The number of families in Carroll County headed by a single parent jumped 28.6 percent in the first decade of the century. In 2010, 25.6 percent of families in the county were led by one parent, up from 19.9 percent in 2000, according to a report released this week by Iowa Kids Count.
“I would not have guessed that the jump was as great,” said Dave Haggard, superintendent of the Glidden-Ralston School dystem.
“That’s an awfully big increase,” said Carroll Community School District Superintendent Rob Cordes.
Carroll County’s number is lower than the state and national averages. In Iowa, as a whole, single-parent households climbed from 24.9 percent in 2000 to 30.6 percent in 2010, a 22.8 percent jump. Nationally, in 2010, 34.3 percent of families were single-parent-led.
Michael Crawford, senior associate with the non-profit advocacy group, the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines, said decline of the two-parent household is one factor in the increase in child poverty in Carroll County and Iowa.
Child poverty in Carroll County stood at 11.5 percent in 2010, up from 8.9 percent in 2000. In Iowa, the rate went from 10.8 percent to 16.2 percent over the decade — a 50.5 percent leap. General economic issues are largely to blame, Crawford said, but with more homes parented by one income earner, many more children are likely to live in poverty based on simple math. In the United States, 21.6 percent of children were living below poverty in 2010, the report said.
“Obviously, children have nothing to do with the income,” Crawford said in an interview Monday. “They are just there.”
According to the U.S. Census, the 2011 poverty level for a family of three with two members under the age of 18 was $18,123. For family of four with three members under 18 the poverty level stood at $22,891 in 2011.
The increase in American family poverty creates something of a double-edged sword, Crawford said. There is less money coming into government coffers now to assist those who need it. Families with children also tend to be younger, meaning they have less earning potential and more vulnerability in an economic downturn, Crawford said. Crawford compiled the 2011 Kids Count report for Iowa.
Haggard said he has seen many successful single-parent households. But it is a challenging way of life, and many single moms and dads struggle, he said. The biggest problem Haggard sees deals with time. Single parents often have to spend so much time and energy meeting the economic needs of the family, putting the food on the table so to speak, that they cannot interact as much as they should with the schools by being involved in their children’s studying and activities.
“It’s just a lot of strikes, a lot of burdens,” Haggard said.
Cordes said the increase in single-parent households manifests itself on days school is cancelled due to inclement weather or students arrive or leave early to accommodate staff training. The resistance to those decisions often comes from single parents who face more challenges adapting to unpredictable events with work and parenting roles, Cordes said.
Such concerns may mean the Carroll Community School District considers doing more teacher and staff training online so the traditional school-day schedules are not interrupted as often, Cordes said.
The percentage of single-parent families increased in counties surrounding Carroll over the past decade as well. The numbers, according to Kids Count, which relied on the U.S. Census Bureau, are as follows: Audubon, increase from 18.4 percent to 25.6 percent; Calhoun, 20.9 percent to 31 percent; Crawford, 22.9 percent to 30.6 percent; Greene, 24.1 percent to 31.1 percent; and Sac, 20.5 percent to 28.6 percent.