It’s all about me: Findings from a program that supports young carers and their siblings
This article was submitted by Communities for Children - Capricorn (Queensland), which is facilitated by The Smith Family.
It’s All About Me is a program delivered by Carers Queensland with support from Communities for Children Facilitating Partner, The Smith Family. The program works with young carers aged 5-12 years, their siblings and families through Fun FRIENDS and FRIENDS for Life in the Capricorn region of Queensland.
About the program
It’s All About Me is a structured, group-centred, evidence based program that aims to teach children resilience, self esteem and emotional skills.
Developing skills such as recognising and regulating emotions, problem solving and coping with stress are particularly important for young carers and their siblings.
Young carers assist family members with long-term illnesses or disabilities by helping with medication needs, and household tasks such as shopping and cooking. According to the 2011 report, Young Carers: Social policy impacts of the caring responsibilities of children and young adults, young carers face a range of issues including a high risk of disconnecting from their education and mental health issues due to physical and mental strain. Young carers in regional areas can also experience geographic and social isolation.
Siblings of people with special needs often grow up in a stressful environment and have similar issues to those of young carers (Strohm, 2001), including increased risk of physical and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and low self esteem (Siblings Australia, 2007).
Testing the effectiveness
Results collected via weekly facilitator observations and self-reported pre/post Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires indicate that children demonstrate consistently and significantly improved emotional wellbeing and increased resilience after participating in the program for 6 months.
Unexpectedly, positive outcomes also extended to the whole family. Parents involved in the adjunct family collective sessions reported having stronger peer support groups and knowledge about their children.
Case Study – Leanne’s Story
Leanne* has suffered manic episodes and severe depression for much of her life, and about 4 years ago was diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Disorder. This condition has required numerous stays in hospital to receive treatment. While Leanne recognised the need to focus on her own recovery, she also felt significant parental guilt and worried about how her condition would affect her two girls, Melissa* (age 10) and Emily* (age 11).
In Term 4, 2015, the whole family participated in the It’s All About Me program, which helped the family to learn about each other and to utilise different strategies to support one another. Since completing the program, Leanne and her daughters have frequently used the FRIENDS workbook and the tools they learned through the program.
Since completing the program the family feels more comfortable and able to discuss Leanne’s illness.
“My girls have been unbelievable. I'm so proud of them. The It’s All About Me course really helped them understand my illness and care I needed. They are learning along the way, as am I. I am very open about my illness and they seem to appreciate the honesty,” Leanne said.
* Names have been changed
Cass, B., Brennan, D., Thomson, C., Hill, T., Purcal, C., Hamilton, M., & Adamson, E. (2011). Young carers: Social policy impacts on the caring responsibilities of children and young adults. Report prepared for ARC Linkage Partners.
Families Australia. (2012). Towards improved recognition and support for siblings of those with a chronic condition – A report on consultations. Canberra: Families Australia.
Siblings Australia. (2007). SibworkS: A quantitative analysis of a program for siblings of children with special needs. Report prepared by Siblings Australia Inc, in partnership with the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.
Strohm, K. (2001). Sibling Project. Youth Studies Australia. 20(4), 48-57.
Feature image by Jenn Richardson, CC0 1.0