Children and youth who help care for family members with special needs are not adequately supported by community service agencies, according to new research from the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) at the University of Waterloo. Estimates suggest that up to 12 per cent of Canadians under the age of 25 are young carers.
The new study surveyed 58 adult and children’s community services in the Waterloo region about the support they offer young carers. The findings revealed that 24 per cent of agencies routinely ask if there is a young person in the household with a client they serve, and less than a quarter of those ask what responsibilities this young person has within the household. More than 58 per cent of the agencies surveyed do not provide any support to their clients' young carers.
“There is a gap in our community with regards to providing support to youth who help care for a family member,” said Lisa Loiselle, associate director of research for MAREP and lead researcher on the project. “Many of the agencies we looked at cited funding as a barrier to enhancing their services. This may be the case, but the fact remains, nobody is looking out for these young people.”
They may contribute to their families in a variety of ways, ranging from emotional and financial support, to assistance with physical care. Many young carers report their own needs are often overlooked as a result of their unique family situation They may experience reduced participation in in leisure activities, compromised relationships with friends and increased levels of stress.
Support Matters, a new addition to MAREP’s By Us For Us series, examines factors that are important in the lives of young carers and suggests ways to manage and cope with responsibilities. The guide also provides advice and guidance to adults and organizations on ways in which they can better support young carers in their community.
Young Carers, a short documentary film, portrays the lives of five young carers from Waterloo region. The film illustrates the diverse range of responsibilities they have and the impact of their experiences on different aspects of their lives. Along with the guide and documentary, a new website provides online resources for them and individuals or organizations looking to support them.
“These resources are intended to help close the support gap,” said Loiselle. “They will bring to the forefront of people’s minds the hidden and underserved population of young carers in our community.”
The Young Carers Project is a community group working to identify their needs, create resources, and help community agencies understand the importance of supporting youth in unique family situations. Funding for this project was provided by Homewood Foundation and the Ontario Brain Institute.
About the University of Waterloo
In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. A globally focused institution, celebrated as Canada’s most innovative university for 23 consecutive years, Waterloo is home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit uwaterloo.ca.
University of Waterloo
Attention broadcasters: Waterloo has facilities to provide broadcast quality audio and video feeds with a double-ender studio. Please contact us to book.