A practitioner’s role in supporting young single parents

There is no one-size-fits-all model for supporting young single parents. Instead, a practitioner’s role is to understand different methods and techniques of engagement – and be flexible in their approach to apply these to the right situations. This section sets out a few different approaches that have been developed with young single parents.

Engaging young single parents: techniques and approaches

We can’t give you a fixed answer to your role in supporting a particular young single parent. These recommendations are not activities but a wider reflective approach which provide the fundamentals of good practice. You might want to use them all at different times.

1. Think broader

• Are you aware of the young single parents’ current situation?
• Focus on simplifying their lives, motivations, and challenges.
• Don’t make any assumptions.
• Encourage the young people to design their own programmes and services.
• Assess issues that may impact on engagement approaches.
• Encourage young people to be reflective on their experiences.

2. Listen carefully

• Build in opportunities to allow young single parents to share their ideas and views about things that matter to THEM.
• Ensure you are inclusive and provide a voice for those that are less confident and articulate.
• Ensure the young single parents influence decisions that are made around programmes and services.
• Be clear on how their input has influenced decisions and outcomes which have taken place.

3. Widen opportunities

• Recognise all young single parents involved in programmes, not just the most active. Ensuring this recognition is formal and acknowledges the variety of input young single parents have on programmes and services.
• Ensure the language used does not discourage involvement in any programme or service. Use language which reflects their identify as a young single parent.
• Ensure the opportunities provided to young single parents are flexible and recognise their circumstances as a young parent. Provide flexible opportunities which do not restrict their ability to access a service or get involved in a programme.

4. Break down barriers

• Acknowledge the range of challenges young single parents face, particularly those from socio-economically disadvantaged communities, with lack of family support, socially isolated, socially excluded, lack of role models, and lack of visible appropriate opportunities to become engaged.

5. Recognise achievements

• Ensure the young single parents have the opportunity to reflect on what they have achieved.
• Acknowledge how they have overcome their challenges, to achieve what they have achieved.
• Celebrate their achievements with them and agree with THEM how to celebrate such achievements.
• Use the celebrations to challenge stereotypes around young single parents.

6. Provide rewards

• When possible provide rewards, but in a creative way, involving the young people in deciding what and how rewards should be given.

The key to success

Get to know each individual and their situation. Assess the best method of support and engagement based on that individual’s needs and work from there. And if it doesn’t work – try again!

Receiving tailored support: one parent’s experience

Listen to a young single parent describe how they have received support that has helped them to achieve their goals.

“[Someone at Gingerbread] found me a university course and I never thought about going to uni before…she’s helped me with all the forms, the finance, childcare…it’s been great.”

From Growing Together, I'm doing a university course...I've had time to myself, and my son's had time to play with other children. Young single mum on the Growing Together course

How Growing Together practitioners engage with young single parents

Parent working on applications

Once a referral is made, the practitioner then uses a variety of methods to make contact with the young person. This can include text messages to single parents, to build relationships and encourage young single parents to come. The practitioner starts by explaining all the options to the young parent – empowering them to make the decisions about what part of the Growing Together project they would like to access first, or if the opportunity is not right for them at the time, referring them on to another service provider.

Practitioner working on computerThe young people are in the lead throughout. They are encouraged to look at their strengths and areas for development before making their own personal development plan. They set their own, achievable goals for education, employment, involvement in their community and work with other organisations, so participants are prepared and ready to move forwards.

Telephone ringingContact with the project is maintained throughout by one-to-one support, where barriers to progress are considered and plans formed to overcome them. Barriers can include things like debt and money management, housing concerns, relationship breakdown and/or domestic violence and health concerns. Project workers have a wide knowledge of local support services as well as experience in helping young people directly with things like applications for college, offering continuing support to encourage young people to take those next steps.

Single dad family

Group members can then access a wide range of workshops and short courses, some of which lead to an approved qualification. Using a co-produced approach for everything, from the initial home visit to introduce the project and worker, through to young parents involvement in planning and even co-facilitating workshops, young people are empowered to take part and feel they can overcome barriers.

See more of the toolkit

  1. About the toolkit
  2. What’s it like to be a young single parent?
  3. The benefits and challenges of single parenthood
  4. A practitioner’s role in supporting young single parents
  5. Dos and don’ts when supporting young single parents

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