Caregiving Youth

In contrast to other countries,  in the US, youth caregivers  (young people who provide medical or mental health care to family members) receive little policy or public attention or support. Research and curricular interventions from the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY), the Caregiving Youth Project. A small grant from the Odum Institute at UNC allowed us to host a workshop with U.S. researchers, advocates at practitioners in May 2015 in Chapel Hill. We formed the Caregiving Youth Research Collaborative (CYRC) as an interdisciplinary community to coordinate research on the topic of caregiving youth in the U.S.

Bookend Caregivers: networks for youth caregivers and older adults

Along with my collaborator Martin Hunicutt, I have just received funding from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Pipeline to Proposal programs. The funding has allowed us to build networks with caregiving families that include youth caregivers and older adults, or what we are calling ‘bookend caregivers’. You can read more about this research and our partners at our website:

Youth Caregiving Histories

As part of my program to build awareness of youth caregiving in the U.S., and in an effort to bring together my ongoing study of care ethics and moral philosophy, I’ve been conducting historical research on the emergence and then disappearance of the child caregiver from US federal recognition and policy. An Institute for Arts and Humanities fellowship supported my most recent work on the Little Mothers’ Leagues, a program introduced during the Progressive Era to reduce infant mortality by training young girls to better care for their infant siblings.

Youth Caregiving, transitions to adulthood, and higher education

I’m very grateful that I will be a fellow of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies in Spring 2017. During my fellowship, I will be establishing research that will explore how youth caregivers and young adult caregivers navigate the educational dimensions of transitions to adulthood.  Like their younger counterparts, we know very little about how young adults make decisions about continuing and higher education, where they find resilience, or how educational institutions might remove barriers to success. If you have ideas or input, please send me an email. I’ll be developing this work with some wonderful partners at UNC and across the CYRC network.

Marginalized Spiritualities Funded by the AHRC-ESRC Religion and Society Programme. Betsy Olson (PI) with Peter Hopkins, Rachel Pain (co-investigators), Giselle Vincett (Research Fellow), and Eduardo Serafin (Technical collaborator). Exploring the ways that young people encounter religion and spirituality in economically deprived wards in Glasgow, Scotland and Manchester, England. Emphasis on participatory methods, collaborative film and photography. We were fortunate to work with local youth services for this project, including youth clubs and young carers organizations.


Relational Religious Identities Funded by the AHRC-ESRC Religion and Society Programme. Betsy Olson (PI), with Peter Hopkins and Rachel Pain (co-I’s) and Giselle Vincett (Research Fellow). Rethinking the meanings, practices, and spaces of religion from the perspective of young Christians in Glasgow, Scotland. Drew upon group work, intergenerational, and traditional interviewing to understand how ‘generation Y’ are reconstituting religion and its meanings.

Youth transitions, international volunteering, and religious transformations Funded by the AHRC-ESRC Religion and Society Programme. Peter Hopkins (PI), with Nina Laurie, Matt Bailie-Smith, and Betsy Olson (co-I’s).