Note: we’ve completely updated this article for 2016 with relevant information and new programs.
Single mothers are for the most parts continuously facing the dilemma of running short on finances. They are constantly having to “borrow form Peter to pay Paul” as the old saying goes. Most are working at dead end minimum wage jobs or relying on public assistance. Over 80% are living at or below poverty level and cannot see any hope for a brighter tomorrow. For some going hungry is a reality and finding the resources to keep the bills paid can be daunting. Single mothers sacrifice their wants to supply their family’s needs on a daily basis. Most are looking not for a hand out but a helping hand, some one to understand their plight and show them a way out.
The United States back in 2008 has seen the worst financial crisis in decades and people are STILL trying to recover — even now in 2016.
If regular folks are barely getting by then the single mother is really having a worst time of it than usual. Finding help with food was easier but now even the food banks are running short on supplies as the unemployment numbers continue to rise.
Luckily the time has come when government and civic organizations are hearing the lament of these ladies and are offering financial help for them to get food, pay bills and even return to school. Because of various government programs and privately sponsored social outreach organizations (many non-profit), there are a good number of programs that offer financial assistance for single mothers.
Most know of the staples of the community such as Children and Families Services, Food Stamps and the W.I.C program but there are other resources that are not so well known. this article will explore other possible avenues of financial assistance that are available for the single parent. It is unfortunate but some mothers are fleeing abusive relationships and though this is a sad state of affairs it could also be a stepping stone to a brighter future. Most communities have state and local programs for victims of domestic violence. There are safe houses, where a single mother and her children can reside for up to a year. They also help with vocational training as well as helping you to get back into school if you so desire.
There is a database at womenshelters.org, that list some of the shelters found around the country. If you are a single parent who has been unfortunate enough in this respect this is a great [place to start rebuilding not only your finances but your life.
The Important of Assistance
Usually, single mothers are going it alone, caring for a child or children along with herself, from a paycheck if she is fortunate enough to have a job. Is she doesn’t have a job it is even more difficult for her to manage on her own. Assistance is therefore needed in many different areas, including finances, housing, education, health, child care and parenting, to name a few.
Life for some single mothers, even those on welfare, could lead to depression, as research has shown. Mary Jo Coiro, PhD, who is an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, reported in a 2001 article, that there was a high incidence of depression among single mothers earning a low income.
The study reported that women who had been raised in households receiving welfare for over five years, showed more depressive symptoms, since they felt that much social support was not available to them, and that resulted in stress. The depressive symptoms caused an unwillingness to leave the welfare program, yet the studies revealed that at the same time, mothers with higher levels of stress were likely to seek and gain employment and leave the welfare program. The researcher concluded that mental health treatment is necessary for single mothers with depressive symptoms, and if the treatment is received prior to engaging in educational or training activities, more of them would exit the welfare program.
So the bottom line is that single mom life can be pretty damn stressful. And if you can find just a little bit of assistance to make it just a little less stressful, good things may just happen for the single mom in question and everyone around her.
Health and Child Care Assistance
It is often said that where there is life there is hope. The same could be said about health, since a healthy person has a fighting chance of survival against undesirable odds. There are many single mothers who are in desperate need of assistance to cover daily living expenses. Some of their stories are aired on television news articles and on the Internet. Consider single women who have young children and full time jobs, and are without partners perhaps because of death or divorce. If any of those women were to have personal health problems as well, the financial burden would be even greater, especially if the jobs were lost as a result. There would be health and utility bills to be paid, as well as food, clothes and other life necessities to be acquired.
Fortunately, help with medical expenses can be obtained from government-funded programs and free clinics which provide assistance for single mothers by way of diagnoses and medication that is not as costly as if it is obtained through private doctors’ offices. This includes dental assistance, which is available at a reduced cost at dental colleges, the drawback being having to spend a few extra hours at the facility to access the service. Medicaid is a healthy kids program where qualified children can receive free medical aid, or mothers who are able to, pay a small amount.
Some Food Assistance and Cash Assistance for Single Moms and Kids
Single women with children aged five years and younger are able to benefit from a government program offered by the Department of Children and Families, called Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program, which provides foods like milk, cheese, juice, cereal, peanut butter, beans and eggs that are rich in the vitamins and other nutrients vital to children’s health and well-being. The program also offers tips on breastfeeding, and helps to source health care facilities and other services needed by a community.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission offers another program, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which temporarily provides funds for children and their single mothers who meet certain income and needs criteria. These monthly cash payments assist with food, medical supplies that are not covered by Medicaid, utility bills and transportation, to name a few.
Assistance for single mothers is also available in the form of food stamps (SNAP Program). Due to technological advancement, these food stamps are no longer received in paper form, but in credit card lookalikes with designated monetary amounts for the purpose. Read how to apply for food stamps here.
Each state tends to also have some available assistance programs, some which may include financial assistance for needy families.
Make sure you read our comprehensive Food Assistance Programs article.
Also take a look at our Child Care Assistance Resources.
Each state has a number of assistance programs that you can take advantage of as a single parent or needy individual who meets certain criteria. You can take a look at our State Assistance Page for specific programs.
Financial Aid Assistance
Single motherhood exists for various reasons. Some are as a result of early, unplanned, usually teenage pregnancy, while others come about because a husband, spouse, or partner has walked away from the relationship or has died. Whatever the reason for its existence, it is a situation that is ripe for financial aid, unless the single mom is a widow who has been awarded a substantial insurance settlement resulting from her husband’s death, or a woman who has won or otherwise received (say by way of an inheritance) a large amount of money. Since the usual scenario is that the single mother is either not working or is receiving very low wages, there is need for financial aid.
Yes, You Can Get Help to Pay for School
Right now you may be wondering how on earth will you ever change your situation. It has occurred to you that government assistance is no viable way of life. You want more for yourself and your family, but how to go about obtaining this is what you cannot seem to grasp. You know that you need to work at a job that pays more but how do you get the qualifications necessary to make this change. The answer is at once both very simple and extremely complex in nature.
The short answer is “ go back to school”. You are now thinking that this is easier said than done and you would be correct. It will not be easy, it will take a concerted effort on your part but it can be done. In fact it is happening daily all across this country. It doesn’t matter if you dropped out of school before graduating or left college after two years, you can get back into school with a little bit of effort.
Get Your High School Diploma (if you don’t have it)
These are just three of the numerous online sites that offer you the opportunity to get a high school diploma or GED online. While getting a GED is better than nothing it is a known fact that you go further with an actual High school diploma. High school graduates on average earn more and are consider for better paying jobs than those who do not have one.
Although you can use a GED to get into a community college, major universities balk at admitting anyone without a high school diploma. It is for this reason alone that you should be certain that whatever online program you choose is fully accredited.
To find a local high school that offers these services in your area just Google “Adult online high school diploma” and the name of your city.
FAFSA (fill out the FAFSA if you want financial help to go to college or vocational training)
This is where you START when looking at financial aid. You apply and get access to loans, grants, and scholarships — both federal ones and access to institution financial aid offed by the college/school itself.
Go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/FOTWWebApp/complete013.jsp. You will find all the information and even a worksheet to help you along as you fill out the form. This is the single most important application for financial aid that you will ever fill out. It is an open door to other grants and scholarships. The Pell grant is awarded based solely on the applicants’ level of financial need and it will award you up to $5,000 toward your education.
Take a look at our Financial Aid article which gives a good overview about what sort of help you can find if you want to go back to school.
Types of Financial Aid
Now it is time for you to really consider what it is you want to do as a career. Finding financial assistance for a single mother to go back to college is a simple matter. After you know what you want to do, learn what you need to do to get there. Pick an online or local college and find out the requirements for enrollment.
Once you know what they are you are ready to take the steps required to get into the program of your choice. Most associate degree programs will allow you to take classes in subjects that you are not up to par on at the same time as your regular degree course load.
There are different types of financial assistance available to single mothers, mainly through private sector organizations.
There are many scholarships and grants available to help you go to school. Some of the grants, like the Pell Grant, are given automatically when you fill out the FAFSA and your application is processed and financial aid granted. Other grants are given out by the institution you are studying, specialized programs offered by the government for areas of study, or by third parties that you must apply to for their grant award. Grants are needs-based funds which do not have to be repaid, and can be awarded for non-educational as well as educational purposes.
Non-educational grants include –
- The peaChic Grant – for businesswomen. A single mother, who may have a business idea or a business of her own, could get help to start or expand the business. Early applications are encouraged because only a limited number is accepted each grant period.
- The Rockefeller Family Fund – this supports providing women with fair employment opportunities for an improved working experience. This would apply to single moms whose children are in school while they work away from home.
Major Educational grants include:
- The Federal Pell Grant – for undergraduate students, with the maximum awarded amount of $4000+ being dependent on students’ financial need, school costs, length of course, and enrolment status.
- The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant – for undergraduates who need exceptional financial assistance. An award of between $100 and $4000 per year is given directly to the student, by the educational institution, at least once per term or twice per year.
Make sure to Read our Guide to Grants
…Additional Grant Programs of Interest…
Career Grants for School
If you have your heart set on being a teacher you are in luck. In 2007 a grant was started to get more qualified teachers into inner city and other low income area schools. The TEACH grant is awarded for a price. You have to agree to teach in a low-income area in elementary or high school for at least 4 years after graduating. If you fail to meet this requirement they will treat the grant as a loan and you will be required to pay it back with interest. To find out more follow this link http://www.singlemom.com/EducationAndCareer/EducationAndCareerFinancialAidAndScholarships.aspx.
If you are a member of a recognized minority who has a passion for nursing you can follow this link http://www.nursingscholarship.us/MinorityNursingScholarship.html. where you will find a listing for scholarships and grants to go to the school of nursing. If you are an African American and already enrolled in a nursing program you may want to join the National Association of Black Nurses the fee is 35.00 but it puts you in a position to apply for the scholarships they award to third and fourth year students.
It would also be prudent no matter what your ethnicity to visit http://www.thesalliemaefund.org/smfnew/scholarship_directory/index.html, this is the landing page for the Sallie Mae Fund. It is also a gateway to a national database of grants and scholarships available to woman that are going to college. Here you will be able to find scholarships for just about any course load. Grants and scholarships for Journalism, Law school, Information technologies and more are there for your choosing.
MATURITY Grants for School
Not all of the single mothers are of the juvenile variety. There are more and more of the over 25 single mothers looking to find ways to finance their education. It seems that most scholarships or grants are for the younger single parent and high school drop out. For the older more mature woman there are grants and scholarships just for you. One in particular that ties in with an earlier paragraph is the WISP grant. This one is for women who are survivors of domestic abuse and you can find out more about it at http://www.wispinc.org/Programs/WISP/tabid/62/Default.aspx, take the time to check it out. It is an extremely long application, so long in fact that it make several attempts to complete it, but preserver it will be well worth it in the end. Another one for the mature woman is the http://www.newcombefoundation.org/scholarship_mws.html, thisis for all women over the age of 25.
Scholarships are usually awarded for educational purposes, sometimes by educational institutions and at other times by employers and philanthropists. Many of these scholarships are available to single mothers, because their need for help to pay for post secondary education is well recognized.
The corollary here when it comes to getting a scholarship is that you must first FIND those scholarships, then apply for them. Scholarships are usually given out based on Merit while grants are given out usually based on NEED.
Your institution may offer specific scholarships that you may qualify for automatically or you may have to actually apply for the scholarship. And there are many non-profits, businesses, and other organizations that offer scholarships to qualified candidates.
One website, scholarships.com, offers a variety of scholarships to various types of students, including adult students and women.
The Emerge Scholarship Program is one such program dedicated to identifying non-traditional students or special women who had to delay or interrupt their education. Preference is given to mothers in the state of Georgia, who were staying home but would like to join the workforce and need additional training.
- If you want a list of scholarships that target women and single moms, then make sure you check our our super comprehensive 50+ Legit Scholarships for Single Mothers article.
- Read our Scholarships for Single Moms article.
For a single mother, loans are the absolute last resort where educational financial assistance is concerned because, unlike grants, the loans have to be repaid and interest rates must be considered. If resorting to loans is unavoidable, however, the ones requiring the lowest interest payments should be sought and secured.
One area that loans are often required are student loans. There are basically two kinds, federal, which are government backed and often given to students at a low interest rate (or no interest) for the duration of your classes. The other type of student loans are private student loans, such as the Chase Student loans. These are offered directly through a bank.
Federal or Private Loans?
For the loans, you want Federal student loans over private student loans. Federal loans have better interest rates for students. You need to fill out and send off the FAFSA application to qualify for Federal Student Loans. Private student loans are offed by banks themselves — you’ll likely have to apply for the FAFSA and also apply directly to the bank for a private student loan.
But there are other loans that a single mother may need, like a car loan, for example. If a single mom does not live in the city where public transportation is readily available, used cars could be sourced, perhaps through Craigslist.com or a credit union, as these would require a smaller amount of loan funding. Information on loans suitable to single mothers is available at singlemotherassistance.net. This includes personal unsecured loans, better car loan rates and how to get them, and even whether purchasing a new car would be a better option.
Single mothers are destined to live in almost abject poverty. The government financial assistance will cover just so much. Then you can apply for housing assistance through the Housing and Urban Development program. This agency runs the local Projects or to be politically correct “ low income housing developments”. These systems provide housing for less but at what cost to you and your children, it has been statistically proven that apartments of this sort are dangerous to say the least. But any port in a storm. You may also apply for the HUD rent assistance program. This program provides funds for you to rent even single family units and you pay a portion and the government pays the rest. This can get you into a better neighborhood and out from under the depressive cloud of poverty prevalent in the other complexes.
To look into either of these programs follow the link http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/topics/rental_assistance, all the information you will need can be found on these pages.
There are a number of private assistance programs available through other, non governmental sources that you might want to take advantage of.
Some of these might be:
- Women Shelter’s
- Religious Organizations
- Non Profit Organizations
We are in the process of compiling a list of such programs and will list them here in the future.
Work at Home Jobs: The DIY Financial Assistance
Another way in which assistance for single mothers can be accessed is through work at home programs. Now why we recommend these as financial assistance is that some of these type of jobs are perfect for stay-at-home moms and single mothers.
These are mainly available on the Internet, and although many of them are rip-offs, some legitimate ones, like paid surveys programs, do provide financial aid in the form of cash for single moms.
Single mothers are an integral part of society, who find themselves without the assistance of a partner. Fortunately, government and private programs together enable them to care reasonably for themselves and their offspring.
Here are a few legit ones (this is NOT a comprehensive article)
- Paid Surveys (note, you do a lot of work for little money, but if you have a lot of extra time you can make a few cents on the dollar)
- Virtual Assistant
- Article Freelancer — see our How to Make $1000 a Month as an Article Freelancer
- General Freelancer (fiver) — see our How to Make Money as a Fiver Freelancer
- Websites / Blogging — see our comprehensive How to Make Money online with Websites
You can also get some more ideas from our Legit Work at Home Jobs article
The Final Word
This article is a great start, filled with not only the reality of the life of single mothers but also with the hope of a possible new future. The rest is up to you. You can do anything you set your mind too. Set the goal, get the information and start your search. The one thing you have to do at the start is to make giving up “not an option”.