A lifeline for traumatized children

Nejtek-001-(2)-WEB
Dr. Vicki Nejtek’s research helps improve
programs aimed at helping children exposed
to violence, crime, abuse or psychological trauma.

“I’m 9 years old and I live in a shelter,” says a girl named Victoria. “I don’t tell kids at school where I live because they laugh at me.”

But Victoria says she also attends a group at school called Rainbow Days, learning “how to make healthy choices. I’ve learned that I’m not alone and I have friends.”

Far from being alone, Victoria is among the 60 percent of U.S. children exposed to violence, crime, abuse or psychological trauma. Through programs such as Rainbow Days, known as curriculum-based support groups (CBSGs), caring adults throw a lifeline to at-risk children like Victoria.

A vital part of the Rainbow Days team is Vicki A. Nejtek, PhD, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Director of Co-Occurring Disorders Research and Education at UNT Health Science Center.

Using results from Rainbow Days and the Recovery Resource Council (RRC), Dr. Nejtek recommends improvements in the CBSG program and in the training of people who work with the children.

Every year, 3,300 North Texas children are served by the CBSG program developed and delivered by Rainbow Days in Dallas and delivered by the RRC in Fort Worth.

CBSGs are designed to help young people avoid behavior problems ranging from angry outbursts to law-breaking and substance abuse; and mental health/medical issues such as depression and eating disorders. These problems often stem from physical/sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, living with a substance abuser, divorce, marital discord or homelessness. Chronic harmful experiences interrupt the neural connectivity or “wiring” in children’s brains. They may become unable to cope or to make appropriate decisions.

See the “Victoria” video

“We need to figure out how to change the fact that a lot of the health care money we spend in this country is to treat chronic medical conditions rooted in childhood trauma,” said Rainbow Days Special Projects Director Karen Williams.

“My passion is to provide the clearest interpretation of the data, finding gaps in our knowledge and helping move positive interventions forward,” Dr. Nejtek said.

Rainbow Days gives children 10 weeks’ guidance in constructive behaviors and attitudes, using positive messages to reinforce a healthy emotional life. With CBSG, young people can learn to overcome their early adverse experiences, succeed in school and social settings, and later become productive citizens.

“Sometimes it takes so little to make a huge difference in a child’s life,” Dr. Nejtek said. “The positive influence from an adult who cares enough to listen, teach, mentor and spend quality time with them, even for just one hour a week, helps tremendously.”

Recent News

Techstars Demo Day.
  • On Campus
|Dec 1, 2022

Techstars Demo Day brings innovation to the historic stockyards

For the last 13 weeks, the founders of 10 of the world’s most innovative startups have been in Fort Worth perfecting their new physical health technology. They are part of the world’s first physical health accelerator, and now they are ready to show the fruits of their labor. Techstars Demo D...
Dr. Sid O'bryant Award
  • Our People
|Dec 1, 2022

HSC named the winner of the D Magazines 2022 Achievement in Medical Research Award

The extensive research done by Dr. Sid O’Bryant and his team at the Institute of Translational Research has earned the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth the 2022 Medical Research Award by D Magazine. Dr. O’Bryant, the executive director of the ITR and a professor at t...
Dr. John Licciardone
  • Our People
|Nov 30, 2022

Key study results from HSC’s PRECISION Pain Research Registry published in JAMA Network Open

The Journal of the American Medical Association – Network Open has published findings from a recent HSC study about chronic lower back pain, race and the patient-physician relationship. The study revealed that Black patients reported worse outcomes for low back pain intensity and back-related d...
Ram flyer
  • Community
|Nov 23, 2022

Free pop-up medical, vision and dental clinic is just a week away

  The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and Remote Area Medical – RAM® — a nonprofit provider of pop-up clinics that delivers free quality dental, vision and medical care to those in need — are bringing the free health care clinic to Dallas on Dec. 3 and 4....