Having lived it herself, this champion of youth caregivers has put health disparity on the map
Connie Siskowski is a longtime “hometown hero” in Boca Raton—and nationally—for having founded the American Association for Caregiving Youth (AACY)—an organization dedicated to providing support for young people struggling to balance their lives with caregiving responsibilities that are often overwhelming and can result in higher dropout rates, among other negative outcomes.
Siskowski, 74, moved here from New Jersey in 1990, having become an RN at Johns Hopkins University, with a degree in Public Administration from NYU and, in 2004, earning her Ph.D. from Lynn University in Educational Leadership. Having been a caregiver herself as a young girl, she knew the drill—and the trauma—that came with the job; she launched the AACY in 2010, an outgrowth of work that began with what was then known as Interfaith in Action.
Siskowski has been recognized for her work with multiple awards, including the lifetime Ashoka Fellowship, Purpose Prize and a Top 10 CNN Hero for 2012. She has also been honored with a star on Boca Raton’s own Walk of Recognition.
WHY SHE DOES WHAT SHE DOES
When I did my doctoral work, the results on a What Works survey were most profound. It was the first time that a large population of kids who were caregiving was identified. More than one in three said they were missing school, having trouble focusing, not doing homework or a combination of three of those things. I had an overwhelming feeling of being compelled to do something.
I don’t know that I have one. … I never take time to be proud of it because there is so much more to do.
PRIORITY GOING FORWARD
We’ve got to get legislation to support [younger caregivers], because now you have to be 18 in order to get any kind of public or government recognition or support, and there are more kids who are caregivers now than who are in foster care, or who are homeless. We know that kids drop out of school because of family caregiving. And it shouldn’t be like that in our country.
For more information on this initiative, or if you would like to help the AACY, please visit aacy.org.
This page is a tribute to community citizens who have demonstrated exemplary service and leadership to the city of Boca Raton and is in memory of John E. Shuff.