Connie Siskowski helps child caregivers
Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD, was not yet a teenager when she experienced what it is like to take on adult responsibilities as the primary caregiver for her seriously ill grandfather. Under constant, daily stress, she had little time for friends and struggled to keep up with her school work.
This life experience motivated her to become a nurse and to work in the areas of home health and hospice care. In 1998, she found a nonprofit, the American Association of Caregiving Youth.
Through this nonprofit, Connie has provided assistance to more than 500 child caregivers in Palm Beach County, Florida. Along the way, she was also chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012 and received a $50,000 grant to continue her work.
In a recent CNN interview, Connie said that she hopes this recognition "will help people understand that kids are part of the health care delivery systems and that they should be recognized."
She continued to say, "We're not advocating that children should do this or be in this position, but they are. So we want to make it as safe as possible and arm them with the knowledge base that they need."
The American Association of Caregiving Youth provides tutoring and "respite" to give kids and families a break. They also provide computer support, transportation, and do home visits to link families to available resources. And they have a camp program.
To expand their services into other areas, the Association is creating affiliates in others states. The model is to partner with existing nonprofits who would like to reach child caregivers and make a difference in their lives.
It's a very big, important challenge. As Connie says in the video above, in the United States there are 1.3 million children taking care of ill, injured, elderly or disabled adults.