Of the many things that make Madison unique, one of the most revering has to be the relationship between the community and its many volunteers. Most cities are too big for outsiders to notice the impact of local organizations, while others are too small to sufficiently grow a force to back a wider range of causes. Due to this unique setup, Madison creates an environment where those working hard to help the community are supported by those working hard to keep the city cohesive.
This setup has allowed the Rainbow Project to do great work for Madison families since its inception, in 1980. The Rainbow Project is a local nonprofit child and family counseling and resource clinic offering a full range of prevention, early-intervention, crisis-response, and treatment services to young children (infants through 10-year-olds) and their families who have experienced trauma, including child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and community violence.
In 2016 alone, the Rainbow Project was able to serve 654 children and 743 caregivers through the programs they offer, bringing the grand total as of this writing to 11,423 children and 10,968 caregivers. They credit their success to best-practice specialized trauma work. Gifted Rainbow Project clinicians are certified and experienced in practicing a wide range of services, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Child-Parent Psychotherapy, Infant Mental Health Capstone certification, Psychological First Aid, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Theraplay, play therapy, emotion coaching parenting groups, and motivational interviewing.
The Rainbow Project has always prided itself on being at the forefront of methodology when it comes to child-abuse prevention and intervention, and that takes more than just having a strong background in contemporary psychology practices and evidence-based tactics. Long before wraparound services, utilizing mindfulness and dyadic teaching, and strength-based and mental health collaboration/consultation with schools and early childhood programs were common, Rainbow Project was using them as pillars for their support models. In fact, these practices have been the bread and butter of Rainbow Project since they opened their doors.
Utilizing a hands-on, comprehensive approach, the Rainbow Project is unlike any other therapy clinic. Home visits, day care visits, and school visits are all in the job description. In fact, the visits are one of the reasons why working at Rainbow Project is part of the required curriculum for any University of Wisconsin–Madison Child & Adolescent Psychiatry student who elects to specialize in child psychiatry. Considering how closely Rainbow Project specialists work with children and caregivers, having a strong relationship with law enforcement and the courts is essential not only to protect the rights of trauma victims, but to also bring offenders to justice. Many of the Rainbow Project’s clients are referrals from the legal system who are victims of some of the most tragic cases occurring in our community.
Moving forward, the future for the Rainbow Project looks bright. They’re deepening, enriching, and expanding the current 10 programs they’ve established over the years: Rainbow Rapid Response Team, CORE Program (offering on-site classroom observation and consultation alongside training for early childhood and elementary-school-age programs), Spanish speaking program services, parenting support groups, FACE, BOUNCE BACK and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) groups, speakers bureau, Safe Step (a program to ensure trauma and behavioral health screening and treatment occur following forensic interviews), Grandparents and Other Relatives as Parents support group, and Children of Violent Homes (services for children exposed to domestic violence).
If everything the Rainbow Project does sounds like too much for one company to accomplish alone, it is. Volunteers, stakeholders, and private funding are vital to keeping the Rainbow Project’s momentum on pace. In 2016, the Madison Club hosted an elegant fundraiser benefit, Stepping Up * Rockin’ for the Rainbow Project, featuring a dance challenge where Jen Cheatham, superintendent of the Madison Schools, and her husband, Reggie, competed against Ismael Ozanne, Dane County district attorney, and his wife, Stacey. The challenge ended in a tie, but the fundraiser was a win.
Another successful annual event, Rhumba4Rainbow, occurred in September 2016, welcoming over 700 guests who were entertained by a jaw-dropping floor show of world champion salsa dancers. The event recognized Extra Mile Award recipients for their child- and family-advocacy work in our community. At least 55 volunteers helped make the annual fundraising gala event a success.
Speaking of volunteers, there is no way the Rainbow Project could have their three active parent groups going throughout the year without the help of childcare volunteers and those that help with clerical, maintenance, and repair work; clinical consultation; training in-services; replenishing food/snacks; and technical assistance lending their legal, realty, financial, clinical expertise, and organizational development to enrich the organization.
In addition to all these wonderful exemplifiers of giving back, it’s hard to ignore Design 4 a Difference’s, led by Bob Tobe and Floor360, gift of a lifetime. The organization is a national initiative where various business partners choose nonprofit agencies to receive a major renovation free of cost. Locally, there were 33 interior designers and over 200 businesses who bestowed their magic upon the Rainbow Project. With planning and research beginning in April 2016 and culminating that same year in October, transforming the interior of the Rainbow Project Clinic was completed. The result was a beautiful, calming, and positive environment.
All these efforts have proven to be even more critical over the past few years due to recent cutbacks in government budgets. Not every community has the resources to come together and pull for humanitarian efforts that can’t always be reduced to a dollar amount. The community of Madison has allowed the Rainbow Project to form partnerships with public health agencies, visiting nurses, and pediatricians to address the primary health symptoms of trauma in young children and their caregivers. The Rainbow Project is always thankful for the individual and group efforts shown to ensure they continue providing their services as they continue to be innovative and search for new and different treatment paths in the field of child-abuse prevention and intervention.
Sharyl Kato is the executive director and a child and family therapist at the Rainbow Project, Inc.
831 East Washington Avenue
Madison, WI 53703