Being a single parent and being in poverty are intertwined factors in most societies today, with the American society being no exception. The factors and circumstances that put most single parents in financial difficulties are, to some extent, an undoing of the society and the way the policy makers have treated the issues. This paper will study some cases of poor single parents, described in movies, and publications, and will examine if such people have tried their best to pull themselves out of their situations.
The government and people's perception of poverty in America, and that it still constitutes is highly exaggerated and as one of the writers put it, it took hurricane Katrina for the Americans to realize that there is poverty amongst them. The policies of the government will also be discussed, to study if the country intervenes in the situations of a single parent, and the difficult financial challenges he/she faces with. Through the stories told by the single parents in the publications, and the video documentary, it will be seen if single parents, who are in poor economic conditions, have tried their best to get out of their situations, and whether they still have hope to reach the American dream.
In the book ‘Work Doesn’t Work’, the author has presented the story of a woman, Christie, who has resolved to take special courses to increase her wage by 10 cents per hour. The increase in her wage meant that she would get a $10 per month food stamps drop (Shipler 41). This had the net impact on increasing her deficit by $6 per month. As it is evident in this case, she did work to improve her situation, but the system made her even poorer, and created much more difficult circumstances for her to make it in life.
Christie’s children attended a boy’s and girl’s club, where they would go after the school, since Christie could not afford childcare, as it was a rather expensive service. In the program that Christie’s children were in, there were rules that dictated a fine of up to ten dollars per child per five minutes if one is late to pick the children up. In one occasion, Christie forgot to pick the children up early, and went to pick them up an hour late. This meant that she had a fine of eighty dollars per child to be paid, which she could not afford. This effectively meant that she could no longer have her children attend the program again. In review of this event, and general circumstances, under which Christie lived, it is clear that as a single parent she was trying her best to make it in life, but the system did fail her.
Christie’s hope and expectation was that, with the increase in her wage, she could better manage the situation; but it had never happened that way. This is a case of a betrayal of her effort to improve the welfare, but the structures put in place to help her are the same structures that are making her even poorer. Therefore, it is wrong for the society to judge her, as being the cause of her situation, yet she tries so hard to make the American dream come true for her and for her children. The program at the boy’s and girl’s club is rather unfair, since the reason for Christie taking her children there was that she could not afford childcare services. The penalty and the fine imposed meant that her children could no longer get the little benefit they had. This has the consequence of making her children being idle and disillusioned, and can result to social evils later in their lives. If they take such a path, it is less likely that they will have stable families; and the vicious cycle of poverty will be repeated.
In Roger Weisberg’s documentary “Waging a Living”, most of the characters are working citizens and single parents, who have remained poor despite working more than one job. The film maker, Roger Weisberg, states that it is wrong for one to work full time, and still remain poor. He notes that since the late 1970s, the number of working poor people have risen in a dramatic fashion. The people most affected by the situation of being poor and yet working are single parents, since most of their resources are channeled to the upkeep of the families, leaving them with deficits at the end of every month.
The film showcases the dilemma, and the unfortunate events that most of these people find themselves in when they can barely support their families. The American society in general does not seem to understand how one can work full time, and still remain poor. The complication with being poor is brought by the fact that the single parents are faced with more challenges as they have to take good care of their children all by their own. This film is about the impact that diminished power of most, if not all, labor unions and the economic transition from being a manufacturer to service-based economy has had on the working poor and the low wage workers.
The fact that poverty does bring with it a myriad of problems is well played out in the film. As a single parent, one will have to cope with the accompanied mental and physical health deterioration, and this could mean that the children become more vulnerable to social evils, early pregnancies, and possible juvenile. In the film, a story of Jean Reynolds of New Jersey, who works as a nurse, and earns $11 per hour after being a nurse for fourteen years, is represented. With this wage, Jean supports a family of eleven, which includes four grandchildren. In this case, one can clearly see why despite working so hard, it is not easy for Jean, as a single parent, to work out of her situation. The fact that she takes cares of four grandchildren is an indication that her children have fallen onto the same cycle of poverty that she is in, and unless a great deal of support is given to her, the situation is bound to get only worse. When Jean was unable to pay for her apartment, and sought the assistance of the social services, she was told that she was making a lot of money, so she could not receive any assistance.
Such is the predicament that a single parent at times finds her/himself in. Despite the difficult situation that Jean finds herself in, she has maintained a strong belief that she will eventually make it out. She has held onto the belief that hard work will always be ultimately rewarded, even when it is crystal clear that her circumstances indicate otherwise. It is such a case of strong determination and will to make something happen, and a lot of single parents find him/her under such conditions. From the observation and analysis of the case of Jean, one can tell that somehow the American dream has remained only a dream to such Americans. Despite having their dreams crushed once and again, single parents have held to the only thing they know how to hope, to believe that one day their circumstances, and that of their children will change for the better.
In the film the story of another single parent, Mary Venitelli, is told. She is a 41 years-old single mother. She works as a waitress, and is the mother of three children. Her wage is $2.13 per hour, with which she is expected to take care of herself and her family. Mary relies on the emergency food that she receives from food pantries and mostly ends up with up to $1500 debt on the credit card per month. This is still despite the fact that she has to borrow money from friends to keep things going.
In the film the other story of Barbara Brooks is presented. She has received an opportunity to have pay increase, but has opted not to take the job, and to remain on government benefits till she is done with her bachelor’s degree. This is because by getting a pay increase of $450 per month, she was bound to lose government benefits of up to $600. This means that it would effectively leave her with a deficit of up to $150 in expenses. Thus the pay rise would not help in Barbara’s case, and the best option for her was to just do things her way.
Barbara’s case was extraordinary in that by working harder, she was getting a pay rise; however, in the same time this would cause her $150 deficit. This is a case of where the meaning of hard work being rewarded is watered down by the system. In such scenarios, it is clear that as a single parent, one will have to save extra hard and do extra job, if they are to save their situations. This film leaves the audience with the real picture of what it means to be a poor single parent.
In examination of the challenges that single parents face even after they have made it in pulling themselves out of their situations, the chronicle of Whitiker can be placed as the best read. This is the story of a woman who successfully struggles to make it in her thirties. She earns a nurse’s degree and this effectively helps her move out of poverty into the middle class. Whitiker manages to overcome some of the greatest odds and ills in her life to eventually land the career of her dream, but even then she still has to cope with the new challenges that a working parent, who has teenage children from different fathers, faces. Whitiker recalls the challenges that she has had to cope with, especially when her children seem to be making the same kind of wrong choices, which she has made as a teenager, and that have landed her into problems for more than a decade. By the age of 23, Whitiker was the mother of five, and she had to work extra hard to get out of the situation. It is this kind of situation that she would never want to imagine her children are in. That Whitiker, at the age of 38, still did manage to complete her nurse’s degree, and join the middle class is the indication of the extra-ordinary fate that single parents are ever willing to take, and to sacrifice everything to see a change in their situation. They have literally never lost the faith in the American dream, but it has been rather the other way round, when the American dream loses faith in them.
This is well-shown in the article by Mehta Nazneen, where she has illustrated how the policy makers have been so masked in their opinions and strategies to combat poverty in the United States. According to the investigations and observations by Nazneen, the reforms that the government did bring to collect the dilemma of the poor single parents did literally nothing to cultivate real or tangible change in their lives. She takes a look at the marriage initiative, which explains the suggestion that poor women’s issues were a result of lacking husbands, and not the opportunities. This, she explains, had the effect of sending a message of degradation and mistrusts from PRWORA (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) in the choices that the poor single women-parent made. This message was cemented by the welfare queen, the public image. Nazneen contends that the United States policy makers have portrayed skepticism in that the women of the United States are potentially able to be affected by problems similar to the ones that affect the women in developing countries. This has had the impact of denying poor American women the opportunity to become the advocates of their communities in the developing world.
In summary of the above case studies, it is evident that poor single parents have faced far more problems than one can think. Being a poor single parent has brought more problems to the parents and their children, and the governmental policies have not managed to help them. If the situation is to change, the government will have to come up with policies that reflect the actual situation, and be more realistic in its policy formulation and implementation.