We get lots of feedback and requests from single moms in our Grants Community and we know things can be very tough. It's hard to know where to find help. In help for single moms below we are careful to steer you in directions that cost little or no money and will not lead you further into debt.
Many offers of assistance for moms involve grants or other sources of financial aid to continue your education. Though higher education can be a good thing it may not be your best option now. Many people turn to government loans to go to school without a clear idea of how - or if - more education will help them find a job. You may get grants and eke out a living while you study and support your children only to find yourself deeply in debt with no better chances of finding a job.
So be wary of offers for assistance that involve only finding ways to keep going to school without clear employment opportunities. Realize that almost all grants are offered not directly from the government to individuals but are given through local, community-based agencies and non-profit organizations. Those will be your best options for creating a secure environment for you and your children.
Discover your program today!
Update October 2017 Due to criticism of earlier plans to help parents with child care costs, Trump and his administration are working on new programs to be included in a revamped tax code. They are now emphasizing the Child and Dependent Care Credit so that more benefits will flow to lower income parents (and fewer benefits to those with higher incomes). There is even talk of setting up child and elder-care savings accounts, though details are not available yet. And there will be financial incentives for employers who set up on-site day care centers. Other women’s economic issues and family needs are also expected to be addressed.
Update October 2016
Did you know that the number of single moms who are heads of households has doubled over the past 30 years? And most of them are working in jobs that are both low paying and offer little flexibility or benefits. It’s interesting to note that Trump has a plan to address this situation and bring current policies up to date with current realities. It includes a rewrite of the IRS tax code so that working parents have more deductions as a result of their child care expenses (also, interesting, expenses related to elderly dependents as well). These benefits will be limited to those at or below a specific income level so that it benefits those most in need. For those who don’t earn enough to pay income taxes the plan includes rebates on spending for child care via the Earned Income Credit. (If you’re working and not earning much we hope you are already taking advantage of this credit! If not you can amend previous returns to recover those funds. Learn more in Free Unclaimed Money.) Clinton’s plans involve making changes that would result in no family having to spend more than 10% of their income on childcare — and in any case no more than $7000 per year. She has not yet been specific about what these changes would be or how they would be implemented.
According to Census reports almost 85% of single parent households are headed by women and about 40% of those are living at or below the poverty level. Those are pretty depressing figures, and they tell us that the real problem is very likely not education – the real problem is lack of a reasonable level of employment. While a college education can certainly lead to a better job, a degree is not a guarantee of a good job in the near term.
Of course some would say that the solution is two parents … but that's easier said than done. It is true that the two-parent family has become much less common over the past few decades: now just 30% of blacks and 70% of whites are born to two-parent families. This has a major impact on family income levels and the increase of children living in poverty. Finding a spouse could be a great answer but it's critically important if that is your goal to be very, very fussy about finding a decent person and good provider. In the meantime here are some options for getting assistance:
If you are on your own with children your top priorities are probably food, shelter, and a way to support yourself financially. We will focus on those topics in this article and encourage you to find a way forward without incurring big student debts. Here are some programs with real potential:
It can be overwhelming to try to navigate through government agencies and programs and figure out who can really help you. Many people are not aware of 2-1-1. This is a phone number that you can call and reach a person to whom you can explain your circumstances and your needs. They will be familiar with what services are available in your area and can tell you how to take advantage of them. This is an excellent place for you start figuring out what to do next.
If you have not been able to get recommended vaccinations for your child because you can’t afford it, are not insured, or your insurance doesn’t cover vaccinations, check out the VFC (Vaccines for Children) Program. Vaccines are too important to ignore! Doctors participating in this program cannot charge for the vaccinations. According to the CDC there are more than 44,000 doctors nationwide who provide this service. It's easy to find one near you. Just go to the website of the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov. In the blue search bar near the top enter “VFC Program Coordinators”. That will take you to a map of the U.S. Just click your state and you will get your state’s coordinator(s) and contact information. Get those kids vaccinated!
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
This is a government program that used to be called Aid to Families with Dependent Children. It is administered differently by each state, so be sure to look up information specific to your state. Find it through an internet search for your area. Also check out our discussion of the government site benefits.gov to be sure that you are taking advantage of any government benefits for which you might qualify.
Child Care Assistance
You may receive some financial aid through the TANF program described above. You should also check out what other child care support you might be eligible for. Check out Assistance for Child Care to learn more.
Many moms are not aware of the extent of legal services that may be available to them at little or no cost. Every state in the U.S. has its own Legal Aid Office. They can help you in several ways by:
- providing assistance understanding the law and how it applies in your particular situation;
- helping you find local lawyers who will work “pro bono” (i.e. free);
- helping you to prepare properly for your case;
- and getting access to any state specific services or resources that you could benefit from.
You can find your local office by simply searching “legal aid” and the name of your state or county, or go to legal-aid.org.
Government Job Corps Program
The U.S. Department Of Labor runs a program called Job Corps that is designed to help people develop skills and find jobs. You can take a quick quiz and find out if you are eligible for programs specifically targeted for single parents. If you qualify you may find the help you need to get you and your family on your feet financially.
Women in Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Occupations (WANTO)
Changes in technology and the economy are causing shifts in different types of job opportunities. The Department of Labor has created a program specifically designed to hep women take advantage of those opportunities through training and support programs. They awarded $1.8 million in grants to community-based organizations that have connections with a local Workforce Investment Area. The money is to be used to help women get training and find jobs in specific areas where there is a projected increased demand in employment, significant changes to workforce requirements, or where there are new and upcoming “green” occupations.
Initial awards went to groups in Chicago, Boston, Georgia, Oregon, West Virginia, and Los Angeles, CA. Check out the Department of Labor's web site or do an internet search with the name of your local area and WANTO or “Women in Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Occupations” to see if there may be an opportunity nearby.
Work At Home Jobs to supplement the income you already have with another job: This can be a great idea and certainly very tempting. Working at home while your children are otherwise occupied or asleep sounds like a very appealing way to bring in some extra cash. Pursue opportunities for sure, but be VERY careful. If you do a search about working at home you will find lots and lots of offers but some will just end up making you spend a lot of money rather than earning it! There are others though that do not require you to put out your own cash up front. Keep your eye out for those and avoid anything that makes you pay up front!
Local Housing Agencies
The Department of Health and Human Development offers lots of local support to help people in need of housing. Do a search to find a local housing agency near you, or ask about housing agencies when you call 2-1-1. While they won't be able to give you a grant to buy a house they are probably your best bet for honest answers and support in your area.
If you’re thinking about going back to school check out Emerge Scholarships. They want to empower women and particularly support those who have had to interrupt or delay their education and/or overcome obstacles to move ahead in life. They also favor women who have devoted time to community service. Though they give some preference to women who live in Georgia residents of other states may also apply. Over the past ten years or so Emerge has helped about 100 women with a total of more than $500,000.
Churches and Other Non-Profit Organizations
Finding a vibrant and supportive local church can be a help to you in so many ways. Local pastors are familiar with support services in your area. Many churches have Moms groups that can help you find friends dealing with parenting issues. The wider your network, the greater your likelihood of finding a job or at least a helping hand. In addition you should look for local Community Services Agencies as well as contacting organizations like the Salvation Army or City Team Ministries.
A place you might check — with caution — is the Single Parents Alliance of America. It’s not a government agency but an independent business. They do provide information about finding assistance, be it private or public. And they direct you to local resources and online communities where you can share and find news and discussions related to single parenting. They are supported by ads so you are advised to take care when considering any offers (as you should of course always be.) To join you have to indicate that you are a single parent and then provide personal information about things like your housing, employment and more.
While you may not be a widow you do share needs in common with those who have children and are coping without a spouse. See our article about Grants For Widows With Children for additional ideas about finding the support you need.