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NEWS | Sept. 12, 2008

Single parent support group addresses need on base

By Meredith Canales 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

When Staff Sgt. Patricia LeTendre became a single parent, she felt like she needed guidance and support to do her best as a parent and as an Airman. The result of that need is the Single Parents Support Group, which started in 2006 and meets once a month at the Airman and Family Readiness Flight.

"There are about 30 of us who meet, off and on, but I know there are more people out there who can take advantage of this group," she said, expressing frustration over lower attendance numbers. "When you're a single parent in the military, you're often in a foreign city, where you don't really know anyone locally and it's just you to take care of the child."

Add the responsibility of carrying the financial burden alone, she said, and there's a recipe for a meltdown.

"When child care costs more than your rent, it's hard to figure out a way to make it work," she said. "In addition, you have to think about all those single parent Airmen who work at night. The child development center operates during the day, so I know a lot of parents who are at a loss as to what to do if they get put on nights."

With recent inflation, said the sergeant from the Cryptologic Systems Group, the financial burden hurts more than ever.

"You're thinking about being the mother and the father," she said. "That one paycheck doesn't stretch as far when you have to pay someone to care for your child. Some parents I know have even resorted to hiring live-in nannies."

The support group offers a way for single parents not only to form a social network but also to have backup child care.

"There might be a situation where I could offer to watch someone's children for a night on a weekend, and then she could return the favor the next weekend," said Sergeant LeTendre.

"We're a group of people taking care of each other. Even though we only meet once a month, we meet for play dates, or go to the park together or just grab a cup of coffee once in a while. We really try to be there for each other."

Monthly meetings are an hour and are usually held at lunch at the AFRF.

"Sometimes I try to have a guest speaker, but not if I know attendance is going to be low," she said. "I address things like services they can take advantage of or free events around town where they can take their kids for a weekend outing."

Sergeant LeTendre's own child turned 5 this year and just started kindergarten.

"This is really a need that should be addressed more fully," she said.

"People don't realize how difficult it is to play the role of mother, father and Airman. With the support group there, we all have someone to lean on when we thought there was no one to help."