Child Care Dilemmas of One Single Parent

Child care is one of the top three needs identified by single parents. To enable single parent families to be emotionally healthy, it is vital that churches provide some kind of respite for working single mothers and fathers. The burden of parenting alone is difficult enough, but add child-care expenses and stresses and the family suffers.

My daughter Alicia was the single mother of seven-year-old Christian when she worked as a nursing assistant in a doctor's office. In this position, she was required to stay until all of the patients were gone. Sometimes that meant working past the 6:00 P.M. deadline to pick up her son at the after-school program he attended. She didn't know when the late days would be, so she often had to make last minute arrangements.

When she got off work at 7:00 or 7:30 P.M., Alicia had to drive half an hour to pick up Christian. Since she did not pay for this "extra" care, she did not feel entitled to ask that they feed him and get him to do his homework; plus, she felt obligated to visit with the provider. By the time Christian and Alicia got home, it was 8:00 P.M., or later, and Christian needed to get ready for bed. Alicia and Christian often tackled homework over breakfast and had little family time together throughout the week.

Although Alicia could manage after-school fees, she could not afford to pay for evening care. She also felt obligated to care for the provider's child on short notice if needed, which cut into weekend family time. Summer break was another hurdle.

Alicia's situation was difficult, but other single parents have the same balancing problems and also must pay for at least one child in full-time care on a low income. Child-care costs alone can run between $100 and $135 per child per week. It is easy to see how child care can cost the family much more than money.

There is much a church can do to relieve the burden.

The church can start a child-care ministry that is as simple as setting up a parent partnership to swap care between two families to as complex as operating a full-scale child care center that provides scholarships for needy families. The important thing is to begin to provide some kind of relief for parents in the area of child care on a regular basis and to keep in mind that this is a ministry to the entire family.

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