Rainbow Days Helps At-Risk Kids Cope with Adversity
Pictured above is Cathey Brown with children at a recent Back-to-School event
by Lisa A. Beach
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it,” said French playwright Molière.
If this is true, then the kids in the Dallas-based Rainbow Days program are headed for a wildly successful future. Why? Because many of these at-risk kids have faced more strife in their childhoods than most people see in a lifetime.
Take Karaan, for example. A teen in the program for six years, he’s watched his mother struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, which led to cycles of joblessness, poverty, and homelessness for the family. But despite this unpredictable, harsh life, Karaan still hopes to be a veterinarian because he loves animals.
“The most important lesson I learned from Rainbow Days is not to give up on my hopes and dreams,” explains Karaan. “Just because you don’t have the resources that other people have doesn’t mean you can’t strive to reach your dreams.”
Founded in 1982 by Cathey Brown, M.Ed., the non-profit Rainbow Days helps kids dealing with adversity build coping skills and resilience to create positive futures. Adversity can take many forms, including abuse, homelessness, poverty, family violence, addiction, divorce, and parental incarceration.
Brown knows first-hand about overcoming adversity. She grew up with an alcoholic dad. Later, she became an addict herself after taking doctor-prescribed valium to ease severe postpartum depression following her daughter’s birth.
After conducting research, talking to others, and going to counseling, Brown realized that addiction is really a family disease. Although there were plenty of resources to help the addict, few existed to support the addict’s children. Brown launched Rainbow Days to fill the void. Her daughter, who was seven at the time, was in that first group of kids to receive support.
At the core of Rainbow Days lies its award-winning Curriculum-Based Support Group—a multi-cultural, evidence-based, preventive program designed for at-risk boys and girls (ages 4-17) facing increased risk for future behavioral and health problems. Its program provides essential life skills to teach kids and teens how to cope with difficult family situations, resist negative peer pressure, respect others, set and achieve goals, make healthy choices, and refuse alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
Rainbow Days partners with schools, homeless shelters, and community organizations to deliver its program at no cost. “We go to where the kids are. We don’t wait around for them to come to us,” says Brown, the non-profit’s CEO.
In each meeting, a leader guides participants in lively discussions on topics such as communication and friendships. Plus, meetings include a game, craft or fun activity to drive the point home in a memorable way. This small group setting provides a safe, confidential environment for children and teens to learn and share.
“Each meeting starts with ‘sunshine and cloud’—a time for kids to share both happy things and difficult things that happened that week,” explains Brown. Kids share both big issues (“My dad has to go back to another country.”) and small issues (“I miss my friends.”), Brown says. “This gives us a chance to find out what’s going on in their lives and gives them a chance to share.”
Besides weekly support groups, Rainbow Days provides a menu of drug-free, life-enrichment services including art retreats, back-to-school celebrations, family outings, holiday events, special outings, and summer camps.
“We’ve literally had generations grow up with our program, providing a range of services that support kids’ needs,” cites Brown. “Over the years, we’ve helped change systems, such as how homeless shelters work within the community. And we’ve helped influence school climate, such as helping schools understand that students will be academically stronger if we take care of their social, emotional, and mental health needs.”
For many kids and teens, like Karaan, Rainbow Days serves as both a beacon of hope and as one of the few constants in their lives.
“It’s really played a big role in my life,” Karaan points out. “It takes me out of the environment I’m used to and lets me know that there is better stuff out there.”
Here’s to more sunshine and fewer clouds.
For more information, visit www.rainbowdays.org.