• Dec 2011/Jan 2012
  • Vol. 12, No. 9

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Strategies to Help Children Who Care for Parents With HIV

Many impoverished HIV-infected parents rely on their older children to care for younger siblings, do housework, and even bring in extra money. These "parentified" children are often fearful of external supports and can suffer, with their parents, from poverty, stigma, and isolation.

A new issue brief from the National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center (AIA), Addressing the Needs of Parentified Children of HIV Positive Parents, focuses on intervention strategies and provides child welfare professionals with research results and recommendations for working with these families.

Research shows both negative and positive outcomes associated with parentification. While parentified children often have educational difficulties, limited social and leisure activities, and trouble forming friendships, studies also show positive outcomes in some parentified children, including family stability, better adaptive coping skills, and having a valued and culturally supported role in Latino and African-American families.

Most children carrying the stresses of adult responsibilities and parents who are ill can benefit from outside support and resources. The report offers recommendations for caseworkers to consider as well as a list of interventions shown to improve outcomes when working with parentified children. Among the suggested interventions are the following:

  • Offer the family parenting resources such as monitoring the children's friends and activities outside the home and ways to develop simple family routines for stability
  • Provide economic supports such as school supplies, child care, food, and public benefits
  • Assess the family thoroughly to customize the specific services it needs
  • Advocate for policy initiatives such as funding for services to HIV-negative children, greater coordination of services, and safe sex and substance abuse prevention programs to preteens

Addressing the Needs of Parentified Children of HIV Positive Parents is available on the AIA website:

http://aia.berkeley.edu/media/pdf/brief_parentified_children.pdf (1.04 MB)

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