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U.S. News Archive
November 14 - November 20, 2001



This page contains news for the period November 14, 2001 through November 20, 2001.  

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Tuesday, November 20, 2001

California’s Stanislaus county experiencing a upsurge of unwed moms

A story published today by the Sacramento Bee reports that according to the figures recently released from the 2000 Census, about 8.5 percent of single women in Stanislaus County, California had babies within a year of Census 2000, compared with 3.8 percent nationwide.

In Stanislaus County, 97 of every 1,000 women age 15 to 19 had babies during the same period. Nationwide, 41 in every 1,000 women in that age group gave birth during that time.

About 14 percent of Stanislaus County residents have less than a ninth-grade education.

About 38 percent of children younger than 5 in Stanislaus County live in poverty.

Counselors and others who work with unmarried moms aren't sure why Stanislaus County's numbers are so high.

But the experts agree on one thing: there is a connection between getting pregnant, being single and living in poverty.

And getting pregnant without getting married can make it difficult for women to finish high school or college. This leads to low-paying jobs, which in turn make it hard to pay for housing, child care and unexpected extras.

"The money, it's just not enough," said Susan Melnick, director of single women's ministries at Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto. "If you can't go back to school, you enter a vicious cycle."

Sasha Long, program coordinator for the Parent Resource Center, says there is aid available for college and child care, but it's not easy for women to apply if they don't know the social service system.

"If you pick up the phone book, you wouldn't know where to begin," Long said.

Welfare officials Stanislaus County say the number of unmarried women with children they see has declined in recent years, thanks to welfare reform. For example, as part of the reform, workers ask mothers if they would like counseling to work on their relationships with the babies' fathers. Two-parent households are more likely to be self-supporting.

Health Services Agency officials report a decline in pregnancy among young teens during the past few years. The rates reported by the census may stem from 18- and 19-year-olds having children, they say.

Some counselors say Stanislaus County needs a group home for unmarried women who can't make ends meet. Others say getting more young women involved in after-school activities would make a difference.

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Single women jumping into homeownership faster

A story published today by the Seattle Times report that according to a survey done by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that single women are becoming homeowners at a remarkably greater rate than men.

In profiling first-time homebuyers, the association found:

•• Nationally, women outnumbered men almost 2-to-1. Indeed while married couples comprise the largest percentage of first-timers, single women are second with 22 percent of purchases —— compared with 12 percent for men. Unmarried couples account for 9 percent of purchases.

•• Previously owned single-family homes were "the overwhelming choice for single homebuyers," the report found. Some 74 percent of single male buyers made such purchases, while 66 percent of single female buyers also purchased preowned houses. Although these numbers show that women are less likely to purchase a house, the women's percentage is still large enough that it "contradicts the conventional wisdom that single female homebuyers prefer condominiums or townhouses," the study found.

In profiling all single homebuyers, including those who'd owned homes before, the NAR also learned that:

•• The typical female buyer is 41 years old, the male buyer is 36.

•• Some 27 percent of the women had kids under 18, compared with 13 percent of the men.

•• Single women and married homebuyers are more likely to choose the suburbs than are single men.

Seattle currently ranks fourth in the nation for the number of singles living in owner-occupied housing. That's among cities with populations of 500,000 or more, according to the 2000 Federal Census. (Denver is at the top of the list.)

And their impact on the local housing market is growing steadily. In 1993, singles accounted for 24 percent of the loans taken out in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area.

By last year that was up to 36 percent, according to government home-loan statistics. Because of the way these numbers are compiled, it's not possible to do an accurate gender breakdown.

The fact that single women are purchasing at a greater rate than men "is a trend that was building in the 1990s," says Kevin Roth, the NAR senior economist who conducted the two surveys.

"I can't tell you we know exactly what's going on," he says. But he and others have some theories.

Laverne McIntyre, an agent with Coldwell Banker Del Bianco in Burien, thinks "those women who do buy are more frugal with their money. They're savers. Males under 35 have a tendency to play more."

As Roth notes, many women expect to have careers and get the education to make that possible. As a result, "single female professionals have made advancements. Their income is rising so they're able to make a home purchase. That may not have been true in the past."

Roth also attributes the rise in single ownership to the later age of first marriage. A slightly higher percentage of men live with their parents or friends before buying a home, and this may affect their decision to buy, too.

Ron Throupe likewise thinks later marriage is an important point. He's associate director of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington's College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

"Part of it is more psychological," Throupe says. "As people get married later and later, it becomes more likely they'll buy a house before they get married. They decide they don't know if they'll ever get married, and they decide they want a home of their own."

The NAR studies also point to another reason: the need for less space as the children of a single parent leave home. Indeed, more single women than men report buying a smaller home for that reason or as a result of divorce.

In Seattle, RE/MAX Northwest associate broker Brian Lavery is seeing singles snap up downtown condos.

"It's very difficult for one person to purchase a house when in-city prices are at least $350,000" for such neighborhoods as Wallingford, Ballard and Maple Leaf, he says. Conversely, "the condo market downtown has really slowed down in the last few months, and prices have come down."

As a result, "you can pick up a one-bedroom condo in Belltown in the $170,000 range, which six months ago you wouldn't have been able to touch. That's really a big advantage for singles."

Whether singles are buying for investment or to "nest," because they want more space or a place of their own, local real-estate agents think they will continue to buy. The lowest interest rates in decades make homeownership too good a deal to pass up, they say.

Non-profit agencies need to focus on single dads too

A story published today by the Herald Tribune reports that there hasn't been a worse time in at least a decade to be homeless. Donations to charities are down, because the economy has been dragging for months and because Sept. 11 relief efforts have taken priority over local causes.

Single fathers have an especially hard time because most agencies aren't equipped to help them.

The Salvation Army, the only local agency in Sarasota, Florida that provides emergency shelter for families, has no rooms where fathers can stay with their children.

Fathers must stay in the single men's dorm, and their children can stay at the YMCA Youth Shelter, which serves homeless kids and runaways.

For Bruce Meeks and his two daughters, the collapse into homelessness began with a fire that raged through the home his family had just rented, destroying furniture, clothes and the girls' music boxes.

"There's plenty of single dads out there who basically get the door slammed in their faces," Meeks said. "I was just looking for help and support from someone, but it's been ridiculous."

"We have been getting more calls from people needing help, and what we've been getting less of is donations," said Terry Stottlemyer, a board member with Mothers Helping Mothers, an agency that helps provide shelter, clothing and furniture to families.

Mothers Helping Mothers paid the bill for a few nights at the Sarasota Best Western for the Meeks. The American Red Cross did, too.

The girls' schools, Fruitville Elementary and Sarasota Middle, have given the family clothing and food. The parents of one of Tiffany's friends loaned the family a condominium for more than a week. And, the Red Cross arranged for a doctor's office to adopt the family for Christmas.

But no organization has been able to provide the long-term help that would get Meeks what he needs most -- a new home.

"Sarasota does a whole lot for needy people, but there are some huge gaps," Stottlemyer said.

Meeks moved to Sarasota from Lehigh Acres eight weeks ago to end a 98-mile, one-way commute to his job installing power lines with Asplundh Construction. He's now closer to work, but farther from his parents, who live in Lehigh Acres and help him look after the girls.

"I ain't never had a problem like this," he said. "People need to start recognizing that there are more single dads out there today, and they need help just like everyone else."

Welfare reformers focus on promoting marriage

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that five years after the United States overhauled its welfare system, the top priority of placing recipients in jobs has happened. However, experts worry the accelerated economic downturn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could set back a national achievement that has seen welfare rolls slashed by half since 1996.

Despite the potential snags ahead, Bush administration officials in recent months have began focusing on what they view as the next phase of welfare reform: promoting marriage as another way to reverse the patterns of poverty and dependence on government.

Oklahoma, more than any other state, has pioneered the movement with a program that takes a multifaceted approach. It includes lectures and training for state welfare workers and public health nurses to help their clients get counseling on relationships, pairing of married couples as mentors to younger couples, and religious leaders urging premarriage courses.

Gov. Frank Keating has pledged an unprecedented $10 million in federal welfare funds to this "Marriage Initiative" aimed at encouraging marriage, reducing out-of-wedlock births and cutting the state's divorce rate by one-third by 2010.

The pro-marriage concept has raised concern nationally, with critics wondering whether a government-sponsored marriage movement will discriminate against non-traditional relationships. They also fear that abused women may be urged to lock themselves into dangerous relationships and, perhaps most of all, question whether government officials and taxpayer dollars belong in decisions so personal.

But Bush's welfare chief, Wade F. Horn, said the notion "ought to be a pretty uncontroversial idea" and was meant to be part of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, even if it took a back seat to first putting people to work.

"This isn't about forcing people to get married," said Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

"It is not about withdrawing benefits to single mothers merely because they're not married. It's not about keeping people in abusive situations. It's not about the government running a dating service.

"This is about helping couples who choose marriage get access to what they need to sustain a healthy marriage," said Horn, who until his appointment to HHS this year ran an organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative.

Friday, November  16, 2001

North Carolina’s Scotland county experiencing an increase single parents

A story published today by the Laurinburg Exchange reports that according to birth statistics released by the Center for Health Statistics, in North Carolina’s Scotland county, single-parent families are becoming the norm rather than the exception .

Data released by the center shows that of the 543 total births in Scotland County in 2000, 326 were to unwed mothers. Of those, 149 were to teens between the ages of 15 and 19 while 5 were to girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

"I don’’t know that this is just a Scotland County problem," said Jan Elliott, director of social services in Scotland County. "Everything I see and read indicates this is a national issue. Our culture is more accepting. For some, it is a conscious decision. In Scotland County, there are probably a variety of factors. It has been intergenerational in some families."

"My concern is that this increases the chances that a child will grow up in poverty and be at greater risk than if they grow up in a two-parent home or where both parents are involved in the child’s life," she added.

Programs provided by social services to teen and unwed mothers are the same as those offered to all other families that qualify, according to Elliott. The Work First program, funded by TANF money, is one of the more popular methods of getting families on their feet.

Children are also a big issue for Scotland County. According to the State Center for Health Statistics, 38.9 percent of Scotland County’s teen mothers got pregnant a second time, the state’s sixth highest rate. Between 1992 and 1996, 22.4 percent of unwed mothers under 18 in the county had second pregnancies.

"We have one of the highest rates of second-pregnancy rates among teenagers," said Paige Commander of the Partnership for Children and Families.

Although the Partnership primarily deals with preparing children up to 5 years old for school, its programming efforts have extended to parents. The Scotland County Secondary Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program is one way the group is trying to help parents and children while lowering the rate of second pregnancies among teens.

"Our hope is to prevent subsequent pregnancies through secondary prevention," Commander said. "This means working on their self-esteem, goal-setting, and parenting skills. We want to make them the best parent for the child that they have and help them postpone their second pregnancy to make it a planned event when they are financially stable."

Website created by single mom offers assistance to other single moms

A story published today by the Los Angeles Independent reports that according to the 2000 census, single parents are one of the fastest growing groups in the country.

In California alone, single-mother families number 834,716 -- up from fewer than half a million a decade ago.

Nationwide, 27 percent of all children are raised in a single-parent household, with the vast majority of those homes headed by women.

However, the statistics on poverty among single mothers is alarming. Only 67 percent of the women heading households with children are able to work full time, and nearly 80 percent of American families living at or below the poverty line are headed by single mothers. The statistics on problem behavior among children raised in single-parent families are even more surprising.

Carmel Sullivan remembers most clearly about her first few months as a single mother was an overwhelming sense of loneliness and fear about the future -- her own and her son's.

"After my divorce," she says, "it was like a vacuum. I found it incredibly hard to deal with the isolation."

But Sullivan, who divorced her son's father when the child was 2, didn't want to be a statistic. Somewhere, she reasoned, there was a simple, affordable way to address the financial and emotional burdens of single-motherhood that didn't involve remarrying. Somehow, she thought, there had to be a way to make being a single mother work for everyone involved -- both moms and kids.

It was while searching for a house that Sullivan had the brainstorm that would become "Co-Abode."

Co-Abode -- a web-based single mothers' roommate matching service, is Sullivan's attempt to create that resource.

Single mothers log on to the site and create profiles by filling out a detailed questionnaire on their lifestyles, parenting philosophies, habits and financial and geographic situation. They can browse other profiles or be automatically "matched" with another single mother looking for someone like them.

For example, Mary T., a single mother of a 4-year-old, is studying for her master's degree in marriage and family therapy. She's looking for another mother who, like her, speaks fluent French or Spanish, with whom she can share rent and child-rearing duties.

Audrey, a writer and a single mother of two young daughters, was a little trepidatious about moving in with a relative stranger, but the quantity and quality of the information provided on the Co-Abode site put her more at ease.

She discovered Natalie, also a writer and a single mother of a teenage son.

"We started e-mailing each other and eventually got together for lunch," Audrey says. Over lunch, both women discovered they had a lot in common. "One of the things Natalie said in her profile was that she loves to come home to the smell of soup cooking on the stove," Audrey recalls. "So do I."

And so, after several more meetings and hours and hours of conversation, the two decided to give it a shot. They moved into their new apartment in Brentwood a few weeks ago.

Audrey says it feels like the creation of a new family. And it's a little scary.

"Sure, it's going to be a challenge," she says. "But I feel like I know more about Natalie than I ever knew about any man I dated. I asked her questions about herself that I'd never asked anyone, and she answered them honestly."

Sullivan says Audrey and Natalie's decision to create a household together is exactly what she had in mind when she founded Co-Abode. Practicalities like lowering living expenses aside, the pay-offs for single mothers and their children who move in together are enormous.

"We want to verbalize the loneliness, fear and frustration. Through sharing our experiences we can educate each other on how to cope with a broken marriage, and how to manage the challenge of caring for our children...alone," Sullivan says. "We can 'lighten our load' by helping each other out, pooling our resources and providing each other with an understanding ear."

Sex education teachers in Maryland county can’t tell students to wait until marriage

A story released today by the Fox News reports that sex education teachers in Maryland’s Frederick County cannot tell students to save it for marriage under a newly approved curriculum change.

The school board voted 6-1 Wednesday to delete a marriage reference from the program's discussion of sexual abstinence and add language advising that abstinence "is a healthy, safe and responsible decision for adolescents."

Frederick County's sex education courses, taught in seventh, eighth and ninth grades, stress abstinence as the best way of avoiding disease and preventing pregnancy.

Some board members favored more specific language advising students to delay sex until they are "involved in a mature, monogamous and committed relationship."

The new language, which conforms with state health education guidelines, was crafted as a compromise after three of the seven board members initially objected to retiring the passage identifying abstinence as "appropriate behavior before marriage."

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Texas county commissioners struggle on the new definition of ‘dependent’

A story published today by the Denton-Record Chronicle reports that a new state definition of the word "dependent" has made Texas’ Denton County Commissioners Court concerned about the possibility of higher health insurance costs.

Commissioners declined Tuesday to adopt the wording of the new law until they find out if the changes are mandatory for county governments.

Texas House Bill 1440 raises the age limit for health insurance eligibility of unmarried dependent children from 25 years of age, and also adds grandchildren of policyholders if they are claimed as dependents for federal income tax purposes.

Previously, the county’s health insurance covered dependent children up to the age of 19, and up to 23 if the child was unmarried and attending school.

The new law also removes the educational requirements for unmarried dependent children.

Although the legislature anticipated "no fiscal implication to units of local government" or the state, according to the fiscal analysis of the bill, county commissioners fear that it might increase health insurance costs for county workers.

Denton county’s Assistant District Attorney Carmen Rivera-Worley and Human Resource Director Amy Phillips both said their interpretation of the new law is that the county must adopt the new eligibility rules, and County Judge Scott Armey agreed.

"I tend to agree that it’s not an option for us," Judge Armey said. "The second section (of the law) says in which instances it applies, and we fall under that."

No court members moved to adopt the new rules, forcing Judge Armey to make the motion from the chair. Commissioner Jim Carter seconded the motion for discussion, but he later withdrew it and the motion died.

The county’s enrollment period for health insurance begins the week after Thanksgiving, and Ms. Phillips said she needed direction because the enrollment booklets need to be printed.

The court directed Ms. Phillips to have the books printed, saying that an addendum would be added later after consultation with Jim Allison, the legal counsel for the Texas Association of Counties.


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