Being a parent can be the most rewarding and challenging experience of your life. Being a single parent can also present many additional challenges.
Census figures show that about 50% of African and Caribbean households are headed by a lone parent and a large percentage of these are female.
The impact on children has long been debated and there is particular concern for the welfare of male children brought up in all female households without male role models.
In a culture which romanticises the idea of a family with two parents - a family with one parent can be seen as lacking. In fact countless news headlines seem to stigmatise single parents and blame the ills of society on their alleged shortcomings.
Black single parents can sometimes find themselves more stigmatised, unsupported and isolated than white single parents. Racism and media stereotyping about black families is often at the root of this. However these issues can also be compounded by a lack of historical family and community roots, poverty, and a lack of knowledge about the facilities and resources available for single parents.
Historically the black extended family and tighter knit communities took responsibility for parenting of children. As a consequence parents who were left as lone parents were able to call upon the help of a variety of people for support. However, in the diaspora, the black community is much more disparate and for many parents the extended family is ruptured by the realities of geographical distance and western nuclear family lifestyles.
The attitude of government agencies to single parents can also be problematic at times with policies and tax regimes that appear to favour married couples and seem to over burden single parents with responsibility for making arrangements for child support.
Despite this many single parents do an excellent job in often difficult circumstances and there are many high achievers who have done so from single parent families. Obama was raised predominantly. In addition the media often overlooks the fact that many single parents have made the decision to be alone as a positive alternative to a two parent family. This is particularly the case when the alternative may have been to remain in an abusive relationship.
Whatever the circumstances clearly there is a need for less criticism and more support and appropriately tailored services to empower and enable single parents.
The reality is that many single parents are alone due to circumstances beyond their control - bereavement, prison and abandonment are some of the possible reasons.
Gingerbread - provide expert advice, practical support and campaign for single parents. http://www.gingerbread.org.uk
Gingerbread Report - special report into black lone parents and services they provide - http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/sblp.html
Gingerbread Factsheet on Benefits - fact sheet about benefits available for lone parents – http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content/339/Factsheets
SPAN - Single Parent Action Network (SPAN) is an umbrella organisation representing the diversity of one parent families across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. http://www.spanuk.org.uk
National Council For One Parent Families - charity providing support and information on childcare, legal rights, benefits and education - help desk freephone 0800 018 5026 or see website http://www.oneparentfamilies.org.uk
Citizens Advice Bureau are working with One Space to offer single parents 1-2-1 confidential email advice on debt, money and benefits- http://www.onespace.org.uk
Direct Gov - government website detailing financial help and benefits available for lone parents - http://www.directgov.co.uk
Department of Work and Pensions - website detailing how benefits system can help lone parents who work - http://www.dwp.gov.uk
Housing benefits advice to lone parents - http://www.nihe.gov.uk/lone_parents
How to access benefits to enable single parents to take up training to get new skills to enable them to eventually get employment - for more information see link - http://www.delni.gov.uk
Joseph Rowntree Foundation - a new study of the diets of lone parents and their children investigated the nutritional consequences of strategies lone parents adopt where money is tight and food choice constrained- http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/diets-lone-parent-families
Information and advice to parents and employers on childcare issues including funding and benefits, childcare options and quality in childcare. Childcare helpline 0207 840 3350 http://www.daycaretrust.org.uk
Childminders Directory is a free advertising site for all UK registered childminders - http://www.childmindersdirectory.co.uk
One Parent Families Scotland - http://www.opfs.org.uk
ChildcareLink - Childcare Link is a government site providing information on local and national childcare. You can access Childcare Link at http://www.childcarelink.gov.uk