Rainbow Families, a small, grassroots nonprofit has been delivering education, connections and advocacy for LGBTQ families for nearly 35 years in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
Executive director Darren Vance said over the last three decades, Rainbow Families has consistently offered a six-week education program that teaches prospective parents on the options for LGBTQ+ parenthood, including consideration of the legal hoops to jump through.
Not only this, Rainbow Families also offers support groups and opportunities to connect with other families, plus resources including affirming businesses and service providers. The volunteer-led organization is supported by members, community sponsors and both public and private foundations. Rainbow Families envisions, and strives for, a nation where all LGBTQ+ families can legally, openly and safely live in full equality. – Rainbow Families vision statement
Rainbow Families was launched in 1988, led by Scott Davenport and Tim Fischer. And according to Vance, in 2008, the organization officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. As the onset of COVID pushed the world to a halt in March 2020, Vance and his staff quickly shifted the organization’s programs to an online platform, including its first-ever virtual Family Conference, yielding its largest attendance on record. The Family Conference has been held annually since 2003 and hosts several discussions, forums, a resource fair, speakers and opportunities to meet like individuals. At the event, awards are also granted for Heroes of the Year and Volunteers of the Year.
By the start of 2022, Rainbow Families was reaching an average of 10,000 families each month through memberships and other communication channels.
“What I hear often, is how difficult it is to find queer-affirming services, even in larger cities, especially integrity-based LGBTQ+ parenthood planning,” Vance said.
Among providing services to LGBTQ+ families, Vance said Rainbow Families offers workshops and one-on-one meetings to introduce people to the right resources they may need for a specific scenario. And with this, the organization also holds weekend camping getaways and other events to connect
“We used to be all about the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region but because of COVID – when we switched everything to virtual – we discovered people were joining and engaging with Rainbow
Families from all over the country,” Vance said. “We now plan to keep our support groups and other programs virtual indefinitely.”
He also said the organization is somewhat of a “sweet spot” because though there is a wide engagement, they are structured to provide meaningful, personal connections and services.
“One of the ways that I get such joy from my role here is receiving feedback from families who are thankful for finding us and for being able to take advantage of the services we offer,” he explained. “That really gets to the meaning of our mission: we are here for our community.”