Report: Who Cares About Young Carers? Raising Awareness for an Invisible Population
This report introduces Young Carers to Canadians, and calls for three first steps to improve conditions for Young Carers across the country: increased awareness, improved data collection and research, and a multi-sector effort to support Young Carers in their communities. Drawing on international examples, the report suggests tangible actions on each of these fronts.
The Change Foundation (the Foundation) is an independent health policy think-tank that works to inform positive change in Ontario’s health care system. With a firm commitment to engaging the voices of patients, family caregivers and health and community care providers, the Foundation explores contemporary health care issues through different projects and partnerships to evolve our health care system in Ontario and beyond. The Change Foundation was created in 1995 through an endowment from the Ontario Hospital Association and is dedicated to enhancing patient and caregiver experiences and Ontario’s quality of health care.
In Summer 2017, the Change Foundation undertook the research for an inventory of organizations, programs and services across the Ontario that support young carers. This inventory profiles the organizations that provide much needed support and respite for this often invisible population of caregivers.
Comox Valley is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The Comox Valley Youth as Caregivers initiative is a program of the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre. Started in 2012, the goals identified by this program include raising awareness about young caregivers, reaching out to young carers, and providing a safe and confidential environment for young carers to gather. The structure of this program includes a steering committee made up of volunteers approved by the Community Justice Center. These individuals are also members of Young Carers Canada and are charged with the responsibility of sustaining the Comox Valley program. The steering committee is made up of volunteers under the age of 25, and works closely with the resource team. The support group meets bi-weekly and is open to individuals under 25 who act, or have previously acted, in a caregiving capacity. All attendees are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Meetings are facilitated by a member of the steering committee and a member of the resource team who have had previous experience with youth caregiving.
Education about the particular stresses of caregiving, and how to take care of oneself in this role, in addition to other topics in wellness and health.
The Young Carers Initiative of Niagara successfully engaged with young carers from 2003 to 2006, when the project reached the end of its funding period. In 2007 the continued efforts of those involved established the Young Carers Initiative as an independent registered charity. The Powerhouse Project is an inter-agency project of the Young Carers Initiative. The powerhouse project offers a holistic approach to supporting young carers and their families residing in Ontario in both the Niagara and Haldimand-Norfolk regions. The services offered through the Powerhouse Project focus on social, educational, and personal skill development. Services are balanced with activities that are aimed at creating spaces where “kids can be kids.” The programs calendar, available online, is packed full of activities making participation possible at different times during the week.
The Young Carers Program is an inter-agency strategy in which over fifteen community organizations and agencies have come together to meet needs of young carers and their families. Hospice Toronto facilitates this program with a focus on social, educational, personal skill development, as well as the delivery of fun activities. Drop-in opportunities and special events are ongoing aspects of the program, while the programs and workshops change throughout the year. This year, for example, the Spectacular Incredible Brave Siblings program will run from January until February, and the two workshops scheduled for 2013 focus on cancer and mental illness. The Young Carers Program also works to make their activities age appropriate by dividing participants into two sections; ages 7 to 12 and 12 to 17. This year the Young Carer Program will also facilitate monthly meetings for a new young adult carers group for individuals living in the Toronto area ages 18 to 30.