I can surely relate to all the single mothers in the world who feel the constant pressures of making a decent wage to put food on the table, obtaining an education so we can hopefully advance our families lives, and just merely keep our children alive on a daily basis. I want those women who feel discouraged to get an education due to financial hardships to know that there are many opportunities provided by the United States government that can assist single mothers and low income families in reaching their educational goals.
Finding out I was expecting my daughter in my junior year of college was the most shocking thing I had ever felt. So many questions ran through my head. How could I afford a baby? Will I still be able to go to college? How could I possibly pay for childcare?
After months and months of analyzing and digging for information to answer these questions, I found many resources that are available in helping people in my same situation. In the past, I found these programs very useful, and I hope that by writing this, many young mothers will see how much help is available to them.
First and foremost, childbirth is expensive! Even with good insurance, hospital bills can run an average of $2,000 and higher. If you are like me, and have preexisting medical insurance (mine covered 80%) of hospital bills, then you will quickly learn how expensive the remaining 20% of your coverage can really be. What I found to be a lifesaver was the California Pregnancy Medical Program. In short, this allowed for the remaining 20% of my pregnancy costs, including labor and delivery, to be fully covered and once my daughter was born, she was automatically covered under my name for a full year. However, the pregnancy medical insurance only covered me if my doctor accepted California Medical. So, if you are thinking about using this as an option, please make sure to check with your doctors before signing up. Also, this particular program only had me covered for 6 weeks after I had the baby in order to maintain regular post-delivery checkups. Once the 6 weeks was up, only my daughter was covered. For more information on the California Medical Program, visit your local Social Services Office and set up an appointment for completing the application process.
Now, brace yourself, because what I am about to say may shock some of the mother earth’s out there! Not every woman has time to breastfeed. Of course we all want what is healthiest for our children, but if you are like me, then you know that attending classes 4 times a week, staying up till 2am and drinking enough caffeine until your eyes bulge out, does not produce the best milk supply. Since this was not an option for me, and formula for just 3 days of food was around $15.00, the budget was starting to tighten even more. As my budget got smaller and smaller, I began to research some other options. In my research, I finally found WIC, the California Woman, Infants, and Children Program. This program is a lifesaver in its own! This federally funded program allows for low income pregnant women, starting at 27 weeks, to apply for food benefits. The WIC program is a big advocator of breastfeeding, however, they do not force it upon anyone if this is not the way they are choosing to go. In California, if you are formula feeding your child as a newborn, they currently start you off with 12 cans of Enfamil formula’s, plus extra food for the mother, such as peanut butter, eggs, milk, cereal, bread, etc. Now, do the math! That is roughly $180.00 in savings every month for your new baby’s food. This program will last until the child is 5 years old, and the mother is cut off from food benefits after one year on the program (if breastfeeding; they cut you off at 6 months if you are a non-breastfeeding mother). The only requirement is that you attend a class once every 3 months or so, and keep an honest, updated record of your income. This is a wonderful program for women who need temporary relief due to financial problems.
Now here comes the biggest hardship for most women, having enough time and financial resources to enroll in college. Seeing as how the dollars just keep adding up as our children get older, it is easy to see why most single mothers are so driven to just continue working and put their educational needs on hold. I would encourage all mothers who are overwhelmed with paying for college to apply for Financial Aid, or FAFSA. Federal Student Aid, along with Cal State Grants/Loans, can easily supply enough money to pay for college. Typically, a low income, single mother, can receive up to $5,500 per academic year in free money to attend any CSU, UC or community college. If you qualify for financial aid, then typically, you may qualify for Cal Grants. This is also free money for California Students that add to your Federal Financial Aid. All of this money can be used for transportation, books, and basic living expenses, and it is typically directly deposited into your account one week prior to the beginning of classes.
Now that we have determined how to get money for college, the next question becomes, what do we do with our kids? For me, I don’t have many safe, affordable options as far as childcare is concerned. Fortunately, I am able to use my grant money to pay for low cost childcare. However, what most people don’t know is that often times many CSU and UC schools have on campus daycare facilities that even offer scholarship programs to low income families that reduce to cost exponentially. The CSUSM Center for Children and Families is clean, organized, and well respected around campus. They offer these scholarships to low income families and it cuts average childcare costs between 35%-70%! They fill up fast, so I highly recommend submitting your application ASAP if you feel you may need it. There are a few regulations to maintain the scholarship, such as attending a couple workshops on child development, and volunteering 10 hours a semester at their center (a small price to pay for such a large reduction in costs!).
I really hope these suggestions will be considered when single mothers are feeling defeated in their educational quest. It is possible to obtain a degree, whether it is an Associates, Bachelors, or even Vocational Training. Start out slow; it does not matter if you are in class once a week, or 3 times a day. Just don’t forget the value of your education, and how much good we can do with our lives if we work on it piece by piece and semester by semester.