What our Friends in Australia have learned
That for a variety of reasons, caregiving youth are often reluctant or perhaps unable to identify themselves. Some children feel that they shouldn’t discuss their family’s problems, others find it hard to ask for help, some feat the ramifications if they identify themselves and some do not even recognize their role as a young caregiver.
TEACHERS CAN MAKE A HUGE IMPACT on their lives just by being aware, by listening to them and by believing their stories.
WHEN ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED, young caregiving can be a positive experience that can give skills and confidence, strengthen family relationships and increase a student’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Students may not identify themselves or ask for help because they FEAR BEING REMOVED from their family. They may also think that what they are doing is normal or they may perceive others will think they are "different".
Sometimes it TAKES A CRISIS to identify a young caregiver. And, sometimes this crisis COULD BE PREVENTED if the student had adequate support.
"Young carers take on huge responsibilities that often restrict them in pursuing the activities necessary for them to maintain good health. They can be particularly vulnerable if they are not regularly active and do not have a healthy diet."
Research shows that the mental health of youth is enhanced when they are able to participate in formal and informal activities.
Young caregivers seek leisure time outcomes as much as their peers expect:
* Opportunities to form and reaffirm friendships
* Variety and a break from studying
* Challenges to their skills
* Personal involvement
WAYS TEACHERS CAN HELP!
* Assure that young caregivers have flexibility in the scheduling of activity participation.
* Ensure that students are informed about their own health and nutritional status needed to carry out their extra responsibilities.
* Encourage students to participate in athletic activities even if they cannot make a full season commitment.
* Refer students to school and community resources for help:
* Health professionals
* Support groups
* Respite on a regular basis and including getting away
* Websites and information services
* Financial help when needed
* Communicate understanding and that they are not alone in their journey.
Materials adapted with permission from Carers Australia.
How School Nurses Can Assist Caregiving Youth
# Raise awareness of issues of caregiving youth
# Be a resource for concerned parents & grandparents about the effects of family health situations on their children
# Create an open environment to promote communication with caregiving youth
# When possible, connect young caregiving youth with each other
# Foster relationships with community support services
# Participate in the development of support materials
# Provide feedback to AACY about your experiences and what you are finding helpful in support of young caregiver students at your school
# Partner with the American Red Cross to conduct CPR and First Aid skills
# Encourage students to request help by email or telephone
# Advocate for caregiving youth
# Take a proactive role - contact us about developing a Caregiving Youth Project or a Caregiving Youth Club within your school to further the goals of:
* Education & Awareness
* Direct Services
# Refer students to Internet resources
* www.youngcarers.net (in the U.K.)
Caregiving youth are children and adolescents who look after someone in their family who has an illness, a disability, frailty from aging, a mental health problem or a substance misuse problem. They take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that normally would be the role of an adult.
The caring can involve lots of physical care such as personal care for a parent, giving medication, helping someone get up, dressed, and/or moving around. It can also mean providing emotional support for someone who has one of the conditions above or who has a mental health problem or misuses substances. In addition, many caregiving youth also have responsibilities for younger brothers and sisters and all or most of the household chores.
In ways very similar to adult family caregivers, caregiving youth, because of their caregiving role, may incur negative ramifications on their health, well being, and education.
After months of reaching out to the public to raise awareness about the issues surrounding the role of children and adolescents in long-term care, AACY began using the term "caregiving youth" in place of "young caregivers" to reduce public confusion about the term "young".
How School Social Workers Can Assist
–Tips from the Caregiving Youth Project
Raise awareness of issues facing caregiving youth to school staff – these may include tardiness, absenteeism, missing assignments, underachieving, bullying;
Encourage teachers, administrators and nurses to refer students to social work staff when family health situations are identified;
Be a resource for parents & grandparents struggling with the effects of family health situations;
Have knowledge of community-based healthcare resources;
Foster relationships with community support services for student caregivers - tutoring, counseling, financial assistance, and food resources are common needs;
Encourage students to request help by calling AACY at 800-725-2512;
When possible, connect caregiving youth peers with each other, through support group or club meetings – note that staying after school is often difficult for caregiving youth;
Provide feedback to AACY about experiences and what you are finding helpful in support of your caregiver students at your school;
Support National Family Caregivers Month activities in November;
Advocate for caregiving youth in educational and professional groups;
Take a proactive role – contact us about developing a Caregiving Youth Project within your school to further the objectives of recognizing and supporting this hidden population so they can remain in school and become healthy productive adults;
Refer students to internet resources
www.aacy.org (American Association of Caregiving Youth)
www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/children.htm (for children with a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease)
www.needymeds.com (NeedyMeds is a good source of information on patient assistance programs.)
www.youngcarers.net (in the U.K)