Young Carers Awareness Day is an annual event, led by Carers Trust, and is taking place today, on 30 January 2020.
Every day across the UK thousands of young people help to look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.
According to the Carers Trust, recent research shows that one in five secondary school children may be a young carer. For many, their caring journey begins at a much younger age. Caring for someone can be very isolating, worrying and stressful. For young carers, this can negatively impact on their experiences and outcomes in education, having a lasting effect on their life chances.
However, being a young carer isn’t always about a young person caring for their parents, grandparents and/ or their guardians.
Many young people that find themselves in foster care have been assuming the role of carer to their younger siblings. This can be due to parents poor health, parents being absent due to working long hours and working multiple jobs to provide for their family, and addictions along with mental issues can also mean that parents may be absent physically or absent emotionally.
When these children who have been taking care of their siblings for a long period of time find themselves placed with a foster care family there is often a period of adjustment for older siblings, not only to the new of environment but also getting use to having someone take care of them as they are so use to being the who provides the care.
Giving up the caring role can difficult for some young people as many of the place a great deal of responsibility on themselves by being ‘in charge’ and/ or taking care of younger siblings. They identify as being the person who is needed by their siblings and so can feel worried or unwanted by the change in dynamic.
Young people with younger siblings need to be encouraged to spread their wings and socialise, find activities and hobbies they enjoy doing, along with allowing their carer in the to meet their needs and the needs of their younger siblings.
A Capstone carer said:
“When LP first came to live with us it was as if we lived with a 30 year old in 12 years old body. He had worries no 12 year old should have, he had given himself so much responsibility.
Naturally, he would try to tend to his siblings and we had to explain to him that this was our role as his care givers. He felt as if he wasn’t needed anymore so we focused on encouraging him to focus on himself.
We enrolled him into clubs and he started making new friends and spending time outside of his club with his new friends. His siblings still loved him and needed him around but he needed to be a 12 year old little boy.”
Today LP thrives having learnt to trust his carers not only with himself but also with his siblings. He has been able flourish and a big brother and not the guardian.