Parenting is never easy; throw in a child with special needs, and well, it’s a whole lot more complicated. Single parenting a child with special needs can be exhausting, frustrating and oftentimes lonely. Faced with the complex dynamic of dating while parenting a child with a physical or developmental disability, how can you meet and date someone who will understand your child’s complications? If emotional labor and dating anxiety means putting dating on the back burner, it is possible to find someone who understands your child’s disabilities and who will love you and your children.
SpecialHearts.com was designed to help single adults caring for a child or loved one with disabilities or who may even have disabilities themselves. “We created the Special Hearts dating site to help singles relate to each other’s struggles and special circumstances,” says Shandra Cubin, who developed the website while trying to manage her son’s developmental delays and seizures. “Special Hearts provides adult singles with true dating transparency and you can simply be yourself, ” she says.
Once you’ve figured out how to safely parent a child with special needs, there’s someone else you might want to consider: You. Wanting to find love again is not selfish, it’s self-preservation. After all, a happy parent makes for a happier child, and proactively seeking the proper resources and support is a good place to start. “We help families and children with the proper resources to enhance physical, social, emotional, and expressive development,” says Luba Patlakh Kaplun, who created Kidology, an early intervention agency that offers guidance, therapies and instructive sessions for a wide range of developmental delays. “By offering parent-to-parent support we hope to enrich the lives of parents and children who need support,” says Kaplun.
As parents we want to give our children the social and emotional tools they need to work through daily challenges and learning disabilities, but if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and defeated, there are organizations and community resources available to help. JAFCO (Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options), a 501(c)(3) organization based in south Florida provides an entire continuum of programs and services for at-risk children and their families including a children’s emergency shelter, family preservation, foster care and adoption. “We support families who are raising a child with a disability with social and life skills training, education, case management, and day and overnight respite care,” says Rebecca Salus Hodge, Director of Grants and Partnerships at JAFCO (Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options).
Established in 1992, JAFCO is dedicated to helping children with special needs and families in times of crisis, trauma, or challenging life transitions, according to Hodge. “Our mission is to care for abused, neglected and special needs children in the Jewish community, and to work in partnership with families and the entire child welfare community,” says Hodge. In an effort to expand their footprint and provide highly individualized and intensive support to families who are experiencing overwhelming challenges, JAFCO launched FamilyMatters, a support network serving the Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey communities. FamilyMatters, based in Bala Cynwyd, PA, offers free family strengthening support services, supervised visitation, and support groups for siblings and parents of children with special needs.
This week on Jewish Singles Radio we explore resources for single parents of children with complex care needs and developmental disabilities who discover they have special needs of their own when it comes to dating.