Catherine Monk-Saigal, Program and Communications Associate
When we hosted Ontario’s first ever young carers forum in late November, 2017, we shined a long overdue spotlight on Ontario’s young carers. We asked the young carers present—a group that is too often overlooked— to share their experiences, journeys, and stories, so that we can all work together to drive meaningful change. For many of them, the forum was the first time they had ever interacted with other young carers, the first time they were asked about their experience, and the first time they felt like the experiences they were sharing could make a difference.
We asked them what action was needed around awareness, identification of young carers, advocacy, and cultural considerations. And what do we need to do to make change happen?
Throughout the day, the most pressing issue became clear: there is a profound and universal lack of understanding and awareness around the role of young carers.
And this lack of understanding is not system agnostic. Young carers experience it throughout the healthcare and education systems. Often, this lack of understanding and awareness translates into stigma and fear.
What’s surprising about this? And how do we tackle it?
There are very few of us who will never wear the caregiver hat. However, for young carers, this hat is worn at a much earlier age than most.
There is an underlying fear among many young carers about the stigma and misunderstanding of their role. The young carers at the Forum said that often, friends and schoolmates have a hard time understanding that their caregiving role is not a choice–that they have a duty and a responsibility that many of their peers simply cannot understand or relate to. This is largely due to this lack of understanding.
To combat the issue of awareness, one suggestion from the Young Carers Forum was that we celebrate Young Carers Awareness Day on January 25, 2018, like they do in the UK. So that’s exactly what we are doing: a simple social media blitz that we hope will contribute to the growing awareness throughout the province.
We hope we won’t be alone in this. We want you to join the conversation we’re helping to spark online.
Follow #YCAD on Twitter throughout the month and join the conversation on January 25th at 4 p.m., as we host a tweetchat on young carer awareness co-moderated by Fitsum Areguy, an Ontario Young Carer (see below for more information on the tweetchat).
As we work through our “next steps” as an organization, it is very clear just how valuable and meaningful the act of coming together with a common experience was for these incredible young people. We just need to listen to and read the comments from young carers to realize how important this is.
One young carer said: “This was life-changing. I’ve never talked about my experience before. It’s always about my sister.” Another stated: “I feel like I have made a big influence on the future of young carers and no longer feel alone in my situation.”
We’ve often tweeted and blogged about the lack of supports available to Ontario’s young carers. We are now moving forward with the first step to increase awareness and understanding in the hopes that this will lead to better and more widely accessible supports.
About the tweetchat:
We’re pleased to be hosting our first-ever tweetchat at 4 p.m. EST on Thursday, January 25, 2018—Young Carer Awareness Day.
Here are the questions we’ll be asking:
- What are the impacts of being a caregiver on a young person?
- How is a young carer’s role different than the role of an adult caregiver?
- How do we build awareness and understanding of young carers?
- Change is needed. Where do we start?
The tweetchat will be co-moderated by young carer Fitsum Areguy and Christa Haanstra, The Change Foundation’s Executive Lead, Young Carers.
Follow #YCAD, as well as @TheChangeFdn, @fitsumareguy and @C_Hanstra to participate.