Photo: Cristal Gutierrez Bernal, 11th Grade, shows a picture of her 8-month-old niece, Adelany, whom she lives with and helps care for daily.
Photo: Franco Webb, Jr., helps take care of his five-year-old niece, Kamaya.
by Unique Edwards
School is tough for some kids as it is. But after school, a significant number of students here at BA have to go home and take care of very young siblings or other children in the family. Kids have to step up and play the parent role for their little siblings for a number of reasons. Most times, parents are working afternoon or night shifts. Caring for our little family members is a good deed, but it makes life harder. Wake up, go to school, go to work, then babysit a little brother and sister – or a niece or nephew- for the rest of the day and sometimes night. And repeat.
Some students can balance this responsibility well, while others tend to struggle. While it’s hard to find statistics, many students who look out for younger siblings say their school performance is affected. But maybe the only thing that matters is that they juggle these responsibilities out of love. Even if a parent is demanding that they watch over their siblings, they can always rebel against this demand or not do a good job. But many older siblings here at BA choose to take the high road. If these kids can balance school, work and a small child, that’s amazing. They deserve recognition for this.
The following students shared a few thoughts on life as a surrogate parent to their young siblings or nieces/nephews:
“Sometimes it’s stressful and difficult but I can’t complain. If my mom needs help, I will help. There’s no way around it. My mom takes care of me so I could look out for her. My sister is a toddler, so she’s sometimes difficult. But, for the most part, she just watches her tablet and asks for food.” Jakevia Idah, 11th Grade, takes care of two-year-old sister
“It’s amazing. It’s preparing me for my future as a parent.” Cristal Gutierrez, 11th Grade, takes care of her 8-month-old niece.
“Going to school and then going home to take care of a sibling is an everyday task. You have to make the time to do it because you have no choice. School is for education and taking care of your siblings is because you love them. How I feel is that it’s not a problem for me. I know how to handle everything that I have to do in a timely manner.” Laniese Celestin, 11th, takes care of four-year-old niece
“It’s fun. It makes me want a daughter.” Franco Webb Jr., 11th Grade, takes care of his 5-year-old niece.
“I tend to feel stressed because I’m tired after school. So taking care of a sibling is added-on work, but I’m going to do whatever I gotta do.” Paige Allen, 10th Grade, takes care of three-year-old brother