Some of the news articles about single parents described and linked to in this post are clearly inspiring but others may surprise and alarm you. They aspire to broaden our perspective and understanding of single parents and their experiences worldwide.
If you have trouble getting to these links, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send PDFs of them to you.
Finding affordable housing is difficult, particularly for most single parents, who find homeownership simply out of reach. But a community land trust is making that dream a possibility in Sitka, AK. Sitka Community Development Corporation moved forward with this model in which land is placed in a trust, rather than sold to the homeowner, which is the case in Alaska. The homeowner signs a 99-year renewable lease for the land and pays a small monthly fee. An assortment of housing designs are available for construction. Future homeowner Chandra Watson explained her excitement over having a new start in a new home in the S’us’ Héeni Sháak Community cottages neighborhood:
“My mind is like racing with all these different things I can do with the house to design it, how to decorate it, how many just new memories and experiences and traditions the kids and I can put in here.”
The corporation plans to build 14 houses at affordable rates, which for this community is around $265,000. The average house is sold for about $400,000 in this area. When the land was purchased, it had been designated for affordable housing, making the corporation’s goal easier to achieve. And donations from several organizations have helped the corporation with its construction plans. The community trust model is not new; it has been around for 50 years with around 300 trusts nationwide.
South Korea is debating what constitutes a “normal” family as it experiences a change in societal attitudes, a declining birth rate and a decreasing number of households with married parents. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced plans recently to discuss the legal concept of family to include nontraditional types, such as single-parent households and unmarried couples. Its goal is to address laws that affect child care, household subsidies and inheritance, among others, which discriminate against nontraditional families. Jung Jae-hoon, a social welfare professor at Seoul Women’s University, had this to say about the ministry’s plans:
“If the government expands policy support for families with children, regardless of their specific forms of family ― such as unmarried domestic partnerships ― the concept of family will naturally become more diverse. In order for the Gender Ministry’s plan to be effective, various policy changes should go with it, such as expanding housing support [currently offered only to newlywed couples] and medical insurance [currently offered only to legal family members] to more varied types of families.”
Unfortunately, the ministry’s action has drawn criticism from conservative and religious groups who claim a legal change could accelerate the “dissolution” of traditional families.
I gave my son my last name on his birth certificate, but single mothers in South Korea must give their children their father’s surname. This law, however, is expected to change. The Minister of Gender Equality and Family recently announced plans to work with the Ministry of Justice to allow parents to choose their child’s surname, making it possible for children to have their mother’s surname. This move is part of a larger five-year plan to reevaluate the framework of the family in response to an increase in single-parent households and a decrease in traditional families in the past decade. Gender Minister Chung Young-ai commented on the plan:
“As households are expected to diversify rapidly in the post-coronavirus era, it is vital to create an environment in which all forms of families are respected without suffering social discrimination or exclusion from governmental policies.”
This effort is challenging the current Civil Law and Family Act that defines family based on marriage and either childbirth or adoption and limits government support programs and benefits.
Imagine being a single mother who can’t afford to purchase tampons or sanitary napkins for herself or her daughter? Referred to as Period Poverty, this inability to afford safe, hygienic sanitary products is an international health and social issue that can be chronic and acute, particularly for women who are homeless. In response, the Irish operation of the German supermarket Lidl created the Lidl Plus app that allowed more than 20,000 people to apply for coupons to get the products for free. A statement from the retailer explained who could be eligible:
“This includes those who’ve signed up to buy for themselves or someone else, and is open to both men and women as Lidl are cognitive of the fact that the single parents or partners need to be able to purchase these products for the women in their life.”
Because of the high cost of these products, nearly 50 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 19 surveyed found it difficult to purchase them and one in 10 had to resort to a “less suitable sanitary product,” according to Plan International in Ireland. In 2020, Scotland was the first country to “legislate to ensure period products were available free to all who needed them.”
Nearly 50 percent of children in Kenya are not living with both parents. This demographic reality motivated the Kenya Defence Forces to alter its military family policy so children in single-parent households would be eligible for the same benefits as children in legally married families. These benefits include access to KDF-sponsored schools, health care, housing and support in case of death, among others. The KDF is among the first African countries to recognize and support the children of single-parent families through its new policy. Several nations do not even allow single parents to enlist for active duty. A recent study claimed that the increase in single-parent households is due to “divorce, separation, death of a spouse, choice and breakdown of traditional structures in the face of globalisation, modernisation, migration and urbanisation.” (British spelling was preserved for the quote and headline.)
The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced many single mothers to leave the workforce during the past year, but college enrollment among this demographic has remained high. This development surprised many, considering the heavier burden of household and child care responsibilities single mothers have shouldered because of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, the number of single mothers who earn a bachelor’s degree is regrettably still low, particularly if they have young children to care for. These mothers are vulnerable to having their educational goals delayed or even derailed. To help them succeed, programs must be leveraged. The federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School program provides campus-based child care to student-parents from low-income backgrounds. Some colleges and universities offer self-paced education programs, so single parents can schedule their courses around family and work obligations. These and other initiatives can embolden the resilience of single mothers in their pursuit of a better life for themselves and their children, but more needs to be done.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every other Thursday, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.