Single parent program offers resources, support
August 25, 2010
By Christi Mathis
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When Natasha Aldrich gave birth to her daughter during her senior year in college, she struggled to figure out what to do about childcare and dozens of other issues. Desperately wanting to complete her education at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Aldrich discovered that the University, region, and government offer many valuable resources.
With the support of SIUC, she’s helped translate her experience in searching out those resources into the Saluki Single Parent Program, a free SIUC-sponsored program serving single-parent students in a multitude of ways. The goal of the program is helping students raising children on their own to have a successful college experience. The program is open to all single, divorced or separated students with a child/children and to Saluki parents with a spouse deployed in the military.
The Saluki Single Parent Program, or SSPP, connects parents on campus as a community, hosts a variety of family events and educational opportunities and serves as a resource office and a strong advocate for Saluki single parents. Part of Student Development, SSPP has information about available daycare and all sorts of community and campus resources, assists with referrals and connects single parents with help wherever it is available.
The program also offers a variety of family events including picnics, bowling parties, holiday fests, ice cream socials, movie nights, kickball tournaments, craft days and much more. All events are free and on weekends because research indicates parents have more time for such activities then and are anxious to find fun things to do with their children, Aldrich said.
“We try to build a sense of community with the campus. Our program is a central office for single parents to get all of the information and help they need. Sometimes I’ll get a call or someone will come in and say, ‘I don’t think I can do all of this as a single parent,’ and I say, ‘Yes, you can. Look at me!’ said Aldrich, a third year master’s student from Robinson completing her degree in educational psychology.
Through SSPP, Saluki parents can find out about childcare options, the WIC (Women, Infant and Children) program, LINK (food assistance) cards, available housing options, clothing assistance, recreational opportunities, health care and virtually anything else they need to know, including financial aid, Aldrich said. For instance, she said many parents aren’t aware that they can qualify for an additional $1,000 in student loan funds to cover childcare expenses.
The SSPP program officially kicked off in January 2009. There are currently 172 members “and that number is growing all the time,” she said.
During the past year or so, there were 33 SSPP events serving 295 SIUC students and 394 children. Each semester the program hosts an informational “family carnival” and that event alone drew 337 people last academic year.
Working with other departments and units on campus, SSPP has achieved much as an advocate for parent needs too. That has brought about installation of changing tables in family housing and some Morris Library restrooms along with updated computers in the Evergreen Terrace computer lab and at the SSPP office.
And, this fall, a family study room has opened at Morris Library, a family friendly addition brought about by a partnership between the library and the SSPP. The room offers a place where parents can study while their kids read, play with toys or games, or watch television or movies.
Aldrich said the Saluki Single Parent Program was involved for the first time in the Meet and Greet Non-Traditional/Family Cookout held last weekend at Evergreen Terrace. The free cookout was a chance for non-traditional students, single parents and students with families to meet and connect and Aldrich said more than 175 people attended.
The next big event is “Family Carnival Presents: SIU County Fair,” set for 5-8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Student Recreation Center. Admission is free and there will be games, face painting and fun activities for children. Students, faculty and staff with children can help themselves to a wide variety of resource materials while the kids are enjoying supervised fun.
SSPP is not only an invaluable resource and advocate for single parents, it’s a valuable recruiting tool, Aldrich said. She said as word about the program spreads, single parents contact the office for information. She quickly dispenses information packets about SIUC and its opportunities to them.
“I’ve spent a lot of my summer talking to people who are interested in coming to SIUC,” Aldrich said. In addition, the SSPP office shares valuable information with married Saluki parents when asked.
“The Saluki Single Parent Program is vitally important as a resource and link for single parents to the help they need to succeed and it’s also a great way for students to connect with other parents on campus who are facing similar situations and challenges,” Aldrich said.
The Saluki Single Parent Program office is in Room 307, A Wing, at Woody Hall. The small staff includes Aldrich and three student workers and the office hours this semester are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.