Three years ago, Erica’s family of three became a family of two. As a newly single mom, providing for and parenting then nine-month-old Eris fell on Erica’s shoulders alone. The challenges of working full time, paying for child care, and being Eris’ whole world were suddenly very real and daunting.
That’s where the Forward Foundation came in.
Erica counted on support from the Forward Foundation to help her create a brighter future for her family.
“The most challenging thing about being a single parent is just doing everything on my own. Of course, I have help from family and friends, but I would love to have a partner that was available to help,” Erica says.
That help might include contributing to the cost of child care. According to Child Care Aware of America, the average cost of full-time child care for an infant is $1,200 per month. That’s 34 percent of the average household income for a single parent who is working full time. And for many single parents, that’s more than they can afford.
Forward Foundation is a nonprofit that provides subsidized child care assistance, financial and legal resources, career advancement opportunities, supportive educational programming, and a caring community in Greater Richmond to assist working single parents and their children.
“The Forward Foundation is truly a special organization,” Erica says. “They treat everyone with kindness, generosity, and respect. I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that selflessly goes above and beyond to help people improve the quality of their lives.”
To qualify for Forward Foundation’s 18-month program, parents must be single, employed full time, going to school full time, or a combination of working while finishing a degree. During the span of the program, parents participate in a variety of workshops led by community partners in the fields of finance, law, career advancement, and family counseling. These workshops help equip parents with knowledge in the areas they need to lead their families with the goal of becoming financially stable and independent.
As operations coordinator and a program alum, Soliél Lindsey has witnessed the impact of the program on participating single parents across the region.
“One of the greatest benefits of Forward Foundation is the supportive community. Parents and children in the program become family as they grow and learn together,” says Soliél.
In addition to educational programming, there are trips to baseball games, meals out together, and support from mentors. At the end of the program, the parents have the opportunity to serve as peer mentors to other parents in the program.
“The Foundation inspires me to work at my goals, not only for the betterment of my life and my child’s, but ultimately to be able to give back to the Foundation when I am in a better position to do so,” Erica says. “It is a joyous feeling knowing that I am connected to such
a loving group of people.”
Andrea Starr, executive director and CEO, says Forward Foundation is committed to helping single parents get around some of life’s biggest obstacles. “By tapping into a community of support and a plethora of resources, single-parent families have the opportunity to move forward during the most challenging times,” Andrea says.
Photography: Orrin Gaines photography