Single Parents in Poverty
When senior reporter Naomi Schalit began her nine months of research for our series on Maine’s single parents in poverty, one of her first stops was Isabel Sawhill’s office at the Brookings Institution. You’ll find many quotes from Sawhill in Schalit’s five-part series; here is the complete interview transcript.
I have been a reporter for 34 years and this was the hardest story I have ever written. People didn’t want to talk to me. They didn’t want to give me “fodder for woman-blaming.” That was the response I heard, over and over, as I tried to set up interviews for my story about the dramatic rise in the percentage and number of Maine children born to single mothers — and the consequences of that rise.
Part 1: In one of the most in-depth series that the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has ever published, Senior Reporter Naomi Schalit discovers and calls attention to a dramatic change in the Maine family — a 500 percent increase in the proportion of children born to single parents in the last 43 years. Nearly half of all births in the state are now to mothers who are not married.
Because most of those single parents can’t afford to raise a child — or two or three children — they are destined to live in poverty. And when children are raised in that kind of poverty and deprivation, their brains are literally harmed, setting the stage for a lifetime of negative effects, according to the experts interviewed by Schalit.
At a time when poverty and welfare have become polarizing political issues in Maine, the very people who know the most about this problem don’t want to talk frankly about it for fear of backlash against the parents and children they are trying to help. It took nine months of digging into the problem — interviews with national experts, days spent with single mothers, time in the state prison with single fathers and repeated visits with teachers, social workers and public officials — for Schalit to bring forward this essential story.
Part 2: The story of one single mother speaks to the struggles shared by many single parents in Maine. “Every week’s the same,” she said. “I’m always broke. The electric, internet, diapers, toiletries, food when we run out of my food card…”
Part 3: Veteran teachers and school officials are on the front lines of the crisis of the growth of children coming from poor families, many with just one parent at home. Their experiences show the impact of the changing face of the Maine family.
Part 4: The story of the fathers who are rarely there. Interviews with men at the Maine State Prison who have one or more children with women to whom they are not married.
Removing the obstacles to school and work helps struggling single mothers escape the trap they’re in
Part 5: Is there a solution to the single-parent crisis? Not an easy one, say the experts and the people who try to help single mothers and their children. But we show you how they are trying.