As part of their Heroes section, the CNN website recently ran a story about young people "working" as unpaid caregivers for their siblings, parents or older relatives.
The research showed that about 1.3 million children in America are child caregivers and that one in every five school dropouts have actually had to leave school to take care of siblings and adults.
They are a generation of caregivers that's not well known, nor well cared for, and certainly not paid. These are the children with siblings or parents who are disabled. These kids have been forced to forgo their own childhood pleasures and freedoms and adopt the responsibilities of someone far older.
At EmpowHER, we have heard from women caught in what's called the "sandwich generation" -- caring for their own children and their parents too. Found between the ages of 45 and 60, the sandwich generation is in a precarious position -- something that is not only physically exhausting, but financially draining too.
This generation get no assistance for their care, their work is unpaid and all three generations feel the negative results, especially the adults caught in the middle.
Family caregivers also provide a financially valuable service.
The EmpowHER article "The Sandwich Generation" said, "... these services are priceless and the family caregivers that provide them often go unrecognized and are over utilized which can lead to tremendous stress for the family caregiver. On the other hand, if these same services were provided by our national health care system, it would cost approximately 250 billion dollars per year."
So obviously, caregivers potentially save the tax payer a tremendous amount, and child caregivers are providing the same services and saving the government a similar amount of money.
Having this kind of pressure can lead to mental stress in children that's not normally seen in others their age. Some become physically and psychologically exhausted.
Others drop out of school but also drop out of society, abandoning both their families and themselves because they simply cannot cope with such enormous responsibility.