Being a single mother is never easy. There’s no one to share the day to day worries of bringing up a family with, and perhaps even more pertinently, there’s no one to share the costs with. And, it seems, everything costs money these days. Money can be hard to come by, if you’re going it alone as a single mom, and everything is harder…getting a job, getting childcare, fining an affordable and safe place to live…the list seems endless.
But, there is some good news. If you live in the state of Illinois there are numerous programs in place to help you get by. You can get basic financial assistance, help to buy food, help to find and pay for childcare, help with the costs of education and even help to get affordable housing. All the assistance you need is there, and here’s the help you need to find it.
There is a program called TANF which might be just what you are looking for to get your life back on track. TANF stands for Temporary Financial Assistance for Needy Families. It is offered to qualifying families for anything up to 2 years, but this is a lifetime limit so do bear this in mind before applying. However, the program is excellent. There is a work requirement that means if you don’t have a job you will have to participate in a government work scheme, but as this is aimed at getting you back to work properly, it’s not a bad thing!
Payday loans and other short term loans might seem like a way out of your immediate problems, but it’s important to be careful. A lot of these loans have very high interest rates, and if you don’t pay them back on time can levy high fines too, making a bad situation worse.
Assistance with food
Every mom wants to feed good, healthy food to her family. No one wants to raise their kids on junk food, but so many of the best foods are expensive. You want access to fresh fruits and vegetables, to dairy produce and other essentials, but finding enough cash to buy them can be a problem.
In Illinois, the first thing to look at is the state’s SNAP program. This provides assistance to needy families to buy good foodstuffs, and it works like this. If you are eligible, which if you are a single parent on a low income you probably will be, you will be given an electronic swipe card to use in participating grocery stores in lieu of cash.
Next, check out the WIC (Women Infants and Children) program. This one is designed just to help moms like you. It caters for mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who have young children.
Finally, there are the food banks of Illinois. These offer donated food to single mothers who qualify under their criteria. A list of the locations of these and the types of foods on offer can be found on the link below:
All of the above should reassure you that assistance to have access to good, healthy foods is available to you in Illinois if you need it.
Assistance with childcare
Yet another problem that single mothers have to face is the thorny question of how to find and afford good childcare. Whether you have childcare in your own home or in a day centre, it can be hard to find and even harder to pay for. But, if you are to get out to work to earn the money to keep the family, childcare is something you simply can’t do without.
Don’t worry, Illinois has programs to help. The Child Care Assistance program (CCAP) can help you find quality, reliable child care at a subsidized rate that you can afford. For more details of how to check your eligibility and how to obtain the assistance, follow this link:
There are other things you can do to help yourself find childcare if you don’t qualify for the above program. Get to know other single moms in your area, it may be possible to arrange a rota between you to share the babysitting. It’s also possible that day care groups are on offer through churches or other religious/community associations. Ask around!
Assistance with healthcare
Every mother worried about her children’s health. Kids are notoriously liable to catch illnesses and to have accidents…many of these are minor, but sometimes you just have to take them to a doctor or a hospital. Then there are the routine things like vaccinations and dental care, or maybe trips to the opticians…the list goes on.
If you have a low income, as a lot of single moms do, you might be eligible to receive help through Medicaid. All the details you need are found on the link below:
The webpage also tells you about Illinois’ other medical assistance programs, so even if Medicaid is not able to help you, something here could be just what you are looking for.
Assistance with housing
Finding accommodation that is affordable and also offers the right environment in which to raise your family is another headache that single moms have to deal with.
The Illinois Rental Housing Support program is a program that can assist with both the search for a decent home and also with subsidized rents. Check it out here:
As conditions and expenses can vary vastly in Illinois due to the diversity of cities and countryside, single moms may find supplementary schemes in their localities, with extra help available in big cities such as Chicago.
If you also need some help to pay heating bills and other utility expenses, take a look at the LIHEAP scheme.
Assistance with education
If you have children, at some point you will also have to pay for their education costs. Not only this, but it may also be that you want to return to education yourself to get those all important qualifications so you can improve your own employment and earning prospects.
Fortunately, education is an area of life that attracts a lot of help through grants, loans and scholarships. Grants and scholarships are preferable to loans, if you can get them, because they don’t have to be paid back in the future.
Begin with a look at state aid. See if you are eligible for FAFSA. This is a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The link above takes you to a FAFSA website where you can find out if you are eligible for state help with education, download a form, get help filling it in if necessary, and discover the codes you need to apply for assistance for the college you want to attend. Filling in the form properly is really important, so just ask for assistance with it if you have any worries about this.
Check too, what scholarships individual colleges or schools may offer to potential students. There may also be help on offer for students of certain subjects and on professional courses such as nursing.
Grants and scholarships can also be found in other ways. If you or your kids have a disability or illness, search the internet to see if there is any specific assistance available associated with the condition. Sometimes even churches or religious groups offer scholarships to their members, as do some employers.
Assistance with transportation
A car of your own may seem an impossible dream if you can’t get the cash together to buy one, but it might be more possible than you think! Do a web search for the donate car program offered by TANF.
Another possibility is to see if a group of single parents can get together and buy a car between them. This way you can share costs, and help out by taking it in turns to do the school runs.
If not, and having a car is not possible, get to know the public transport in Illinois’ towns and cities. Buses can be quite cheap to use, and cheaper still if you can buy a season travel pass.
Life in Illinois as a single mother might be a little easier than you imagine, if you make the most of the help available.