Organization for children in need of funds

By Justin Reedy

Rainbow House, a Clayton County-based non-profit organization that runs a shelter and outreach center for abused children, is in dire need of financial support, the head of the organization said.

Phil Kouns, executive director of Rainbow House, briefed the Clayton County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday about the organization's mission in the community. Though Rainbow House was formed 15 years ago, Kouns said, he wanted to explain to commissioners one of the charity's newest efforts n the Rainbow Connection Child Advocacy & Assessment Center.

The center, which was started in Oct. 2000, provides a location where victims of abuse can go for forensic interviews, medical assessments and therapy sessions, Kouns said.

"It's an opportunity for a child, in a child-friendly environment, to talk about an incident of abuse," Kouns told the commission.

The results of the forensic interviews and medical examinations are used for prosecuting cases of abuse, he added, but medical results are also used for treatment purposes, along with individual and group therapy.

Of the 17 such child advocacy centers in Georgia, Kouns said, the Rainbow Connection center is the only one to offer all three major services for abused children n interviewing, medical examinations and therapy.

"The reason this facility is so impressive is because before this center opened, if a child was assaulted, they would have to go to the police department for an interview, then the hospital for a medical examination and then a therapist," he explained. "They'd be telling their story three times in three different environments, further traumatizing a child who has already been traumatized. This is a one-stop location to handle interviewing, examination and therapy."

But since the Rainbow Connection center provides these services at no cost to the children or families involved, they rely on donations from individuals, companies and government agencies.

Though Kouns didn't ask the commission for financial help, he admitted after the meeting that Rainbow House is struggling financially since the economy started downhill in 2001. The entire organization n including the Rainbow House shelter and the Rainbow Connection Center n needs about $100,000 to operate for the rest of the fiscal year, which runs through this summer.

"We've never quite recovered financially since 9/11," Kouns said. "When you have so many worthy charities in this county, there's only so much to go around."

With both individuals and companies struggling financially during the recession, it has been hard for Rainbow House to raise as much money as it has in previous years, according to Michele Bronstein, the organization's spokeswoman. More and more people seem to find themselves in a situation where they can't spare $10 to a local charity anymore, she said.

"Our charitable contributions are down because people just don't have that money any more," Bronstein said. "Companies also don't have as much money to go around."

Kouns and the rest of the Rainbow House staff are appreciative of all that the commission and other agencies and organizations do to support the shelter, he said, but they are in "dire need" of help and hope to get some support soon.

Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer, who was a founding board member of Rainbow House when it was started 15 years ago, is optimistic that the county will be able to help the organization.

"I know enough about Rainbow House and its operations, and its value to the community, to know that we'll get behind that and find some money," Rhodenizer said.

With as many charities as there are in Clayton County, Kouns knows it could be difficult for Rainbow House to secure the funding it needs. But he hopes that people see the value in helping abused children who aren't always capable of helping themselves.

"It's all about kids n these are not adults who can take care of themselves," Kouns said. "This is a way for the community to help take care of its future. We wish we didn't need a place like Rainbow House, but we do."