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Health News Florida

WATCH: Dropout Nation, Kids as Caregivers

CY oxygen.jpg

Twenty-two percent of high school dropouts say they left school to take care of a family member, according to a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These youth caregivers often sacrifice their own futures because there's no one else to look after their sick parents and grandparents.

Rachel Parks was one of those students. Watch the video below to find out more about Rachel's family and her life in her own words.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kaei0KBtheg

Parks started taking care of her family when she was 17.

Her mother, Andrea, has Cystic Fibrosis. Rachel also takes care of her mother's fiance, Andre, who has end stage heart failure. She feeds him and changes his IVs.

"I did everything. I still do everything," she says.

Rachel cooks, she cleans and she cares for her two younger sisters. They live in a friend's house in Lake Worth after being evicted from their home earlier this year.

Rachel is one of more than 1.3 million youth caregivers in the United States. They suffer from depression at much higher rates than their peers.

More information and resources can be found at the website for the American Association of Caregiving Youth. (www.aacy.org)

This series by WUSF Public Media is funded by FRONTLINE, whose documentary Dropout Nation airs Tuesday, September 25, 2012 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m on PBS.

Funding also comes from American Graduate: Let's Make it Happen a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.