It takes a village...Local foster families depend on Rainbow Room for support

by Cristin Parker

After raising four boys – one of whom was adopted – Cherokee County residents Regina and Richard Simmons decided two things: 1) they weren’t finished being parents and 2) this time they wanted girls.

The Simmonses have fostered more than 70 children over the years, and every one, Regina said, has left their mark on their hearts.

“God knows there’s a reason these kids come to us,” Regina Simmons said. “Our lives are so full because of our kids – it’s just amazing.”

The couple is one of only seven local families that foster children in need. As of June 16, there are 42 Cherokee County children in foster care – only five of whom have been placed in homes in Cherokee County. In Texas, the total number of foster kids from infants to 17 years old is 16,721, according to the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS).

“When children can’t live safely at home, CPS tries to find relatives and family friends who can provide stability while the children can’t live with their parents,” the DFPS’s website states. “If no one can be found, the court can give temporary legal custody to CPS, who then places the children in foster care.”

That’s when families like the Simmonses step in. Regina said her husband Richard, a carpenter by trade, has worked to get their home set up to house four children at a time.

“He especially enjoyed remodeling our downstairs bathroom,” Simmons shared with a laugh. “He painted it hot pink and outfitted it with custom bow holders – every little girl that comes to us just falls in love with this bathroom!”

Simmons herself is a cheerleading coach at Bullard ISD and all her girls are invited to join the team. Regina also makes a scrapbook for each of her children, highlighting all the fun the family has together, including trips to Splash Kingdom and Fiesta Texas.

“We’re always looking for things that the group can enjoy,” Simmons said. “And the organizations and agencies that help us be able to get to some of these places – we can’t thank them enough!”

One local agency, the Cherokee County Child & Family Welfare Board (CCFWB), assists the Simmonses and other families through the county’s Rainbow Room.

“It takes a very special kind of person to open their homes to these kids, who quite literally having nothing,” Cherokee County Family Welfare Board member Shirley Reese said. “We always wish we could offer more homes like the ones we’ve already got serving our community, and we couldn’t ask for more from those same families. All we can do is continue to be grateful and thankful for them and try to support them as best we can.”

The Rainbow Room, which is stocked solely with donations from the community, provides the necessities to children who are removed from abusive or neglectful homes. Clothing, personal hygiene items, school supplies, shoes, toys and books, diapers, even car seats and other equipment are all ready to go when a child is in need.

“It’s very much a relief to CPS workers and foster families that the Rainbow Room is there,” said Simmons, who admits to becoming a savvy shopper of sales in order to keep a stock of items on hand at her home. “These children very often come to us with nothing except the clothes on their backs.

“They get to go into the Rainbow Room and choose things themselves – a first for a lot of them. And so many of them, even the older kids, just want a stuffed toy to hug, to comfort them in what can sometimes be a pretty terrible situation.

“It breaks your heart, but at the same time it fills your heart too, to know the Rainbow Room is there.”

Cherokee County’s Rainbow Room is located at the Cherokee County DFPS office, 1037 SE Loop 456, in Jacksonville and is directed by the CCFWB.

“The Rainbow Room is an emergency resource room that stocks items like diapers, formula, car seats, clothing, hygiene products and other necessities for CPS caseworkers to use when children arrive to the foster or adoptive home with little or nothing,” the DFPS’s website states. “The Rainbow Room motto is ‘abused and neglected children do not deserve abused and neglected things.’”

Anyone interested in supporting the Rainbow Room can participate in the Christmas in July donation drive, going on through the month of July.

Visit the Jacksonville and Rusk public libraries and the Stella Hill Memorial Library in Alto and get a Sonic to-go bag; inside each bag is a list of items the Rainbow Room always needs; fill the Sonic bag with items from the list and take it back to the library; drive volunteers will collect filled bags through the month of July and present all donations to the Rainbow Room during the first week in August.

Visit for more information on to make a monetary donation to the Cherokee County Rainbow Room.

Call 1-800-252-5400 to report abuse, neglect or exploitation of children, the elderly, or people with disabilities, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit www.txabusehotlineorg.