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Running head: SINGLE MOTHERS

Group Proposal: Single Mothers

Emily Massorati, Rebecca Zdanowski, Laci Paluck & Khadija Andrews

University at Buffalo

July 3, 2010


This paper explores the current research and rationale for implementing a structured

psychoeducational group for unemployed single mothers. Upon exploring this research it was

determined there is a need for this service. The group focuses on addressing issues that are

commonly faced by this population. The goals of the group are to provide education, support and

resources as it regards to job searching, determining and implementing educational goals,

addressing housing concerns and financial issues, lowering/stabilizing healthcare cost, and to

build self esteem of group members. The overall goal of the group is to increase the participants

self sufficiency.

Keywords: single mothers, unemployed, self sufficiency


Group Proposal: Single Mothers


According to the U.S. Census Bureau in November 2009, there were approximately 13.7

million single parents in the United States. The noted single parents are raising 21.8 million

children and approximately 26% of those children are under the age of 21. According to Single

Parent Statistics (2010) 27% of custodial single mothers and their children live in poverty, 22%

receive Medicaid, 23.5% receive food stamps, and 12% receive some form of public housing or

rent subsidy. As well The single parent family statistics from 2005 showed that 31.1 % of all

single parent families received some sort of public assistance, with only 6 % receiving cash

assistance. A survey conducted by Raise the Nation, an organization that provides financial aids

to single mothers who are pursuing higher education, estimated that almost 38% of single

mothers live below the poverty line, as a result of lack of education (Lowry 2010).

The Institute for Womens Policy Research (2009) states that one out of every eight

women (12.2 percent) who are the head of household for their families are unemployed.

Increased employment was a central goal of the 1996 welfare reform. The labor market

participation of single mothers has been a primary focus of welfare literature since then. Lerman

& Ratcliffe (2001) write:

Moving welfare recipients from welfare to work was the primary goal of the Personal

Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. The act had generated increases

in employment among mothers heading families (single mother), the group most likely to

receive welfare (p. 3).


As Kimmel (1998) writes: particularly for single mothers, insufficient childcare options can be a

strong barrier to labor force participation. Without adequate childcare, the burdens of

motherhood and employment can be enormous.

Single mothers represent a group vulnerable to extensive contact with poverty, lower

education and higher rates of unemployment. Concluded from the above mentioned research it

was determined that addressing job searching, educational goals, housing, finance, health and

child care will assist single mothers in striving for self sufficiency. By providing this continuum

of services it is theorized that the goals and objectives set forth the by this group will be met.

The feminist theory lends itself well to facilitating successful womens groups. Based on

equality in relationships between the leader and the participants the feminist theory looks to

empower women who have faced multiple forms of societal discrimination. Gender stereotypes

are not reinforced but instead an understanding of cultural differences and gender roles are

examined. Womens group leaders need to beware of the individual issues that women are faced

with and empower the participants to address and change these issues (Kees & Leech, 2004).

Current research has noted that successful womens groups incorporate a holistic

approach to providing services that address external barriers to attending group meetings. Groups

in which childcare, transportation, and group reminders were provided increased the

cohesiveness, trust and attendance rates of the participants. Short-term solution oriented groups

that meet the specific needs of the participants also increased the effectiveness in reaching goals.

Research has shown that the strength of womens groups is support (Kees & Leech,

p.425). Support will not only be seen by addressing the educational aspects of the group but by

also providing a group to support women as they experience the hardships of being a single

mother in todays society.



The overall goal of implementing this group is to increase the participants self sufficiency

by providing services that are appropriate for the women and their children. This includes

furthering their understanding of the employment process, the job search process, housing

options, financial responsibility and healthcare options.

The goals for week 1 are for each member to become familiar with the group structure

and for the leaders to determine level of the needs of each participant. The objectives for these

goals are for members to; discuss the group rules, goals and objectives, have the participants sign

a contract stating that they have read and agree to the terms of the group, complete the Q&A

assessment, and complete an ice breaker activity.

The goals for week two are to address and explore the possible educational opportunities

that could be afforded to the participants. The objectives for these goals are to; attend a

presentation from BOCES- and a community college, provide resources on higher education

informational sessions, admissions process and the application process, write down current

educational goals and establish a plan to achieve these goals and lastly to process their plan in

the group setting.

The goals for week three are to address and explore financial issues and the available

resources. The participants objectives for these goals are to; gain information on the possible

assistance and grant programs by meeting with a representative from the Department of Social

Services (DSS), to construct a personal budget and a financial saving plan, write down financial

goals and devise a plan to reach these goals and to process this plan with the group.

The goals for week four are to learn about the employment process. The objectives are to;

meet with a Department of Labor (DOL) representative to conduct job searches, learn resume

writing skills, interviewing skills and interview/business etiquette, complete a self administered

interest assessment, write out employment goals and a plan to achieve these goals, and to process

this plan with the group.

The goals for week five are to address housing and health care options. To reach these

goals the participants will complete these objectives; determine eligibility for HUD or other

subsidize housing, complete the necessary paperwork, determine eligibility for various health

care programs by meeting with a DSS representative.

The goal of week six is to work towards implementing the lessons learned from the

previous weeks. The objectives for this goal are to; process with the group the participants

reflection on the previous weeks lessons, review all the goals set and plans created during the

sessions, and to identify specific strides made towards achieving these goals.

Upon completion of the group the members will complete the initial Q&A assessment to

gauge progress towards reaching the identified goals. If all these goals are met at the end of

sessions it is believed that the women have a better understanding of how to search for

employment, are working towards or have improved their housing situation, improved their

financial planning and have gained access to healthcare for both them and their children.

Practical Considerations

Risk involved

An ethical issue that may arise throughout the group is a breach in confidentiality. When

signing the group rules participants will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that

they agree to maintain the participants anonymity and that all group discussion is confidential.

If confidentiality is broken the trust, cohesiveness and effectiveness will suffer. If and when

confidentiality is broken it will be immediately addressed and reinforced.

Several factors in a person's life may contribute to them abusing a child: general stress;

the stress of having children in the family, when one didn't have children before; dealing with a

child who has a disability or shows difficult behaviors; the stress of caring for someone besides

oneself; a personal history of being abused (childhood trauma); alcohol or drug use; marital

conflict; and unemployment. Children living with single parents may be at higher risk of

experiencing physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect than children living with two

biological parents. Goldman et al. (2004) further state:

Single parent households are substantially more likely to have incomes below the poverty

line. Lower income, the increased stress associated with the sole burden of family

responsibilities, and fewer supports are thought to contribute to the risk of single parents

maltreating their children. The rate of child abuse in single parent households is 27.3

children per 1,000, which is nearly twice the rate of child abuse in two parent households

(15.5 children per 1,000).

The group will be informed that the group leaders are mandated reporters and confidentiality will

be broken when there is reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect.

Special needs

A lack of childcare as mentioned before is a common barrier single mothers frequently

encounter. Inadequate child care placement can also result in child abuse or neglect. Therefore on

site child care will be provided to the group participants by licensed child care workers. The

women will also be provided a list of licensed childcare workers for which DSS will fund, if the

eligibility requirements are met.

The group will be offered at no charge as this is a needs -based group. One of the

eligibility requirements is that one must be currently unemployed. Car or bus vouchers will also

be provided to the women to ensure that they have reliable transportation to and from the group

sessions. The group will be held in the local Department of Labor building which has met all

structural accommodations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those participants who need

further reasonable accommodations will be provided these services.


Qualifications needed

The group serves a number of purposes for the participants; imparting information,

sharing common experience, teaching people how to solve problems (e.g. finance, job search,

childcare, education), offering support, and helping people learn how to create their own support

systems outside of the group setting (e.g. networking). NICE. To effectively and ethically meet

these purposes the group leaders need to meet certain criteria. Completion of a group counseling

class, field or work experience would suffice as adequate qualifications to facilitate the proposed

group. For specialized group topics representatives from appropriate agencies will present their

services in the form of an educational presentation. While the group leaders will provide the

support and counseling on these services.

The qualifications of the group leaders are as follows;

Name Education Work Experience

Rebecca Zdanowski Enrolled in MS Rehabilitation NA
Counseling, BA Liberal Arts,
AAS Liberal Arts and AS
Business Management
Emily Massarotti AAS and BA in Psychology, NA
Enrolled in MS Rehabilitation

Khadija Andrews Enrolled in MS Rehabilitation Task/work group,

Counseling, Bsc. Psychology Psychoeducational and
psychotherapy group, peer
counseling, workshops in
healthy lifestyles, sexual
responsibility and dealing with
Laci Paluck Enrolled in MS, Rehabilitation Substance abuse counseling,
Counseling, BA Psychology, vocational educational,
Professional development counseling, rape crisis
classes in substance abuse counseling, experience
counseling working in a womens
residential treatment facility


Possible group participants will be referred by the local Department of Social Services.

DSS will refer those participants that they feel are appropriate for the group based on the given

set of criteria; unemployed single mothers who are interested in obtaining employment. Pre-

group preparation

The first group will be an orientation group session where the purpose and rules are

established. If a member feels that this is something that they are not ready for then they have the

choice not to participate. Due to this being a voluntary group participants have the right to refuse


Group Rules

1. Be on time. Call if you are going to be later. Punctuality is necessary for employment
and school.
2. Be respectful of yourself, your peers and the group counselors. These skills are
needed in the employment world and throughout your educational career.
3. Turn cell phones on silent. If it is an emergency notify the group counselor and step
out of the room.
4. Focus on the goals of the group. For example, focus on job search challenges
5. Avoid side conversations-they can be distracting. If you have a comment or concerns
please share it with the entire group.
6. Our time here is important and we have a great deal to cover. Please try to stay on

7. Inform the leader when you are unable to continue in the group.

Frequency of Meeting

The group will meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a total of six weeks.

The length of the meetings will be two hours to allow adequate time to meet the objectives. The

first session of the week will be educational in nature and the second will involve processing and


Group members

Group will be limited to fifteen participants. A smaller group will allow for a more

intimate setting which in turn will assistance in building the groups trust and cohesiveness.

Group structure

Structure encompasses difficult techniques and interventions that have as their primary

goal the development and maintenance of a health therapeutic group. Structure is conveyed when

the group leader discusses the norms of a group. Some norms include the importance of

attendance and what members should do if they are unable to attend, and how communication

occurs (Waack et al., 2004, p. 40). For example, if a person misses a group we will not be

recapping what we did in the previous group in the current session. Attendance is important

because you will not be privy to all the information given, such as; how to do a job search online,

how to fill out application forms and where to go for the necessary services. This group will be a

closed group.

Screening and selection

Corey (2008) writes that the initial meeting can be used as an information and screening

session. By asking our clients, what they hope to accomplish in the group we can determine if we

can satisfy their needs by the services that we provide (p. 68). Screening is also performed by the

potential group participant. They should be allowed to ask questions to ensure that a leader is the

right leader for their purposes.

Again Corey (2008) points out that a basic question of selection of a group member is:

will the group member be productive or counterproductive for any individuals? Others who

should be excluded from most groups are people who are in a state of extreme crisis, who are

suicidal, who have sociopathic personalities, who are highly suspicious, or who are lacking in

ego strengths and are prone to fragmented or bizarre behavior (p. 69). Selection should be based

on clients needs and if they match up to the goals of the group.

An assessment will be administered at the beginning of the group to determine the level of

assistance required for each topic and for each member. The assessment is composed of six

subscales; self esteem, health care cost, finance, housing, education, and job search which

coincide with the groups topics. The assessment is as follows:

Single Mother Needs Assessment

Strongly Strongly
Disagree Disagree Agree
1. I have a number of good qualities.
2. I have many accomplishments.
3. I am the type of person that people respect.
4. I love all aspects of myself unconditionally.
5. People like me.
5. People like me.

Healthcare Cost
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Disagree Agree

1. I can afford my own health insurance.

2. I dont have any unpaid medical bills.
3. I have no unattended medical needs.
4. I am aware of how to get assistance within my
community, if I needed help financing health care.
5. Overall, I do not feel that I need assistance with
my healthcare costs.

Strongly Strongly
Disagree Disagree Agree
1. I am financially stable.
2. I have my bills paid on time.
3. I have many personal/community resources
available to me if I fall behind on my bills.
4. I usually have money each week for extra
expenses after bills, and groceries.
5. Overall, I do not feel that I need assistance with
my finances.

Strongly Strongly
Disagree Disagree Agree
1. I am not currently at risk of losing my home/living
2. I currently have a place to live.
3. I have someone I could rely on in an emergency
for temporary housing.
4. I have stable living arrangements.
5. Overall, I do not feel as if I need assistance with
housing needs.

Educational Goals
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Disagree Agree
1. I know what I what to do to make a living.
2. I have enough education to get hired at the job I
3. I am planning on furthering my education.
4. I have many resources available for learning about

education opportunities.

5. Overall, I do not feel that I need assistance with

determining my educational goals.

Job Search
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Disagree Agree
1. I currently have a job that I am satisfied with.
2. I know how to use the internet to find a job-listing.
3. I feel comfortable with the amount of money I
currently make.
4. I am familiar with the interview process.
5. Overall, I do not feel that I need assistance with a
job search.


For all the subscales the following scoring system is necessary: Strongly Disagree= 1

point, Disagree= 2 points, Agree= 3 points and Strongly Agree= 4 points. For each subscale add

the number of points, and then please refer to the specific information below concerning each

separate sub-scales interpretation.

Self-Esteem- 10 or below is indicative of the need for group participation.

HealthCare Cost- A score of 4 or below is indicative of the need for group participation.

Finance- A score of 6 or below is indicative of the need for group participation.

Housing- 14 or below is indicative of the need for group participation.

Education Goals- A score of 16 or lower would be indicative of the need for group


Job Search- A score of 10 or lower is indicative of he need for job search resources.

Scoring and Test-Interpretation Discussion


The self-esteem subscale norm was developed using the Rosenburg Self-esteem Scale,

according to which similar items were used. Calculations were performed by the number of

possible choices (4) multiplied by the number of questions (5) resulting in 20, this number was

multiplied by .5; this resulted in the minimum score (10). This number was taken from

Rosenburgs assessment. An issue with using the Rosenburg test is that its norm group is both

high school individuals from the junior and senior class selected from ten schools in the New

York state (, 2008).

Determining the minimum healthcare cost score was done by using statistics from a 2007

study of 38,889 single mothers. This study discovered that 21% of these single mothers had no

health insurance (Davis, 2009). The minimum score was therefore calculated by the number of

possible choices (4) multiplied by the number of questions (5) resulting in 20 multiplied by .21,

resulting in 4.2 rounded to 4; our minimum score.

A determination for the Finance minimum score came by using single parent statistics

from These statistics indicate that 27% of custodial single mothers live below the

poverty line. This number was rounded to 30% and the following calculations were performed.

Four possible points (4) multiplied by five questions (5) equaled a score of twenty (20), which

was then multiplied by the percentage of mothers living in poverty (.3), which equaled a

minimum score (6). This score would be theoretically the level at which they might correspond

to similar single mothers (, 2010).

Housing minimum score was derived using (again) statistics from a 2007 study of 38,889

single mothers; this data suggested that in 20008, 72% of the households that applied for public

housing were headed by single women (Davis, 2009). Using similar scoring as before, the total

available subscale points (20) was multiplied by .72, resulting in the score of 14.4. This score

was rounded to the minimum Housing requirement of 14.

Education minimum score was developed using data from the US Census, which showed

that 80% of single mothers lacked the educational background available to advance in their

position (Apply today, 2009). To arrive at the minimum score, the possible subtotal score (20)

was multiplied by .80; we then arrived at the minimum Education score of 16.

The Job Search minimal score was determined using statistical data concerning custodial

single mothers, which indicated that: 49.8 % work year round and full time, and 29.7% worked

either part-time or part-year (, 2010). A theoretical approach with determining

minimum score it was decided that roughly half of single mothers needed no job intervention,

whereas the other half of the population could use at least some. Scoring within these

percentages, in theory corresponds to these groups. There is a similar concern with the issues of

reliability and validity with our single mother assessment, as it has not been tested as of yet due

to issues with time and budget.

Techniques to meet objectives

There are many techniques that can be useful for a single mother group. Stress

management training can be useful for a wide variety of problems and client populations. This

could be useful anxiety associated with getting a job or living independently. Stress management

teaches clients how to deal with stress effectively. Homework is another useful technique to

engage the participant in the group process. Role playing may be another technique to utilize in

the group. This technique is useful in a mock interview situation. Role playing is appropriate for

culturally diverse populations as well. Cognitive restructuring would be useful to change


maladaptive behavior.. For example, when a person does not believe she or he can succeed

onhis or her own. examining dysfunctional assumptions and behaviors are used to help clients

to alter those assumptions.

Characteristics of group

Group dynamics are likely to change throughout the sessions. As with any group there

will be various issues faced between group members as well as between members and the group


Initial Stage

Group members may be hesitant or unwilling to share their opinions and feelings because

of lack of familiarity. During this stage the group leaders will have to facilitate intergroup

communication by providing a number of ice breaker exercises. Group leaders will use this time

as an opportunity to model behavior by sharing information about themselves if they see it

necessary These exercises will allow group members to get to know each other better and feel

more comfortable with one another. The ice breaker used will require each group member to say

their name, discuss their expectations for the group sessions, and tell the group their biggest fear

concerning the sessions.

Transition Stage

This stage is likely to coincide with our discussions about education. As such this stage is

likely to be marked by group members unwilling to discuss their current schooling levels. They

may do this because of fear. It may also be likely that group members judge one another because

of their life choices or educational goals. As such this may harbor defensiveness amongst the


In such a situation the group leader will take the time to remind members of the contract

they signed as well as the rules of group. An exercise that may also help this is to do an exercise

that shows how necessary it is to support one another and not judge. The exercise to be used is

The Web. Everyone in the group has to hold one part of the same piece of yarn or string. One

by one they have to let go their piece of yarn and discuss how this changes the shape of the web.

Furthermore they will have to discuss how this is similar to the groups dynamic, where if

something is changed or one person falters it can cause distress.

Working Stage

While week 3 involves discussion of financial issues, by this time the group should be

moving into or already in the working stage. As such not many issues are anticipated except for

possible reluctance to share personal financial information. This is not because of transition

issues but rather because a persons finances is a difficult topic to discuss. There are only a few

things that can be done to deal with these issues.

It is important for the group leader to remind group members that they only have to share

what they feel comfortable sharing but it is often when you confront your issues head on that you

gain the most insight. As well they should be told that the aim of the group is to teach them

financial management so even if they do not want to share what their current financial situation

is, the goal is for them to ensure they gain as much knowledge as possible. This can be done by

being attentive at sessions, asking questions and being an active part of the group.

Final Stage

At this point in the session some group members are likely to be feeling hesitant about

the progress they have made. They may not feel like they have gained enough knowledge or

made enough progress during the sessions. Lastly they may feel as though they will be unable to

continue their work alone, without the support of the group.

Apart from the post termination interview, the group leader has to address all these issues

during termination. Firstly it is the job of the leader to remind the members that merely their

planning and setting goals was progress. As well the members will be encouraged to share the

issues they are having, as well as give and receive feedback to each other. Furthermore group

members will be encouraged to ask any unanswered questions and get any information they feel

that they are lacking or need.

Post group Issues

If group members discuss fear or anxiety the group leader may arrange a post session

group follow up to discuss the overall group experience. As well this will allow member to deal

with individual issues follow up meetings will be set up with each member to discuss progress

since sessions have ended and to tie up any loose ends from the session.


During the last group session the participants will be given the opportunity to discuss

how they feel they have been progressing since the previous sessions were completed. They will

be given the opportunity to discuss the goals that have been achieved as well as those that they

are still working towards. Further assistance with referrals or information that was not divulged

during the allotted group time will be provided to those who request this service. The initial

screening assessment will be administered during the last group and compared with the results of

the first. This comparison will ideally generate a progression in accomplishing the objectives of

the group. Participants will also complete a termination questionnaire concerning goals and

objective achieved. The termination questionnaire will be mailed to each participant four months,

eight moths and one year after the completion of the group. This will provide further information

as to the long term impact of this group.

Termination Questionnaire

This questionnaire would tell us the group leaders if our goals and objectives have been met,

surpassed or not met at all. As well it will give us an idea of what can be improved to make the

group sessions better. The termination questionnaire is below:

1) What is your current educational status? Has there been any change in your educational
status since the end of session?
2) Are you financially stable? If not what are you doing to better this situation?
3) Have you had a successful job interview/job offer since the end of sessions? If no
explain what is your next move?
4) Have you had any problems with housing since sessions have ended? If yes explain.
5) Is healthcare a cause for concern in your life right now? If yes please explain.
6) Which topic during session was the most helpful and influential for you? Why?
7) Which topic during session was the least helpful or influential for you? Why?

8) Do you think anything could have been done differently during sessions to make the
sessions more effective for you? If yes, what can be done?
9) Would you recommend this group to someone else? Explain you answer.
10) Other comments or concerns.


This group proposal addresses commonly faced issues that single mothers encounter

which were reinforced with current researched literature. The goal of implementing this group is

to increase the participants self sufficiency and well being. Based on the group proposal and the

before mentioned objectives this is a realistic goal.


Corey, G. (2008). Theory & Practice of Group Counseling. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole,

Davis, J. (2009, June 17). Single mothers face high obstacles, study finds. Retrieved


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Gerrity, D.A., Kalodner, ,C.R. & Riva, M.T. (2004). Handbook of Group Counseling and

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