Discouraged by the lack of federal programs for single parents, or being told that you simply don't qualify for help? In most communities, there are lots of alternative programs for single parents, but they're not necessarily easily to find. Here are 12 community programs to scout out in your local area:
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Single Parent Support Groups
Do an online search or check the community section of your local newspaper to find single parent support groups meet in your area. Most groups offer a combination of support and family-based activities. And if you have trouble finding one, start your own single parent group. Because we all know you're not the only one single parenting alone in your community. Why not get together and support one another?
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Mommy and Me (or Daddy and Me) Classes
Does your local YMCA, health club, or library offer classes for parents and children? Some places offer scholarships or sliding-scale payment options. Types of "Mommy and Me" classes include exercise, yoga, music, cooking, and more.
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Consider taking advantage of your community's Big Brothers and Big Sisters program or other mentoring programs designed for single parent families. And don't forget that adults need mentoring support, too! Find another single parent you respect and ask him or her to meet with you weekly, or even once a month, to swap success stories, share your challenges, and encourage one another.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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"Mom's Day Out"
This is one of my favorite community programs for single moms! Churches and other community organizations offer them. Some are simply free babysitting services, while others include free automotive services (like tire rotations and oil changes), in addition to spa and beauty services. If you hear about one in your area, be sure to take advantage of it!
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Parent Education Classes
Most communities offer some type of parent education program, through the local schools or a community education association. Inquire about babysitting and scholarships, too. Whether you're taking a parenting class or pursuing a hobby or passion, community classes are also a great opportunity to meet new people as a single parent.
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Most food banks require referrals through programs like Supplementation Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). However, some smaller food banks are more flexible. Try calling churches in your area, or your local town hall, for help finding food banks and food pantries near you.
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Get to know the owner of your local thrift store or consignment shop. Not only will you find money-saving deals, he or she is a also a valuable source of information and may be able to point you toward other community programs for single parents.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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The community board at your local coffee shop can also provide valuable information. In fact, for many small community programs that can't afford traditional advertising, community boards are main communication channel for getting the word out to parents in need.
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Many states offer assistance through 2-1-1, which operates much like 9-1-1 but provides free referrals to local social service agencies, groups, and organizations. Simply dial 2-1-1 from any phone and tell the operator what kind of help you're looking for.
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Churches and other places of worship
Contact churches and other faith-based organizations in your area, and ask them whether they have programs for single parents. Some facilities offer classes like DivorceCare, Love and Logic, and Financial Peace University, as well as back-to-school backpack drives and holiday toy charities.
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Finally, contact your local town, county, and state officials for assistance. The more they know about the challenges single parents face, the more willing they'll be to support new initiatives that benefit single-parent families and the community at large.