May 18, 2012
In Boca Raton, Florida 13 year old named Nickolaus Dent is a caregiver. His mother Janine Helms has been battling HIV for as long as Nickolaus can remember and her health has been getting worse in the last couple of years. He makes sure his mother takes her medication. He often helps her get dressed and at times he has helped her bathe. He is in charge of grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning of the house. Nickolaus’s father died two years ago and since then he has been his mother’s full time caregiver.
Caring for his parent leaves Nickolaus with a small amount of energy to socialize and study for school. “It does make it hard to pay attention in class. Helping her out is a bigger priority than going to school and getting (an) education, because I feel if I don’t have her, I don’t want to go to school. Whatever happens to her happens to me,” he said.
Nickolaus is just one of an estimated 10,000 young children that care for their loved ones in Palm Beach County, Florida, according to American Association of Care giving Youth. The nonprofit organization was founded by county resident Connie Siskowski in 1998. The project is the first of its kind in the nation and its purpose is to intervene early on in the academic lives of youth caregivers.
A report released in 2005 by the National Alliance for Care giving and the United Hospital Fund said there were at least 1.3 million care giving youths between ages 8 to 18 countrywide. It’s a population that has been nearly hidden for several reasons, including the refusal of many sick parents to go public with their medical condition.
Special classes that are led by a mental-health professional or social worker cover topics such as coping with stress, coping with anger, managing finances and setting goals. Periodic field trips and overnight camps offer recreational, social and educational activities. The program also helps the children’s teachers and school administrators become more aware of the circumstances and how it can lead the student to truancy, absenteeism and dips in academic performance. The hope is to lessen the negative effects such as anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation that care giving responsibilities can have on a child.
“No child in the United States should have to drop out of school because of care giving. These children suffer silently behind closed doors. … They don’t have the help and the support and the recognition that they need,” said Siskowski.
Nickolaus joined the program last year and the group provided him with a computer, a bed, clothing and tutoring to better help him. He has now raised his grades and aims to make the honor roll in his school. He was also able to attend the group’s overnight camp while a nurse’s aide stayed with his mom. “I found out there are more people that do the things I do and some do more,” he said. “Now I’m getting A’s and B’s, and I feel more confident in school.”
What are your thoughts? How can the community better help children like Nickolaus?
Colwyn police Cpl. Trevor Parham is now facing misdemeanor charges of simple assault and official oppression. On April 24th, police officer Parham used a stun gun on a handcuffed 17 year old inside a jail cell. The teenager was Da’Qwaun Jackson. Jackson told reporters he was brought to the police station because he refused to cooperate with Parham about a confrontation involving a fight.
After Parham stunned the teenager with a taser he sent a text message to his fellow officer saying “a kid I locked up a few times before, smart ass; got Tased in the cell, kept kicking the cell and calling me names, LOL.” The investigation encouraged Colwyn’s mayor to suspend Parham and the department’s chief.
“It’s certainly not funny, for anyone, be it a juvenile or a non-juvenile, who is handcuffed … to be hit with a Taser weapon,” said Delaware County District Attorney John Whelan. Whelan said the actions of district officials and other officers in connection with the incident remain under investigation.
According to online court records, Parham’s bail was set at $25,000. Parham is out of jail on bail and his lawyer says he’ll be exonerated.
Angela Norman was sentenced in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in Dayton, Ohio on Thursday for her 14 year old daughter’s death. Angela pleaded guilty to a first degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter and felony counts of endangering children. On March 1st, 2011 Makayla Norman died from nutritional and medical neglect complicated by her chronic condition. She had cerebral palsy and weighted 28 pounds when she died. She had numerous bed sores and showed other signs of neglect.
County prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said that girl’s home was vile and filthy. The 43 year old mother didn’t provide sufficient food or proper care for the child, resulting in the child’s death. “Makayla was unable to care for herself and was totally dependent upon others to provide for her well-being and ensure her health and safety,” he said. The misdemeanor count of endangering children involved another daughter as well, said the prosecutor.
Three nurses who also are facing charges in this case have pleaded not guilty and are waiting trial. Mollie E. Parsons of Dayton was charged with involuntary manslaughter. Failing to provide for a functionally impaired person and tampering with records. Kathryn Williams of Eaglewood and Mary K. Kilby of Miamisburg both were charged with failing to provide for a functionally impaired person and failing to report child abuse or neglect.
What are your thoughts?
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