Problem: There were no organized U.S. support services for caregiving children and adolescents yet they, like their adult family caregiver counterparts, incur consequences from caregiving in their health, well-being, education, and in their lives.
Background of Evidence: For more than a decade researchers in the U.K. and more recently in Australia have documented and addressed the issues surrounding "young carers". The first U.S. study, released in September 2005, documented that there are at least 1.3-1.4 million caregiving youth of whom 72% care for a grandparent or parent. Those most adversely affected live in single parent and lower income homes. In 2002, Palm Beach County research revealed a high prevalence of caregiving responsibilities among students as well as negative ramifications on their education. Among middle school students, those most affected were minority boys who attend Title I schools. Palm Beach County population demographics include a higher than U.S. norm older population, younger disabled, single parent households, prevalence of HIV/AIDS, grandparents as parents, and cultural/ethnic diversity all of which compounds and contributes to a high prevalence of family health and caregiving situations.
Project Description: In response to the issues and as a natural extension of their core services, what was VHFC established the first U.S. Caregiving Youth Project (CYP) with the objectives of education and awareness, research, and direct services. At this time, the Caregiving Youth Partners' Project (CYPP) is creating an evaluation-based model among middle school student-caregivers to address caregiving ramifications including isolation and activity restrictions that may hinder their psychosocial, emotional, developmental, physical health, education opportunities, and well-being. The CYP offers in-school counseling, didactic and informal education, skills building, family evaluation to assure linkages to existing services, and sponsored activities including the CYP club as students progress to high school to increase caregiving children's satisfaction with life and decrease somatization, depression, anxiety, and poor coping strategies.
Project Objectives: The broad mission of the CYP is to return to caregiving youth some of their childhood back by identifying, educating, and supporting caregiving middle school students. Specifically, the CYP will: a) Increase awareness of caregiving youth issues throughout the Palm Beach County health and education communities; b) Identify and prioritize students in most need of services through survey and assessment; c) Reduce anxiety, depression and increase caregiving children's satisfaction with life through the provision of counseling, education, and support services including respite and sponsored activities; and d) Conduct in-home evaluations to link families with existing support services; and e) Build a replicable project model.
Program Sustainability: The CYP has been working closely and cooperatively with the Safe Schools Program of the School District of Palm Beach County, the umbrella for drop-out prevention activities. The Silent Epidemic reports that among students who drop out of school for personal reasons, 22% do so to care for a family member. We will compare the drop out rate of students in a control group vs. those receiving CYP support. As a means of drop out prevention and associated dollars, with support, caregiving youth should be able to remain in school.
Project Funding: The CYP in conjunction with the Schmidt Family Foundation and The Toppel Family Foundation worked to build a coalition of committed and pending funding partners including Palm Healthcare Foundaton, Gertrude E. Skelly Charitable Foundation, The Jim Moran Foundation, P.L. Dodge Foundation, John W. Henry Foundation, the Lattner Family Foundation, BankAtlantic Foundation and subsequently the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Local Initiative Funding Partners .
Since that time, other foundations have joined to support the CYP.