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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Child Caregivers 

A study reported in today’s USA Today indicates that more than one million US kids, aged 8-18, are significant caregivers for their adult relatives. The article presents this as a bit of a shock: "We know that children have always played a role in assisting their families…Yet this report reveals that a significant percentage of these children are providing much more personal and complex tasks.”

I was unaware that there was ever a time when kids didn’t help take care of their older relatives. My dad’s grandparents lived with him and his parents, and he certainly helped take care for them as necessary, and I’ve always helped with my grandparents when needed. It’s what family is supposed to do.

The article suggests that tasks, such as helping their relatives with bathing, dressing, cooking, eating, shopping, and household tasks, are more suited to adults and that the kids performing them are “vulnerable” and victims of a health system failure. Now, I will be the first to say that we have a failing health care system, but that’s due to stuff like lack of insurance, quality controls, and decent patient education, not kids helping around the house.

I did a lot of shopping, cooking, ‘household tasks,’ and even helping older relatives with other stuff when I was younger, and it wasn’t a burden, it was what you did. Because that’s what family does. And frankly, making kids help around the house is hardly an abuse or exploitation, like, say, keeping them in cages.

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