HHS Delivers First National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers

Generations United Deputy Executive Director was at the table

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Administration for Community Living (ACL), released the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers today. The strategy highlighted both planned and suggested ways to support caregivers, who currently lack resources to maintain their health, wellbeing, and financial security while caring for children.

It was delivered to U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, and to the state agencies responsible for conducting family caregiver programs today. The strategy will be updated every two years, as required by the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–119).

“Supporting family caregivers is an urgent public health issue, exacerbated by the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “This national strategy recognizes the critical role family caregivers play in a loved one’s life. I know the importance of this first-hand, as someone who cared for my late father and navigated the challenges associated with caregiving.”

Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (SGRG) Act , developed the strategy with extensive input from family caregivers, the people they support, and other stakeholders.

ACL leads implementation of the RAISE and SGRG Acts and facilitates the work of the two advisory councils. Generations United Deputy Executive Director Jaia Peterson Lent chairs the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Advisory Council.

“At some point in our lives, most of us will either be a family caregiver or need one. Many of us will experience both,” said Acting ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging Alison Barkoff.

Nearly 53 million people act as caregivers for someone close to them due to a disability or a chronic health condition each year. Another 2.7 million grandparent caregivers — and an unknown number of other relative caregivers — open their arms and homes each year to millions of children annually.

Family caregiving can be rewarding but challenging when caregivers lack necessary services and support. Lacking support can put them at financial risk. Family caregiving costs about $522 billion in lost income each year. When caregiving becomes too overwhelming, those needing care might find themselves in a nursing home or foster care.

RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council and the SGRG Advisory Council 2021 reports served as the strategy’s foundation. The strategy represents the first time a broad cross-section of the federal government has collaborated with the private sector to provide comprehensive family caregiver support.

“The importance of relatives and kinship caregivers and their role in helping children thrive cannot be understated,” January Contreras, Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) said.

Contreras said ACF welcomed the National Strategy because it amplifies what we can do to support kinship families and puts their feedback into action.

“Across the country, a child’s ability to rebound from a traumatic experience is often dependent on the swift and loving support from a kinship caregiver. This ACL National Strategy provides a roadmap to support them,” she said.

Indian Health Service (IHS) Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler lifted up its work to support American Indian and Alaska Native people, especially those caring for older people.

“The care that caregivers provide can be physically and emotionally demanding and can lead to an increased risk for negative health effects including depression, anxiety, and stress,” Fowler said.

She stressed the IHS’ pledge to collaborate with tribes and urban Indian organizations as well as partner with agencies across the federal government to support programs that “prioritize the health and well-being of caregivers who care for our relatives.”

“This strategy exemplifies our commitment to achieving health equity and providing better support to caregivers.” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry. “Providing fast, readily available data can help to identify and implement strategies to reduce the challenges and needs caregivers often face.”

Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, who also leads SAMHSA, said those challenges include stress, frustration, and exhaustion, whether they’re caring for children, young adults, or older people.

“For those caring for people with mental illness or substance use disorders, it can be especially difficult to know where to turn for help,” Delphin-Rittmon said.

She said the National Strategy clearly spells out what must be done to increase access to various kinds of support for caregivers. Input from the advisory councils, communities, states, tribes, federal agencies, and public input will inform biennial strategy updates.

Learn more about the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council at acl.gov/RAISE and the Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren at acl.gov/SGRG.

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Generations United

National nonprofit that improves children, youth and older adults' lives through intergenerational programs and policies. Why? Because we're stronger together.