America's wounded, injured, or ill service members and veterans are usually cared for by the service members' or veterans' family members or friends. Research has identified that attending to the well-being of children, the "Hidden Helpers" living in these homes, was a critical next step to enhance support for military caregiving families.
The return of service members who sustained or developed an illness or injury because of their military service can be disruptive for families as they learn to support them and establish new norms for operating as a family. Amid this disruption, families are often left wanting help. Caregiving consumes the time and energy of the adult caregiver, and children in many military caregiving homes consequently take on additional responsibilities—ranging from additional household chores to caregiving responsibilities for their injured or ill service member or veteran and responsibilities for siblings who would otherwise have been cared for by the adults in the home.
Ultimately, children in military caregiving homes can get lost in their family's response to the needs of the care recipient. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation partnered with Mathematica to examine the impact of caregiving on children growing up in military caregiving homes to help address the national challenge of providing effective support to caregivers of all ages and backgrounds.