Whether you are a newly single mom or a mom who has been on your own for awhile, there are a lot of pressures and responsibilities resting on your shoulders. You have little ones relying on you, and it can sometimes feel like a lonely place to be. In addition to providing for your children, you also need to take care of yourself and your future. There are probably a lot of people who think they know what’s best for you, or other well-meaning people with their knowledge and opinions of what you need to do. Ultimately, you need to decide what is best for you and your children but you may not know where to start or how to plan out your next steps.
As a single mother of six children myself, I understand how scary it can be. At the time of my divorce I was unemployed. My children were ranging in ages from under two through thirteen. In order for me to work I definitely needed to have childcare, and really I only had one child who was old enough to stay home alone, but he wasn’t old enough to watch all the others. I did a lot of searching for funds, resources and grants. Most of what I found I needed to do locally, but there is a lot of information from National or Federal websites that describe the programs and resources that may be available at a local level.
Below are some of the sites I find most helpful for single moms on gathering information and planning for financial aid:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development website provides a wealth of information on topics such as rental assistance, purchasing a home (or avoiding foreclosure if you already have a home and worried about being able to keep it), finding grants or other assistance. With the economy struggling, there were many programs put in place to assist American citizens in being able to afford their housing. Lots of information on the types of programs and assistance available, as well as contact information (through phone or email) to staff who is available to answer your questions or provide you greater information on programs that could assist you. There are also links on this site to State resource programs and additional links to other Resource sites. What I like about this site is the availability of live people who can help point you in the right direction.
U.S. Welfare Information
If you are interested in understanding the welfare programs available, this site helps demystify what these programs are, how to apply and who is eligible. Though the welfare system used to be governed by the Federal Government, in 1996 it went through reformation and it then transferred to each State to run its own program. This site is only a source of information, but it can help you understand what programs are available to you locally, what the benefits are and approximate turnaround times for receiving funds for which you are qualified.
U.S. Department of Education
The Department of Education, a Federal Government Agency, oversees educational resources across the nation. There is a lot of information that is valuable to understanding the overall educational initiatives within our nation from public elementary to high school, but probably most key to you at this point is the information about student aid, grants, pell grants or other financial aids. You cannot get the financial aid through this site, but it has all the information and forms you will need in order to determine your eligibility should you apply for any of these programs through a college or university. It is a great way to prepare yourself for these application processes, as well as understanding your true potential to receive the grants for which you wish to apply. Grants and financial aid are separate from other college and merit related scholarships that may be available through the college you are interested in attending. So you should check educational institute for program specific opportunities, too.
USDA Food and Nutrition Services
The FNS provides information for food and nutritional services through the US Department of Agriculture. You will find information on food assistance programs, either for through welfare, supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), food stamps or how to determine eligibility for free or reduced meals through the school systems.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This Federal Agency provides certain amounts of financial aid to each State to establish programs for temporary assistance to families in need. The ultimate goal is to help these needy families get back on their feet and become self-sufficient so they do not need to rely on other aid programs. Each State determines how they will structure this aid, what their program will ultimately entail. When you select your State you will be provided with contact information to learn more about your individual State’s programs and how it works for you.
Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program
The LIHEAP program aims to assist low income families with energy costs, which will pay your utility bills.
211 For Essential Community Services
If you dial 211, in most states you will get a listing of community information and referral services that provide assistance to those that need it. Types of services typically offered through 211 are basic human needs, physical and mental health, work support, senior citizen and persons with disabilities, children, youth and family support and suicide prevention assistance.
Having been through this process, I understand how overwhelming it can be. As with other big situations, tackle them one item at a time. This will break it down to smaller tasks that you can check off. One by one you will feel some of the burdens becoming lighter.
Bottom line, there is a lot of information and services that are available to you. And you will want to take the time to sift through it all in order to plan your strategy for assistance and building for your future. It will be a daunting task, but once you have an idea of what your needs are and the type of assistance you need, it narrows down your searches. And, the above sites are excellent resources to help you in your planning.