WHO IS A YOUNG CARER?
Young Carers are children, youth and young adults, who are in a caregiving role for a family member needing assistance with their daily lived experience due to:
- Chronic Illness
- Disability (physical or intellectual)
- Mental Health Issue
- Addiction Issue
- Socio-Economic Factors (ie. language barrier, single parent household, military, jail, etc.)
Young Carers help the person they care for by:
- Providing Personal Care
- Giving medications
- Completing Household Chores
- Making meals
- Washing dishes
- Cleaning and laundry
- Providing Sibling Care
- Supervising brothers and sisters
- Getting ready for school or bedtime
- Helping with homework
- Providing Financial/Practical Care
- Paying bills
- Working to support the family
- Giving Emotional Support
- Supervising the person needing care
- Offering encouragement
- And so much more….
“12% of youth are in a caregiving role” (Grant Charles, Ph.D., Young Carers in Canada: The Hidden Costs and Benefits of Young Caregiving, 2012)
Upside of Caring
- Young Carers are more mature and wise
- Builds self-esteem and compassion
- Independence leads to learning life skills
- Learn to cope with tough times – builds resiliency
- Fosters close family bonds
Other Side of Caring
- Loss of childhood – growing up too soon
- School/work can suffer
- Feelings of anger, isolation, loneliness, grief
- Some Carers become depressed or suffer from anxiety
- Restrictions on socializing and extra-curricular activities
What Young Carers Need:
- They need to be heard
- Support to invest in their own physical and emotional health
- Recognition for their important contributions to their families
- Peer support…meeting with other Carers in similar situations
- A break from their caregiving responsibilities
- Age appropriate information about their relative’s illness or disability
- Encouragement to consider choices about their future
- Recreation and social activities
In 2003, the Young Carers Initiative was created as a special project of the Alzheimer Society of the Niagara Region (ASNR). The ASNR provides support services for people with dementia and their families. During home visits to clients and their caregivers, the ASNR had noticed many children and youth taking on caregiving roles to help out the family. The ASNR identified 74 children and youth who lived with a parent, grandparent or other relative suffering from a progressive dementia, and it became clear that many of these children struggled with stress and anxiety, or other emotional problems. Building on the principle “Caregiving is a family event,” the ASNR decided to take action.
The ASNR successfully approached the Fowler Foundation for a grant of $68,000 to start a project aimed at supporting children in dementia care environments. The one-year project had two main goals. The first goal was to start a network of community agencies to devise ways of supporting children who provide care for a relative with dementia. A second goal was to conduct an extensive literature review. This research led to the discovery of the Young Carers’ movement which had started in Britain in the early 1990s, and had spread around the world. This movement was dedicated to making life easier for children and youth (i.e. Young Carers) who provided care for family members with chronic conditions, substance abuse issues, mental health issues, and/ or provided translation services for immigrant and refugee parents. The ASNR decided to open up the project to include youth under 18 involved in any kind of caregiving situation, not just dementia care, and the Young Carers Initiative Niagara (YCIN) was born.
Using Trillium Foundation funding, the YCIN recruited 17 community agencies, all with a common interest in helping children and youth in caregiving families. Activities over the three-year life-span of the network included conducting research into Young Carers in the Niagara Region, with the results of the study published by Dr. Heather Chalmers, PhD from the Department of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University, St. Catharines. Other major accomplishments included developing educational and promotional materials on Young Carers, creating public awareness, and delivering a limited number of programs especially designed to support Young Carers. An important component of these programs was the opportunity for Young Carers to meet other kids in caregiving roles, and give them a chance just to “goof off and be kids” with their peers. Peer support has proven to be very beneficial for Young Carers and decreases levels of isolation and stress in their young lives.
In 2006, public awareness efforts included the first conference on Young Carers ever to be held in Canada. The “Bouncing Back” conference in Niagara Falls attracted 100 participants from across Canada, as well as Florida, Texas and the U.K.
The YCIN ended officially in 2006 when its two-year Trillium grant ran out. A determined group of individuals revived the project in 2007 as an independent registered charity – the Young Carers Initiative (YCI). With the support of Alzheimer’s Society of Haldimand-Norfolk, the YCI received funding from the LHIN’s “Aging at Home” Initiative…which has supported the creation of the Powerhouse Project in August 2008.
Views expressed are the views of the Young Carers Initiative and do not necessarily reflect those of the Alzheimer Society BHNHH, the LHIN or the Government of Ontario.
Young Carers Initiative – Powerhouse Project is grateful to the many community agencies that have invested in our vision of support for Young Carers and their families over the years in the Niagara and Haldimand-Norfolk Regions. Today we are currently collaborating with:
Niagara: Alzheimer Society BHNHH, Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region, MS Society, Niagara College, Brock University, Family and Children’s Services, Quest Community Health Centre, Niagara Falls Community Health Centre, Family Support Network of Niagara, Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Catharines-Thorold and District, John Howard Society of Niagara, Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre, Bethesda Services, Autism Ontario – Niagara Region, Daval Hospice, Boys and Girls Club of Niagara
Haldimand-Norfolk: Alzheimer Society BHNHH, REACH Haldimand Norfolk, Autism Ontario, Children’s Aid Society Haldimand Norfolk, Ontario Early Years Centre Haldimand Norfolk, Haldimand Abilities Centre, Brant Haldimand Norfolk Alzheimer Society, Brain Injury Services Haldimand Norfolk, CNIB Haldimand Norfolk, Community Support Centre (CYPRESS), Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit, Big Brothers Big Sisters
Young Carers Initiative Board of Directors
- Chistina Smith, Board Chair
- Laura Dumas, Secretary
- Rhiarn Wales, Director
- Vanessa Coens, Director
- Pam Isaak, Director
- Tracey Marshall, Director
- John Woods, Director
To enquire about joining the Board of Directors, complete our Information Request Form.
Commitment to Quality
Young Carers Initiative, including Powerhouse Project, strives to operate in a professional and courteous manner. As part of our commitment to creating a supportive and open organizational culture, we are committed to ethical and responsible management, transparency in decision-making processes and a visible, accessible, fair complaints process. We believe complaints can provide an opportunity to review and improve our policies and practices, and also to gain insight into current levels of satisfaction. The information received through a complaints/feedback process can assist our agency to take steps to improve service practices.
Please see our Complaints Policy for more details.