Reka is a 24-year old of European-Maori-Pacific Islander descent and a single parent with a 6-year old son, Jason. The father of Jason left Reka 6-months before Jason’s birth. As a single unem-ployed parent, raising a child has been an agon-izing challenge with its share of both financial and emotional difficulties.
Because of her situation, this young mother is suffering from depression. Consequently, Reka’s poor confidence and low self-esteem have impacts on her ability to seek and gain employment in her struggle to provide a better quality of life for herself and Jason.
To soften the pressures of single parenting, Reka’s mother, also a single parent but gainfully employed, has extended Reka some limited financial support, and sometimes, care for her mokopuna. Reka’s main source of income, however, has been coming from the Domestic Purposes (Sole Parent) Benefit, a service provided by the Ministry of Social Development.
Having left high school with low-level qualifications due to her pregnancy in her teens was a considerable step for Reka to undertake tertiary study. At the beginning of this year, Reka completed an NZQA-level course. At that time, her optimism improved regarding job prospects. But her enthusiasm waned as more time passed without yet landing a job due mostly to the current economic recessionary environment. She is still unemployed but continues to apply for positions based on her qualification.
Reka’s other concern is being able to secure after-school care for Jason if she does eventually find work. She is again becoming increasingly withdrawn and displays signs of slipping deeper into depression.
INITIAL ACTION PLAN
A local social worker doing rounds in her community area hearing about Reka’s case recently elevated the matter to Faith in Families with a request to provide him with a whānau assessment and plan. As a practitioner-navigator, Faith in Families suggested first organising a joint home visit to discuss with Reka and her whānau members how things could possibly work for her and son Jason, with these initial action plans:
- Identify and draw on Reka’s wider whānau members for further support (e.g. moral, household, childcare, networking, etc.);
- Encourage her to engage with health support services to address her depression;
- Engage with employment and training providers to support her quest to gain employment and work with her to restore her confidence to enter the labour market;
- Support her to engage with Work and Income New Zealand to ensure that she is receiving her entitlements and appropriate support to regain entry to part-time or full-time work;
- Engage whānau members to identify opportunities that foster and encourage Reka to pursue her other interests through participation in group and/or community-related activities;
- Liaise with local providers of out-of-school care assistance who can point her where to engage appropriate child care support for Jason; and,
- Network Reka with other mothers in her community to provide oppor-tunities for support in parenting and childcare and increasingly engage her in areas of her interest.
But it doesn’t just end there. There are deeper and much wider issues involved here.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
According to Statistics New Zealand, the number of two-parent families is expected to decrease from a base of 481,000 in 2006 to 425,000 by 2031 (a decline of 11.64% or 56,000 two-parent family units). In stark contrast, the number of one-parent families is projected to increase from 219,000 in 2006 to 282,000 in 2031 (an increase of 28.7% or 63,000 single-parent family units!).
Based on these projections alone, the ratio of single parent to two-parent families by 2031 (that is, the composition of family units with children that become the next generation in New Zealand) will be 6.5 out of every 10 families! It is not an encouraging sign. We need to arrest this disturbing trend by coming together as a society and as communities and change tomorrow today rather than turn a blind eye hoping that Government will fix this obviously growing problem. It can’t.
Difficulties associated with family breakup often continue into adulthood. Children who grow up in single-parent or blended families are often less suc-cessful as adults, especially in the area of work and run-ins with the justice system of any country. Research shows that many children from disrupted fam-ilies have a harder time achieving intimacy in their relationships with others or in holding steady jobs.
ROOTS OF THE PROBLEM
“Why did my parents separate?” This question is central to helping single parents and their children stop the damaging cycles. If products of single parents – the children, know why their parents split up, this will help them avoid the same pattern in their own marriages.
If the five main reasons for family break-ups: abuse, abandonment, adultery, addiction to drugs and alcoholism are allowed to be cycled from generation to generation, it will be hard to stop. These are where the roots of the problem reside but also where their own emancipation can emerge away from it.
We need to start educating the adult children of single parents and their chil-dren along with their whānau about these reasons and what they can do to stop it.
It starts in their homes, their schools, their community and even, in their own churches.