Like a kid before Christmas, I eagerly await the start of November every year. As November marks the dedicated month for family caregivers, I hold my breath as the tributes, photo spotlights, and news features begin to trickle across my computer screen. I read every article about caregivers through Google’s daily alerts. I read the Presidential Proclamation. I scan the websites of our national caregiving advocacy organizations. Words like “honor”, “love”, and “support” fill the pages. I finally release my breath, realizing 2016 would be yet another year in which the millions of child and young adult caregivers in America would go without mention.
These young people provide unpaid care, support, and assistance to their family members every single day. They care for our veterans. They care for our elderly. They care for our mentally ill. They care for our loved ones with substance abuse issues. In the midst of their homework assignments, part-time jobs, and college classes, they don’t forget to look after the very people our society has marginalized and cast aside.
Yet, when National Family Caregivers Month arrives in November, we forget to recognize them.
I spent this past year travelling across the United States interviewing young adult caregivers for my doctoral research. Knowing that my research is based in both the United Kingdom and the United States, my interviewees would ask me, “What’s it like in England?” I would tell them about numerous supportive organizations scattering the country, the new national law put in place to give child caregivers legal rights to seeking support, and even the budding growth of bursaries granting young adult caregivers financial assistance to go to college. “With regards to supporting caregiving youth, the United States is, in fact, behind the rest of the West.”
, the common response from my interviewees. I don’t know what to tell them in return.
Yet there is hope. There is Dr. Connie Siskowski’s American Association of Caregiving Youth, the only organization in our country committed to supporting children who provide care for their family. For decades, Dr. Siskowski and her organization have worked as tireless advocates, providing practical support to thousands of children, the majority going on to postsecondary education. Her efforts through AACY have culimnated in the designation of this November as “Caregiving Youth Month” by the school district of Palm Beach County, Florida.
“I long for the day when every child and young adult caregiver in our country feels supported as they pursue their dreams.” We can start now, by making every month and every day–a day in which these young people know they are not forgotten.
*This article was originally published with The Huffington Post. *
An American Doctoral Researcher at the University of Birmingham in England, Caregiver Advocate, Mental Health Counselor