252. Single-parent families often result from “the unwillingness of biological mothers or fathers to be part of a family; situations of violence, where one parent is forced to flee with the children; the death of one of the parents; the abandonment of the family by one parent, and other situations. Whatever the cause, single parents must receive encouragement and support from other families in the Christian community, and from the parish’s pastoral outreach. Often these families endure other hardships, such as economic difficulties, uncertain employment prospects, problems with child support and lack of housing”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 80.)
From a child’s perspective, death, abandonment, work, addiction, and other reasons have largely the same effect. Did you notice the advice from the synod bishops? The locus of support in the local Christian community is other families. This recommendation for a peer ministry among adults and children is important. Sometimes professional assistance is required, but often such help becomes the face of a “clinical” social work, and not the full extent of ministry that the church is capable of rendering to those in need.
I would have liked to see a separate section in Amoris Laetitia (online here) that addressed no-parent families (sibling groups) or children without parents. In my view, this is a major weakness of the Family Synods and Pope Francis’ document. This blind spot demands attention, and if the institution is unable to provide it, it is left to lay people involved in foster care and adoption issues to formulate our own theology.