Recent research shows that the number of caregiving children in the USA alone totals a little under 1.5 million, and that these children face higher substance abuse risks because of their role as a care provider. These kids are responsible for taking care of a family member, often a parent or grandparent, who suffers from mental illness or substance abuse. The responsibilities that caregiving children face can be incredible, and the daily level of stress that the kids are under can be very heavy. The risk for poor health, the substance abuse risks, and the possibility of failing grades in school are all faced by these children through no fault of their own. Children in this category report spending between two and a half and four hours each day taking care of the person with mental illness or substance abuse. Often household responsibilities are added in as well.
Caregiving children need access to a strong support system and resources in order to lower their risks, and this includes any substance abuse risks that these kids face. As a hidden population that frequently falls through the cracks these children face many different risks. AACY founder and president Connie Siskowski, R.N., Ph.D., said “AACY services in Palm Beach County reach only the tip of the iceberg. Today in the U.S., there are many more than the 1.3 million children identified in 2005 who face the challenges of juggling adult-sized responsibilities of caring for ill, injured, aging, or disabled family members while trying to keep up at school.”