Young carers. They are the ones behind the scenes. Leaving home early from school to take care of their sick mother. Spending hours worrying about the well-being and future of their sibling with a special need. They are the strong ones, but also the forgotten ones. However, Hospice Toronto’s Young Carers Program is trying to change that. In an effort to give these youth a voice and to bond with peers who have similar experiences, they hold a range of events monthly to empower these youth.
Who are young carers?
They are youth aged 5-18 years of age who are in a caregiving role for a family member with an life threatening/limiting illness, disability, and more. The list is endless. They may be providing practical care through household work or cooking, personal care by helping their family member bathe or take their meds or even emotional care, by trying to cheer up their family member and be “the strong one” .
How are young carers feeling?
Many children may not actually know that they are young carers or may be unaware that there are other individuals out there experiencing the same thing. They develop mixed feelings as they may develop more independence and compassion but may also feel angry, lonely and sad. These children often don’t have time to just be “kids”.
What does Hospice Toronto do?
The Young Carers Program helps meet the needs of these children through recreation, social, education and skill development programs. These programs provide these children with support from peers and gives them the opportunity to just be kids. All programs are free! One popular program is YCP S.I.B.S (Spectacular, Incredible, Brave Siblings) where children have the opportunity to learn from other children who have a sibling with a disability and develop strategies to cope and support themselves. Check out their other programs here.
What is important for parents to know about young carers?
Larisa MacSween, Manager of the Young Carers Program, explains that “It’s really important for young carers to feel they have a voice and that they can express themselves. Communication is key and they should be encouraged to share their feelings and concerns with their family.” Further, she describes that Young Carers should be included and informed about their family member’s health and also should be recognized for the valuable role they play in their family. They should also be given the opportunity to just be kids and have the focus on themselves!
What programs/events throughout Toronto can help my child get support?
Hospice Toronto’s Young Carers Program: Become a member here.
Kerry’s Place – Autism Services:- Sibling Support Groups
Extend-A-Family: Youth Sibling Group – Central Toronto
Check out stories and resources provided by Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital
*Information gathered from Hospice Toronto and Larisa McSween*