Breaking the Cycle of Health Disparities: The Essential Inclusion of Caregiving Youth

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New Study from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Reveals the Growing, Yet Hidden Population of Children Caregivers

There are an additional 3.4 million children under the age of 18 years who are assisting with care, standing in the adults caregivers’ shadow.

A new study from the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP finds that among the 48 million adult family caregivers of recipients aged 18 and over in the U.S., there are an additional 3.4 million children under the age of 18 years who are assisting with care, standing in the adults caregivers’ shadow. It is past time that public recognition and support is afforded to these children so they can achieve academic and personal success. The report is available here.

Managing the care recipient’s disease or condition has a ripple effect on the caregiver’s family unit, and children in the home may be called upon to carry out care tasks especially in the absence of resources. Among those who report the presence of other unpaid help (53 percent), 14 percent report at least one of those unpaid caregivers is a child under age 18. This data indicates that of the 48 million caregivers of adults, 7 percent report the presence of a child caregiver. The study also finds that financial impacts tend to be greater among young caregivers, with 39 percent of caregivers aged 18-49 facing impacts on their savings, and 37 percent experiencing impacts related to financial debt.

“Caregiving impacts families, communities, and children, who tend to be disproportionately affected. This research reveals the acute challenges that young caregivers face, and the need to support this growing population,” said C. Grace Whiting, J.D., President and CEO the National Alliance for Caregiving. “Other research also points to the impact of caregiving on multiple people in the family, and relationships between family members.”

Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 is not inclusive of single parent or grandparent households in which the child or grandchild are the sole providers of care. However, there is other recent data that points to the prevalence and challenges of youth caregiving. The spring 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sanctioned “Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” administered by the Department of Health in Florida public schools, included a question about caregiving. The survey found that 23.6% of middle school students and 16.4% of high school students in Florida public schools are participating in some type of care for a family member with a health condition.

Through its Caregiving Youth Project, The American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY), based in Florida, has found that the trickle-down impact relative to health disparities is evident among the more than 1,700 youth who have been receiving free academic and youth development services in and out of school and at home. Among the identified risk factors within these ages include poverty, prenatal care, premature births, inability to achieve third grade level reading, teen births, child abuse, and high school graduation. With support the AACY has transformed lives resulting in a 98.3% average high school graduation rate with more than 90% going on to post-secondary education, including many entering healthcare.

“These children, whose education is an adult responsibility, must become recognized as providers of health care at home,” said Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD, President and Founder of AACY. “They must be included in public health policy for family caregiving, support, and solutions. That they are in this role is through no fault of their own; no child in our country should have to drop out of school to provide care for family members. With state and federal recognition and support, together we can help break the cycle of health disparities.”

One student recently wrote, “My mom didn't have a car or her driver's license, which meant that we had to catch a bus to get to the doctor’s office. When we were there I would be so scared when it came to translating for my mom, or explaining to her what her medication was and when she had to take them, scared to say the wrong things, but I had to explain the best way I could. At times my mom would be embarrassed that her daughter had to translate for her, but I felt as if it was my duty to care for her. I was all the help she really could get at that time… As the years went by, my mom's sickness just kept getting worse and life was repeating itself. I wake up, clean, cook, help my mom with her medication, take her blood pressure, measure her blood sugar, and help my sister. I felt as if I never had time to enjoy my childhood.”


About the National Alliance for Caregiving
Established in 1996, the National Alliance for Caregiving is a non-profit coalition of national organizations focusing on advancing family caregiving through research, innovation, and advocacy. NAC conducts research, does policy analysis, develops national best-practice programs, and works to increase public awareness of family caregiving issues. Recognizing that family caregivers provide significant societal and financial contributions toward maintaining the well-being of those in their care, NAC supports a network of more than 80 state and local caregiving coalitions and serves as Secretariat for the International Alliance of Carer Organizations (IACO). Learn more at

About the American Association of Caregiving Youth
The American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) is the only organization solely dedicated to the academic and personal success of children caregivers. Working within systems of healthcare, education and the community, AACY has been providing prioritized and needs-driven support services for caregiving youth and their families in Palm Beach County, Florida since 2006 through its Caregiving Youth Project (CYP). It has also established the Caregiving Youth Institute, an Affiliate Network and a growing number of national partnerships.

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Charlotte Davidson, National Alliance for Caregiving

Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD President and Founder, AACY

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