Young Carers in Canada: An Examination of the Prevalence, Policy and Practice of Young People Providing Unpaid Care
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Despite the growing body of international research documenting the hidden lives of children and youth who provide substantial informal (unpaid) caregiving within their families, the Canadian literature continues to focus primarily on adult caregivers. This dissertation seeks to correct this gap by focusing on the unpaid care contributions provided by Canadian youth. To do so, a multimethod research design is used to explore four overriding research goals. First, a feminist political economy framework locates child and youth-based caregiving within the context of larger societal change triggered by advanced global capitalism. Second, a statistical trend analysis of youth caregiving based on available national datasets is presented to provide prevalence estimates as well as provincial and gendered variation in youths caregiving. Third, the experiences of young carers are examined through focus groups held with those attending support programs for young carers. Fourth, interviews with program staff highlight the current state of policy and programming available to young carers across Canada. Results reveal that youth caregivers represent the third largest caregiver cohort across Canada, with important gendered and provincial differences. Focus groups reveal that young carers incur a unique form of young carer penalty, affecting both their social and emotional well-being. Finally, the research finds that existing supports are both assistance and mitigation-based in nature, with current barriers to program growth linked to the lack of stable and sufficient funding from the state and a persistent inability to gain adequate entry into local schools in order to provide in-house programming. This research concludes with discussion of the policy and program issues related to the growing incidence of youth caregiving in Canada.