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.
For many single parents, their first brush with the welfare system did not occur because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1996, the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program has required states to go after the fathers of children whose mothers had applied for welfare in order for the states to receive TANF grants. According to ProPublica, the states’ efforts were an attempt “to get [the delinquent parents] to pay child support to the government as repayment for those welfare dollars.” Essentially, billions of dollars have not reached these children but were diverted to the government. ProPublica found through its research of statistics from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement that:
“More than $1.7 billion in child support collected from fathers in 2020 was seized by federal and state governments as repayment for mothers and children having been on welfare.”
During the pandemic, ProPublica found that:
“The IRS and state child support agencies even redirected stimulus money that had been headed to poor fathers into government coffers instead, on the grounds that they owed child support on behalf of a family that had previously received welfare.”
To effectuate these welfare payments from the state, single mothers must provide specific, detailed information about the fathers. Some single mothers refuse to do so because they fear the risk of complicating already “fraught, and sometimes abusive, relationships with their children’s fathers, if they’re even in contact with them.” As a result, these single mothers do not receive welfare and face poverty. This situation differs from child support arrangements in which the custodial parent is not seeking welfare. In these cases, the court approves the child support schedule and the monies are given for the care of the children.
As single-parent households steadily increase in the United States, especially with the rising number of spousal deaths because of COVID-19, an overview of some U.S. laws that impact single parents indicates that things are not as they may seem. Among the laws mentioned is the Single Parent Protection Act enacted in 2009. This law involves the IRS to ensure child support is paid by allowing “individual taxpayers who are entitled to receive child support a refundable tax credit for any unpaid portion of such support” and by increasing “increase the income tax liability of any individual required to pay child support by the amount of the unpaid child support allowed as a tax credit.” While this law seeks to make the custodial parent whole, another law and a program resulting from it seek to make the government whole.
The ProPublica article above titled “These Single Moms Are Forced to Choose: Reveal Their Sexual Histories or Forfeit Welfare” reveals the flaws in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program created by the Personal Responsibility And Work Reconciliation Act of 1996. Another law that affects the distribution of child support is Title IV of the Social Security Act in which “any child support payments collected by a single parent or family receiving welfare benefits must be seized by the state, until the amount of child support exceeds the amount of government assistance.” It appears that if custodial parents go through the state system, the child support for their children may not go to them. Going through the court system and obtaining a court order seems to be the best option for ensuring the child support actually reaches the intended child.
The Family Association of Vorarlberg State in Austria is expanding its online outreach to single parents with the addition of a digital platform where support services are aggregated. The association’s survey in spring 2021 of single parents revealed their frustrations with the disproportionately worse financial burdens and emotional demands they confront compared to those of married couples or single people without children. In addition, single parents in the survey expressed difficulty in finding COVID-19-related information as well as financial assistance and childcare resources. To address this situation and help alleviate the stress of single parents, the association launched Single but Not Alone, an extension of its Zoom meetings Talk for Single Parents where single parents gather and support each other.
One of the financial advantages of being married is having access to two incomes, assuming both partners are employed. The closest many single parents have come to this benefit is child support. But what if a single parent’s income and child support are not adequate? Some single parents are taking a rather unconventional approach — share housing. Basically, single parents are deciding to live together, dividing expenses and household duties, and enjoying a better quality of life for themselves and their children. This article follows a single parent’s experience meeting her future housemate and determining whether they and their daughters would be a good fit. They managed to secure a home in Melbourne, Australia, with a small orchard and swimming pool because of their combined income. Single mom Indi Williams described her new living arrangement:
“We wake up every day and look at this beautiful scenery, both of us feel like it is still a bit surreal. It’s so far out of the realms of what I thought was possible as a single parent.”
Many single parents with joint or shared custody have experienced a nearly two-year period of frustration and fear. With several courts being closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many consent order breeches were dismissed or minimized, leaving custodial parents wondering about the actual legal authority of the court order that governs the custody of their children. Co-parenting, on a good day, can be difficult, but the pandemic has merely exacerbated the tensions between many parents who agonize over the physical and mental safety of their children. To curb the spread of the coronavirus and its Delta strain, several lawmakers, celebrities and others have been calling for people to wear masks and get vaccinated, but not everyone supports this health campaign. So, what should parents with shared custody do if they have opposing views on mitigating health efforts against COVID-19? The first option is to risk the child’s health by not having them wear masks or get vaccinated. The second option is to seek a mediator who will help convince the other parent that safety measures must be taken. The third option is to seek court intervention. An abundance of brackish misinformation has left many people confused and angry. But, sometimes, enough is enough. If dueling parents can put politics aside and see the virus for what it is — a virus — maybe they can recognize what’s really important: the health and well-being of their children.
Less than 10 percent of male heads of households in Indonesia are single fathers, resulting in their struggles and hopes being largely untold. This article profiles a man who became a single father because his wife passed away rather than by choice or not choosing to marry the mother. Instead of focusing on remarrying, Achmad Sofyan decided to raise his two sons and daughter. His greatest challenge was not providing financially for his family — he worked as a teacher — but being emotionally supportive of his children’s needs. As his sons aged and pursued careers and higher education, Sofyan decided to consider dating. Unfortunately, he quickly discovered that many of the women he met expected him to send his daughter to live with her mother’s family if he wanted to pursue a relationship with them. Sofyan’s experiences reveal the challenges of single fathers who lost a spouse, a heartfelt story of helping a family to grow while honoring the parent who passed away.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent.
Starting the summer of 2021, my son, Joseph, is writing a monthly column titled In My Son’s Words where he describes his experiences as a teenager and as a child of a single parent.
Twice a month, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.