When she separated in November from her husband of 12 years, Deborah Schwartz said, loneliness was a big fear. She has a 4-year-old daughter who lives with her, and she works "very part-time" as an insurance agent. Neither the child-rearing nor the job, she says, lend itself to much socializing.

What's surprising: Schwartz, a Bethesda resident, said she has recently been "more social than some friends who are married and have kids." Since January, she's attended about two parties a month, some of them with her daughter, at the homes of other members of Parents Without Partners, a group that provides social outlets and peer support for single parents and their children.

"Most people come in looking for Mister or Miss Right," said Tom Lloyd, outgoing president of the group's Chapter 60 in Washington. "We try to tell them the most important thing is to make friends."

Lloyd typically shares this advice at new-member orientations -- free and open to single parents of any age. The next session is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday, June 18, at Knights of Columbus Hall, 9707 Rosensteel Ave., Silver Spring.

About half the 2,000 Washington-area members, mostly in their thirties and forties, have dated within the group, Lloyd said. But discussion groups, sometimes led by psychologists, aim more at hashing out thorny issues -- such as how to raise a child alone -- than at sparking romance.

Activities, which take place a couple of times a week and generally cost members about $5, range from lunches and happy hours to family movies and museum outings. Last month, Schwartz hosted a barbeque for about 20 members and a dozen kids.

"It's been a lot of fun," said Schwartz, 39. "You always have something to look forward to."

A dance at Knights of Columbus ($10 for members and $14 for nonmembers) follows the June 18 orientation. (Last month's dance attracted more than 100 people.) The dance is free for orientation participants who join the group that evening by paying the annual fee of $38.

To learn more, call 301-454-0863 or see www.pwp60.org.

-- Samantha Ganey

With support from peers, It's not two against the world.