Justice: One Parent Families
Rachel met her husband in a drug treatment program. A few years later, a son was born. However, for various reasons, the relationship ended. Rachel was on her own, raising a child in a city where she had few support networks. Rent for an apartment consumed most of her monthly income. This meant that she had to use the local food bank several times a month. Her son was also placed in foster care for nine months because she assaulted her ex-husband in self-defence. She regained custody of her son and a number of Christians began to provide support to her.
Who makes up the one-parent families? | Challenges | Do Justice | Through Ministry | Through Advocacy | More Links & Resources
WHO MAKES UP THE ONE-PARENT FAMILIES (OPFs)?(1)
A one-parent family results when a person finds him/herself in one of the four following classifications:(2)
- a couple separates after cohabitation or a marriage, and one of the parents has physical custody of the child(ren).
- a woman gives birth to a child and does not live with the child's father or any other partner.
- a father or a mother is widowed.
- a single (divorced, never-married, or widowed) man or woman adopts a child. In official statistics, however, such families are generally included in category 2 above.
- In 2006, 15.9% of all Canadian families with dependent children were OPFs (15.6% in 2001).(3) This represents 1.4 million families. The majority of OPFs are headed by a female parent (80.1%) and 19.9% are headed by a male parent. OPFs represent 15.9% of all census families.
- 25% of OPFs in Canada are headed by single women as a result of non-marital births.
- OPFs have accumulated fewer assets such as a higher education, work experience, and a good income. Because of lower salaries, they often cannot transmit wealth to the next generation. Fewer OPFs own their homes and many live in less than desirable neighbourhoods.
- OPFs experience more family structure transitions then two-parent families. This occurs because there is often separation, divorce or a higher probability of co-habiting partners.
- When children are small, single mothers are the least likely to be employed. Single parents are often young, have few marketable skills and little access to childcare support.
- The poorest members of society and the most powerless ones are found among OPFs, particularly those belonging to segregated minority groups. In the U.S., children living with one parent were much more likely to be poor than children living with two parents (44 percent compared to 11 percent).(4)
- Planned births and adoptions in older, more financially secure women are becoming more common, but are, unfortunately, still the exception.
Causes/Outcomes of One-Parent Families (OPFs)
- The trend toward individualism often emphasizes rights over responsibilities.
- The right of women to bear children whether they are married or not is widely accepted.
- The values in our general culture have changed. Norms and values discouraging births under less than ideal circumstances have generally disappeared.
- Poverty: Over half of women who bear children alone not only create poverty but come from poverty.
- Discrimination: There’s a lack of equal opportunities because OPFs are often deprived of housing, education, employment opportunities, and often face segregation in neighbourhoods.
- Social policies: OPFs often are restricted from accessing decent housing, child care subsidies and nutritious food. This contributes to the generational transmission of OPFs.
The impact of OPFs on children will depend greatly on parenting capacity, education, income, and social support, involvement and supervision. There is a higher need for close supervision when there is only one parent. Vigilant supervision does put more demands and stress on single parents who already have fewer available resources.
Children are more likely to
- exhibit behavioural problems and fail to achieve their academic potential.
- become young offenders.
- have a higher risk of being abused (sexually, physically, psychologically).
- have a higher risk of being neglected, thus leading to victimization.
- have future relationship difficulties.
As adults, those children are more likely to
- have children with relationship difficulties.
- achieve a lower educational level, resulting in a low-income job.
- have a criminal record for violent offences.
DMC wants to encourage a comprehensive community ministry model which incorporates justice and advocacy as well as mercy and compassion.
- Invite One Parent Families (OPFs) into supportive small groups.
- Assist OPFs in organizing occasional meetings with other OPFs where they might share their experiences and learn about parenting from each other.
- Provide occasional workshops/learning forums on parenting, which include all families.
- Organize a group of volunteers to support OPFs on a regular basis.
- Build relationships in the community with single parents.
- Organize and promote low-cost childcare for single parents in your neighbourhood.
- Work with community institutions such as libraries, educational and recreational facilities to host educational and recreational events for OPFs.
- Encourage OPFs to access legal aid if a partner is delinquent with payments.
- Advocate at the provincial-government level for adequate financial support for OPFs.
- Advocate for greater government daycare subsidies for OPFs.
- When required, advocate for available tutoring at schools for children of OPFs.
- Participate in local affordable housing initiatives for low-income families.
- Contribute to municipal discussions and actions to reduce child poverty.
- Convene an association in the community for OPFs that addresses justice issues.
- Look for opportunities to partner with local agencies and collaborate on existing initiatives.
MORE LINKS AND RESOURCES
"Canadian Council on Social Development" is a non-government, not-for-profit organization which has a mission to develop and promote progressive social policies inspired by social justice, equality and the empowerment of individuals and communities. This is done through research, consultation, public education and advocacy. www.ccsd.ca/factsheets/family
"Urban Institute" is nonpartisan and publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. www.urban.org/publications/900856.html
"Vanier Institute" seeks to create awareness of, and provide leadership on, the importance and strengths of families in Canada and the challenges they face in all of their structural, demographic, economic, cultural and social diversity. www.vifamily.ca
"Counting Women In - A Toolkit for Rural Action on Poverty" can be found at www.endabusenow.ca
"One Parent Families Association of Canada" has a mission to develop and provide a broad comprehensive program for the enlightenment and guidance of single parents and their children on the special needs they encounter and for assistance on the various readjustments involved. www.oneparentfamiliesassociation.ca
1. All of the information of this summary is taken from Contemporary Family Trends, Anne Marie Ambert, March 2006. Available at the Vanier Institute of the Family website: www.vifamily.ca
2. Vanier Institute of the Family website at www.vifamily.ca