One-on-one sessions offer support for single parents

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The number of single parents is constantly increasing as is the amount of outside support to manage their heavy load.

Joan Schenker, director of community education at Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry in Ross, has seen a notable increase in the number of single parents coming in for parenting education.

"Not only have I noticed an increase, but the number of single parents with difficult children issues has also dramatically increased," she said.

Mrs. Schenker refers to the number of single parents with children with Asperger syndrome, ADHD, other autism-related health issues and behavioral problems.

The research backs Mrs. Schenker's observations.

Denise Patsko, development director for Anchorpoint, cites statistics that show one-third of the children in the U.S. today are growing up in single-parent homes. Over 45,000 of those children live in Pennsylvania, and those children are more likely to grow up in poverty, be single parents themselves and drop out of school.

To combat those issues and to better serve the clients of Anchorpoint, Mrs. Schenker has begun to offer single-parenting coaching.

"I tried to offer a support group for single parents, but the trouble is that many of these parents can't afford the child care or they are working several jobs and are too exhausted to attend one more thing," she said.

But since the need obviously exists, she developed single parenting coaching, a chance for one-on-one sessions to provide support services for these single parents. And to help offset the fees and costs, Anchorpoint was awarded a grant from the Women of Southwestern Pa. to provide scholarships for this coaching.

"This generous grant allows us to provide up to four free sessions for these parents," Mrs. Schenker said.

Mrs. Schenker said she works with the single parents -- most of whom are mothers -- to help them define their families, develop support networks and cope with parenting issues.

"The first thing that I try to tell them is that your home isn't broken unless you let it be -- you have to redefine what your family is and what you want it to be," she said.

Mrs. Schenker said the list of issues facing single parents can be overwhelming.

"Single parents can feel isolated, depressed and suffer from anxiety. It is a lot to deal with while raising children on your own," she said.

By understanding and developing a support system and coping mechanisms, these single parents are better able to parent their children.

"We also serve as a referral source. If someone is having a difficult time, they may need more counseling and services and I can point them in the right direction," she said.

The single-parenting coaching plays an important part of Anchorpoint's mission, said Ron Barnes, executive director.

"Coaching doesn't seem as intimidating as counseling, and Joan is very sensitive to their needs," he said.

Mrs. Schenker is able to provide the single parents with specific tips and tools to help them parent better and take care of themselves better, Mr. Barnes said.

"She has a good tool box," he said.

Mr. Barnes said Mrs. Schenker is perfect for this role with their ministries.

"She has been a parent educator for over 22 years. Parenting education is one of her gifts and she does it well," he said.

For information about the single parent coaching, visit

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer:

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