn, practice and retain essential coping, thinking and social skills. According to Brown, “The most important thing that we do is provide children, who are often living in highly stressful situations, the opportunity to be children, to believe in themselves and in their future.”
A number of elements make Rainbow Days support groups unique: small group numbers; allotted time for discussion and skills practice; group rules and confidentiality, which create a nurturing environment; and emotionally supportive, caring and trained facilitators.
When surveyed on what the children would miss most if the services Rainbow Days provided were no longer available, children noted the companionship of the group facilitators and the Rainbow Days volunteers. Brown points out “By having the opportunity to meet with their peers and a consistent, caring adult each week, the children realize they are not alone and they begin to understand there are healthy ways to cope with their sometimes chaotic situations.”
A 2006 study by the National Center on Family Homelessness gave Texas the lowest ranking of any state in providing for homeless children – on any given night, more than 2,000 homeless children could be found in Dallas.
Rainbow Days’ Family Connection program targets homeless families specifically by providing Rainbow Days’ award-winning Curriculum-Based Support Groups (CBSGs®) for homeless children living in emergency, transitional or domestic violence shelters. Through partnerships with these 22 different sites in the Dallas area, the Family Connection program serves over 1,300 children and 150 parents each year.
All support group sessions include an opening and closing activity, a guided discussion, “skills practice” activities, and reflection. Session topics include Feelings, Handling Anger, Chemical Dependency, Dreams & Goal Setting, Making Healthy Choices, Friends and Resisting Peer Pressure.
Through the Family Connection program, Rainbow Days aims to interrupt and prevent the intergenerational cycle of family chemical dependency and homelessness by helping children build coping skills and resiliency. Family Connection also helps parents improve family bonds and restore personal resources through Parent Support Groups and “Family Play Time”, an activity where Family Connection staff model for parents how to spend recreation time with their children.
Week-long camps like Camp Broadway, focusing on the performing arts, and Kids’ University, which is held on a college campus, engage homeless children in activities they normally would not be exposed to.
To date, Rainbow Days has trained more than 30,000 professionals and volunteers in 35 states to implement CBSG® and has replicated the Family Connection Program in Houston, Pflugerville, Denver, and Oklahoma City.
“At the end of the day, we ask ourselves ‘So, what?’ The ‘so what’ is that we have made a difference not just in one child’s life, but in the lives of tens of thousands of children,” says Brown.
To receive more information on Rainbow Days, or about program replication, contact:
Rainbow Days, Inc.