Young Caregivers

Although children are usually thought of as needing, not providing care, many children in the U.S. and elsewhere are involved in many aspects of providing care for ill parents, grandparents, or siblings.

According to Young Caregivers in the U.S. (2005) a report of the National Alliance of Caregivers and United Hospital Fund:

  • As many as 1.4 million children in the United States between the ages of 8 and 18 provide care for an older adult or a sibling, including approximately 400,000 youngsters who are between the ages of 8 and 11. This is as many children as there are in the combined school systems (grades 3-12) in New York City, Chicago, and the District of Columbia.
  • Many of these children are members of minority groups and are from single-parent, low income families.
  • A third (30%) of child caregivers help with medications and 17% help the care recipient communicate with doctors or nurses.
  • 35% of child caregivers in minority households report having no help in dispensing medications, compared to 11% in non-minority households.
  • About half (49%) of the caregivers report that they spend “a lot of time” caregiving.
  • According to parents’ reports of their child’s behavior, child caregivers tend to exhibit more anxious or depressive behavior than noncaregivers.
  • Participation in school activities, school performance, and achievement is also affected.
  • Children who are caregivers are more likely to have trouble getting along with teachers, to bully or act mean toward others, and to associate with kids who get into trouble.
  • The percentage is about equal of boy and girl caregivers, but boys seem to have greater difficulties than girls, particularly in feelings of isolation and sadness and in behavior and school problems.
  • This is a markedly understudied area. Much future research is needed.

Young caregiversCase Example
“Partly paralyzed, with diabetes and colitis, Linda Lent needs extensive care at home. But with her husband working long hours as a bus driver, Mrs. Lent, 47, relies on a caregiver who travels by school bus, toting a homework-filled backpack: her thirteen-year old daughter, Annmarie. Annmarie injects migraine medicine, takes blood from her mother’s finger for tests, and responds to seizures - responsibilities she, at times, finds overwhelming.” New York Times, February 22, 2009

Resources

Young Caregivers in the U.S. (2005) a report of the National Alliance of Caregivers and United Hospital Fund

The American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) is devoted to providing information and support to children in caregiving roles in their families.

AACY’s Caregiving Youth Project (CYP) is a comprehensive program to address the challenges faced by children who take care of ill, injured, elderly or disabled family members. It promotes social and system change by integrating healthcare (body), education (mind) and the community (spirit) to create a solid foundation of support services. Children under 13 need parental permission to be able to access their program information. Children 13 and over can go directly to their program information.

Working With Young Caregivers web page of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers provides information designed to help professionals in all areas work more effectively with young carers. It covers everything from identification of young carers, through to the transition to adulthood.