Middle and high schoolers juggle a lot between school, friends and family life. But an estimated one in five have even bigger responsibilities — they are also caregivers for their families, at a time when most U.S. schools do not formally identify or support caregiving students.

It’s time for adults to recognize and help caregiving adolescents through federal, state and local educational policies, so they do not need to choose between caregiving and school activities.

Caregiving youth provide ongoing, time-intensive care at home to family members who have aging-related needs or are chronically ill, such as grandparents, parents and disabled siblings. They may also take care of younger siblings if their parents are working long hours, disabled or chronically ill.

That means that in addition to schoolwork, caregiving students may manage and administer medicines and medical treatments and finances; cook, feed, shop and clean; or transport and translate for their relatives. Given the pandemic and the U.S. aging population, more people have health-related needs, and it is increasingly common for those needs to be filled by caregiving youth. Our rising numbers of single-parent and intergenerational homes add to this upward trend.

Disproportionately, these caregiving youth are girls, from lower-income families and/or with historically marginalized racial and ethnic identities. That’s one reason why identifying and supporting caregiving youth can help reduce existing gender and racial educational disparities.

Read the full article about student caregivers by Emma Armstrong-Carter at The Hechinger Report.