“I think I can, I think I can” : a case study that explores the perspective of single mothers and their ability to become self sufficient.


Single mothers continue to face barriers that prevent them from being self-sufficient. The lack of fundamental resources including education, childcare, housing, and mental health are primary concerns that create challenges for single mothers (Hirschl, 2015; Wester-Stratton, 2011; Baker et al., 2010; Lewis & Hayes, 2020; The Aspen Institute, 2021). Many programs are available to help single mothers; however, most focus on only one of the two areas of concern: economic or psychological self-sufficiency. The lack of literature on the influence of the combination of both support systems led to the need for this research study.

In this qualitative descriptive case study, I explored the long-term impact of single mothers and their children when provided with bi-dimensional supports. I utilized five former participants of the Buckner Family Pathways program in Dallas, Texas. All five participants completed the program successfully and agreed to participate in a semi-structured interview and a focus group interview. I also analyzed documents and artifacts. The interviews and focus group drew detailed descriptions of participants’ lived experiences and provided rich insights into their struggles and their successes to self-sufficiency.

I utilized the theoretical framework of Hong’s Psychological Self-Sufficiency to address the problem that too few single mothers are self-sufficient. Hong’s framework drove the primary and secondary research questions that addressed the concern of self-sufficiency within the single mother population. This research further supported Hong’s theory and provided evidence that single mothers are more likely to reach self-sufficiency when both economic and psychological support systems are present.

Four key findings emerged from this research study. First, both financial and psychological supports are necessary elements on the journey to self-sufficiency. Second, barriers that single mothers face are related to both economical and psychological challenges. Third, sustainable self-sufficiency requires a mindset shift; and finally, Buckner Family Pathways is an impactful program for single mothers. These findings are important to community, organizations, and program leaders, researchers, and mothers and their children.