Single Parenting and Finances: Getting on Stable Ground

When my mother was thrown into the single parent pool, she was grossly unprepared. Only 24-years old and presented with supporting three kids under five-years old, she was overwhelmed. Not only was her divorce situation heart-breaking, but the thought of taking care of three kids with a part-time minimum wage job was unimaginable. What could she possibly do?

Thankfully, Mom was stubborn and bull-headed; she hatched a plan that included filing for government assistance and going to college while working as many hours as possible. It paid off for her in the end, but it was a lot of hard work. Here's what she did – and what you can do, too!

Filing for Government Assistance

For most people, it can be extremely difficult to ask for help. Especially financial help from the government. It's often a source of pride to support oneself and contribute to society, and asking for assistance is often viewed in the poorest of lights. But when life hands you lemons (or an entire lemon tree), sometimes filing for assistance is the only way to get by, let alone get ahead.

My mother learned this the hard way; when divorced and not receiving the court-mandated child support payments, she couldn't feed the family. No matter how hard she tried or how many hours she took on at her job, food, housing and childcare costs sucked all her cash down the drain. She finally put aside her pride and applied for government assistance.

If you're in a similar situation, filing for aid can be one of the best ways to get back on your feet. Then, once on solid ground, you'll be able to tackle a plan for your future, a plan that will allow you to eventually transcend poverty and begin to contribute to your family and society on your own. If it helps, think of aid as temporary assistance, as something that can springboard you toward a fulfilling future, not as a sign of failure.

How to Apply

The Department of Social Services (aka DSS, the Department of Human Services, or DHS) handles the majority of government assistance claims, so check in with them to begin the process of filing for government assistance. You can call or stop by during their business hours to find out more information, but here are the basic government assistance programs that your local DSS may handle:

  • Housing Assistance – Housing assistance programs may cover rent or mortgage, heat, and electricity, depending on your local program.
  • Cash Assistance – Some states offer cash assistance programs for limited time periods to help parents with children care for their families.
  • Food Assistance – Known better by the generic term "food stamps," food assistance programs can include food stamp debit cards that can be used for any non-junk food products (no pop, candy or other taxable items are allowed on the card); WIC (Women, Infant and Children) checks to be used for cereals, cheeses, milk, beans, and formula; and other programs by state.
  • Childcare Assistance – When working low-paying jobs or attending college, many single parents cannot afford childcare; thankfully childcare assistance programs can help parents get by or get ahead.
  • Medicaid and Other Health Insurance – These programs vary by state, but many states offer health insurance plans, particularly for the children.

Although asking for financial assistance can be disheartening, it might be one of the best ways for some single parents to get back on solid ground. So tackle that application; your future may be counting on it. Join us next for an overview of getting ahead!

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Anonymous's picture

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter wrote:

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 18:53 Comment #: 1

I always feel for people in this situation. Like raising a kid isn't enough of change and pressure let alone doing it alone. I am grateful there are programs in place to assist people. I have had some friends who have used them.

Anonymous's picture

AverageJoe wrote:

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 21:07 Comment #: 2

I always feel bad for people who don't take the time to ask for help. There are some fantastic programs out there that struggling people can use to get on their feet. Nice piece.

Anonymous's picture

Melissa wrote:

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 23:56 Comment #: 3

Your mom should be so proud of herself for everything she's done! I love hearing stories of people taking advantage of social programs when they need them. These programs exist for a REASON, and there's no reason not to use them when you need a leg up.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Mon, 05/14/2012 - 22:24 Comment #: 4

Great points everyone! I definitely think that assistance is a great option for those in need. It is really difficult to get out of rough situations without it.

Anonymous's picture

Single Parenting: Making Ends Meet | MomVesting wrote:

Wed, 06/27/2012 - 11:15 Comment #: 5

[...] and for single parents, this could be a godsend. Since we already discussed quite a bit about the financial assistance topic, let's just review the [...]

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