· sibling,disability,young carer

He is loud and vocal.

He is a leader who is also gentle and kind.

He is a joker and is good at making silly faces.

He is very intuitive and bright.

Like any other child he loves to play, laugh, and learn.

But what some of you may not know, he is also a young carer.

He is 6... and I often forget that.

Dear Petie,

Sometimes I don’t see how full your plate is. I’m going to be honest with you... your future will have more than one plate to balance. I know that you are busy being a kid right now, but I am beginning to see that you also deal with loads of different stuff other 6 year olds don’t even know about.

Now that you’re in school, I can see that you like to keep your home-life separate. As I walk you to school, you light up when you see your teachers and friends. You quickly wave me to go, giving me permission to leave. I get it, school is respite for you. It’s your place where you can be you.

I am trying to balance my own plates too, and sometimes I will drop them. Be patient with me, we will always need each other to keep everything from crashing down. You are young at heart, and I know sometimes you are in a position to be a grown-up. Caring for your sister is hard, but I will always be proud of how you are handling everything.

Love,

Mom

In 2016, I wrote my first letter to Petie, you can read it here. That was the year I realized Petie’s multiple roles in our family: a son, a brother, and also a young carer. Petie knows his sister inside out. He knows her happy screams, and her uncomfortable coos. He knows how to prompt her when she communicates with her iPad, and he knows how to set up her plate and utensil so she can run her feeding program.

For the last two years in Kindergarten, Petie has been having a challenging time regulating his behaviour and actions at school. This boy had the capacity to round up the class to be loud and uncontrollable, and also started becoming aggressive with some of his peers too. At first, the school equated his misbehaviour as defiant, but in reality they didn’t know the extra weight of caregiving Petie had on his shoulders.

Petie belongs to the Young Carers Program, Young Carers Program (YCP). Young carers are kids under the age of 18, who are in a caregiving role for a parent, grandparent, sibling or relative with a chronic or life threatening illness, disability, addiction, mental illness, or language barrier. YCP aims to provide therapeutic programming to help kids with adult responsibilities cope and interact with other kids who know exactly what they are going through.

To raise awareness so people understand the importance of recognizing and supporting families of young carers like Petie, YCP will be sharing the stories of young carers across Toronto and Ontario in a photo exhibition called, Hidden. Learn more about the Hidden photo exhibition led and inspired by YCP, click here.

Petie had the opportunity to work with the photographer, Max Alexander. Max is an award-winning portrait photographer and has been photographing young carers in England for many years, as he was also a young carer himself. Max continues to work with The Children’s Society, telling the stories of young carers’ lives, seen through his eyes, as a former young carer. The Hidden exhibition was first shown in London, followed by a national tour of over 35 venues – which was covered by the BBC and The Guardian. Check out Max’s work with the Hidden portrait exhibition featuring England’s Young Carers here.

The photoshoot was a great experience for Petie. Max immediately made a connection with him, as they cracked knock-knock jokes and shared stories of their experiences playing soccer, baseball and rugby. It was nice to see Max putting Petie in the spotlight, making sure that his portrait really showed the truth of what life is like from Petie’s eyes as a young carer.

Thank you YCP and Max for this great opportunity for Petie. Our family is very fortunate to be able to access programs and services for young carers like him. Please stay posted to see how the Hidden project will help raise awareness, so people understand the importance of recognizing and supporting families of young carers like Petie.

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