There are over 1.4 million youth caregivers from age 8-18 in the U.S. This “Hidden Population” suffers from a systemic lack of support from their schools and communities which can have direct consequences for a youth’s ability to succeed. In 2006, the Gates Foundation issued a report, The Silent Epidemic, which showed that 22% of high school dropouts leave school to care for family members. After multiple encounters with youth caregivers, the Board of Directors of Caregivers Outreach Mentorship Empowerment (COME) decided to expand beyond its dynamic work with adult family caregivers and establish the Youth Caregivers Initiative (YCI).
In 2015, COME collected data from 454 grades 6 to 11 in School District 11 in the Bronx. Of the 454 students, 43% indicated they were youth caregivers. These students assisted a sick, disabled sibling, adult, or older person in or outside of their home. In addition to indicating that they were youth caregivers, these youth also noted that:
· They felt isolated, ashamed, embarrassed about their role, and afraid to share their caregiving status with their teacher, guidance counselor, school nurse, etc.
· The role of youth caring had a detrimental impact on their schoolwork, social activities, and stress level.
· They were not aware of how to express their needs and concerns.
COME recognized a need for a multifaceted approach to bringing the youth caregivers out of the shadows and into the light to finally receive the support they needed; with the inception of a Youth Caregivers Initiative (YCI), SHARKS Program (Students Helping and Assisting Relative with Knowledge and Skills) The program solely recognizes and supports youth from ages 12 to 22 years of age caring for an ill, disabled, sibling, adult, or elderly family member. The program offers educational and emotional support sessions, respite, community outreach opportunities, and scholarships to college.
The Youth Caregiver Initiative focuses its work on three Programmatic areas with the goal of making a substantive and far-reaching impact in the Youth Caregiving Landscape:
The SHARKS Program- Direct Student Services
Research and Coalition Building
Partner with schools to create conditions where school engage youth caregivers with programming that support their health and well-being. Partner with and educate healthcare professionals to provide resources and tools to support youth caregivers. To do this, COME needs to have data to both substantiate the need and develop resources for the population.
Our 2024 Research Agenda include:
Assessing the need for youth caregivers support in the NYC Public schools.
Assessing the effect of caring on a youth’s psychological, physical, emotional, social, and academic status.
Our 2024 Coalition Building Targets include the following:
Partnering with NYC public school educators to increase the awareness of the needs of youth caregivers and provide Youth Caregivers with support services that will have a positive effect on their physical, psychological, emotional, social, and academic well-being.
Partnering with healthcare organizations to educate the professional staff on how to recognize youth caregivers and provide resources in support of youth caregivers.
Partnering with community organizations to host a Youth Caregivers Symposium.
Creating a community in both the education and healthcare space to advocate for policy, regulations, and legislation supporting family caregivers.
To bring awareness to the hidden"
population" of youth caregivers and provide youth them with support services that will have a positive impact on
their academic, social, physical,
psychological and spiritual well-being.
To empower the youth caregivers with the tools, resources, and support to successfully balance life as an adolescent, student & caregiver.
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