No Boy Left Behind

What do you think of when you see a rainbow? When my grandchildren were young, they thought about leprechauns and the legendary pot of gold. Me? I think about Rainbow Services.

I've been with the San Pedro Agency for over twenty years--first as an intern collecting hours for my Marriage Family Therapist license, and later as a board member. We're part of a network of domestic violence agencies providing support, shelter, counseling and legal aid to victims dealing with domestic violence issues.

When I started at Rainbow, they were operating in a dilapidated four bedroom house that did it all--office, shelter and counseling center. Twenty years later the have two shelters and two office buildings. All four places are staffed with caring professionals who help the victims stabilize and recover from violent circumstances.

Our shelters are a safe place where victims can relax and share their experiences and fears with others. But, shelter life is often stressful for children who are traumatized and struggling to cope with the violence they've witnessed or experienced. They can have problems sleeping, regress, become irritable, aggressive, act tough and provoke fights.

For these reasons, most domestic violence shelters refuse to take in teenage boys--but Rainbow Services is different. Elizabeth Eastlund, our Clinical Director, told me, "At Rainbow, we come from a place of how can we help this family? And as far as serving teenage boys, we see them as part of the family and we want to serve everyone in the family who is at risk of continued abuse."

A few years ago, one of our Rainbow Volunteers, Judy Willis, worked with one of these boys, a fifteen year old, staying at the emergency shelter with his mother and two siblings.

Judy's a retired attorney who loves kids. She used to be "Barbie's lawyer when she worked at Mattel. One night a week, she helps the kids at the shelter with their homework, plays games with them, motivates them and helps them feel good about themselves.

This boy (let's call him Daniel) was a challenge. He'd witnessed violence first hand, had to leave his home, friends and change schools. He was old enough to worry about how his mother was going to support them--she's left a successful job to go into the shelter. School wasn't a priority for him, he had problems concentrating and his grades suffered.

Judy worked with Daniel one night a week and his grades began to improve. But not only did she volunteer at Rainbow, she was a volunteer at the College Center at his new high school. She kept an eye on him, helped him adjust and set goals for his future.

After two months, bolstered by Rainbow's help and support, Daniel's mother found another job. The family moved out of the shelter and into an apartment in the area.

Two years later, Daniel was a well liked, straight A student. His dream was to major in premed at a California university. Judy helped him identify appropriate colleges and she proudly told me, "He insisted in filling out every application himself. He received six scholarships and was admitted to a UC school. Daniel's thriving--almost finished with his second year and well on the way to a career in medical research."

Daniel is one of our success stories. His family, one of many who weathered storms and found the pot of gold at Rainbow Services.