This week is Carers Week in the United Kingdom, an annual week dedicated to generating more awareness about the roles of unpaid family carers in society.
As a former young carer and now researcher-advocate, this week is an exciting yet wistful time for me. I am thrilled to see the countless events taking place across the UK in the name of carers, and particularly, young carers and young adult carers. Witnessing the work of committed advocates and social care professionals uniting together to further support carers fills my heart with joy. Nonetheless, I remain wistful when I think about the millions of young people with caring responsibilities still hidden from health and social care services and without any support. I deeply understand the challenges of young carers without support because I spent my youth as a young carer in the United States.
When I was 11 years old, my mother had a spinal surgery performed incorrectly, leaving her in chronic pain and unable to return to work. My older brother came home from his second year in university to provide care for my mother and me, and our lives changed forever. My brother bore the brunt of our mother’s care needs; at 19 years old, he became responsible for cooking, cleaning, helping our mother bathe and dress, and administering her medicines. He also took on a full-time job to pay our household bills. I was also present alongside him in helping care for our mother. In the United States, young carers and young adult carers are without recognition or formal support services. There aren’t national events like “Carers Week”, or young carers projects, or even an accepted name for children and young adults with caregiving responsibilities. Therefore, not only did we did provide care without any outside assistance or support, but we also didn’t even realize that we were “carers”. Like many other carers, we saw ourselves as dutiful and loving children to our mother.
My eyes were completely opened when I began reading about the experience of young carers in the United Kingdom. Across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, there was increasing recognition and avenues for support. Now aware of the knowledge gap about young carers in the US, I felt challenged to understand more about the experiences of young carers and how they can be best supported as they transition into adulthood. This led me to study under the supervision of Professor Saul Becker at the University of Birmingham, where I conduct research on young adult carers in the US and UK, particularly on the ways caring has impacted their identity and who they are in life and society.
My research has shown me that caring deeply impacts every part of young people both in the present and as they look to who they want to become in the future. I also understand that while the UK has done amazing work to champion the needs of young carers, the young people involved in my research express that much more work is left to be done. Young carers and young adult carers want recognition for their caring role and the significant contribution they make to their families and society, and they want to be supported to continue to pursue their goals in education, career, and other spheres of their life. This makes the work of Grace, by raising money for Carers Leeds, so incredibly important and necessary.
As you support Grace financially in reaching her goal, you also support other young carers and young adult carers like myself who are in dire need of support and hope. Please help Grace help create real change for young carers!