Parenting is very rewarding, hard work and unpredictable. We love our kids to bits, but sometimes they drive us crazy! If you’re a single mom, congratulations, you’ve got the whole burden of love and craziness to yourself. To keep your family together and moving forward requires more planning and creativity than your standard two-parent family.
More than 80% of single parent families in the US are headed by women. If you are a working mom, or completing education/training you are going to need child care, and unless you are lucky enough to have family or friends who can provide this, you will need to pay. Child care varies in cost but if you are a low income family, it will be a major strain on your finances. There are various national and state funding programmes to assist with childcare costs and I have outlined some of them below. Make sure you check for any specific assistance available in your own state by contacting your local welfare office.
If you are in a situation where you become a single mothers (say like fleeing an abusive situation and taking your kids) and you need assistance to support your children (such as direct financial assistance, or help with daycare while you work or look for a job), there are some programs that can help you out.
Assistance Programs for Single Moms that Target Child Welfare
We’ve compiled a list of some of the main ones that you should look IF you need financial assistance while having a family.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): This programme is designed to support low income families towards self-sufficiency. It can provide financial assistance for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children, and the assistance can be used for food, shelter, utilities, childcare, transport or related costs (except medical). You must follow a plan of working towards self-sufficiency, for example by undertaking training or job searching.
Child Care Assistance Programme (CCAP): Working parents on a low income can apply for assistance with child care costs. The amount of financial assistance provided will vary depending on the income of the parent.
Head Start/Early Head Start: For children aged 0 to 5 years, this programme aims to support low income families to develop a healthy social, emotional, mental and physical environment for their children. Early Head Start (children up to 3 years old) services are generally provided for six hours a day, and Head Start can provide half or full day options.
Child Care and Development Fund: Assistance provided to the parent or primary caregiver on a low income who is in work or training and needs financial help to pay for childcare.
Social Services Block Grant (SSBG): Supports local programmes that provide services, including childcare, that will reduce a person’s dependency on social services.
Child Support: You are entitled to child support from the non-custodial parent of your child. Laws governing child support vary from state to state. Contact your state Department of Health and Human Services, who manage this process.
Emergency Day Care
Sometimes, if you are a single mom, you need to find someone to watch the kids when you are not there. The fact is, not everyone can afford a babysitter. Here are a couple tips to help you find someone to watch your kids for you in a pinch.
Other Parents from School or Church: While many single moms are very independent, make an effort to build up a network of people who you can rely on occasionally when life gets in the way, or when you can’t pick up or drop off your child as planned, who will check in on you if your daily routine isn’t the usual. You can build good networks through parents at your child’s school/preschool/after school activities, a local church or a neighbourhood group. If you reciprocate when you can, people are generally happy to help you out.
Family: If you have useful family locally, lean on them for support. Raising a family is relentless, and we all need an occasional break from our kids (and them from us). A good option may be to enrol your child in an after-school activity, and you can drop them off there and have an hour free for yourself.
General Assistance Tips
If you don’t have enough money to make ends meet, there are a few things you can do to make live a bit easier.
Stick to a Budget
Having a budget, and sticking to it, is always a good idea for any family. I have never been very good at keeping to my budget, and spend most of my life lurching from one financial crisis to the next. It’s tiresome, and I wish I was better at this aspect – I do try, but if a friend says the magic words “would you like to go for coffee?” it doesn’t matter if it fits into my budget or not!
Plan Ahead for Assistance NOW Rather Than Later
When family life is moving along as normal, it is very easy to get caught up in the daily routine and not plan for tough times. But it’s good to have an idea of what resources and facilities are available for you. Single moms are the only provider for their family.
If something happens and you are unable to work, even for a short period of time, there is no safety net of a second income to support the family. Spend some time on the computer searching for information and preparing –you can find information on available support without actually having to contact organisations in person. You need to know what you are entitled to apply for, and how to get it. Work this out when everything is going well in the household, because if times do get tough, you don’t want to be trying to deal with your lack of income and also track down assistance. If the situation is bad, it’s only going to get worse while you try to work out what financial assistance there is.
If you know what is available, get an application underway and if your situation improves rapidly you can always withdraw your application. If you are facing single parenthood from the pregnancy stage, investigate what paid or unpaid family leave is available, if any.
The Final Word
For any single mom, investigate food stamps and subsidized school lunches, government benefits in your state or area for single parents, assistance with medical and housing costs, student aid and childcare assistance. If you’re struggling to afford food, you could contact a local food bank for one-off support or ongoing assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can pay expenses in installments – if you ask early before there is a debt problem, many places will help you work out a payment plan.
My plan as a single mom is always to be self-sufficient, but there have been times when I’ve struggled with that, and I’m sure I will do in the future too. When that’s happened I’ve always been able to plan to work back towards self-sufficiency – it’s taken time but I have managed to keep our family afloat despite the challenges.