The NCSMH Conference in New Orleans and Working Alongside Dr. Andrea Roberts, PhD
By Stephanie Garrity
When you are asked to present a joint program at a national conference with Andrea Roberts, PhD, you should definitely say, “YES!”
Rainbows for All Children began our relationship with Andrea nearly six years ago when she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health & the Center for Childhood Resilience at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Andrea partnered with us to analyze survey data collected from youth in Rainbows guided peer support programs.
We submitted our proposal to the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in May 2023. When the approval of our presentation, “Rainbows for All Children: A Grief and Loss Intervention for Students and Using Progress Monitoring to Assess Effectiveness” arrived in August for the Advancing School Mental Health Conference, we were over the moon and thrilled to be able to share the life-changing work of the Rainbows program.
Thus, Dr. Roberts and I found ourselves in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 5th-7th, along with 2,500 other professionals dedicated to improving youth mental health. Rainbows hosted an exhibitor table, as well as presented the conference session, which meant I met some AMAZING people from places like Alaska, California, North and South Carolina, New York and everywhere in between!
During our conference session, we presented information about Rainbows programming and then transitioned into the survey outcomes. The questions in the surveys assessed metrics of resilience, including use of positive coping skills, social support, and self-esteem. Participants and caregivers completed surveys at the beginning and end of their participation in one of Rainbows’ programs. Parent report data was collected for 3-5 year olds and both parent and participant data was collected for the Rainbows programs. Group facilitators also completed a survey on group dynamics and engagement for the group as a whole at the end of the program.
In addition to demographic information and the types of loss for which families were seeking support, we found some exciting trends. Across all levels of Rainbows, participants showed significant improvement in factors associated with resilience. That effectiveness did not differ based on gender or type of loss.
- 80% of group participants surveyed said they would recommend Rainbows to their peers who needed help navigating loss and uncertainty
- 72% of participant reported sharing their feelings openly in group
- 85% of participants felt they were listened to in their group
- 83% of participants reported that their group kept information they shared in confidence
- 70% of participants said being in group helped them to feel less sad.
Ultimately, Dr. Roberts concluded Rainbows is an effective Tier II intervention program to support resilience among youth who have experienced grief and loss. Over 40 years, we have consistently supported youth in their darkest times, helping them to see light again and to recognize they are not alone on their journey. Working with Dr. Roberts was another example of the incredible professionals who support this life-changing work and I am deeply grateful for her, as well as the many others who have examined the Rainbows curriculum and validated its efficacy.