diaper need awareness weekSeptember 25 to October 1, 2017

Archive for August, 2016

“The Fight for Basic Needs” in U.S. News & World Report

Posted on: August 30, 2016 by admin

screenshot-www.usnews.com 2016-08-30 13-09-21


The following column, written by National Diaper Bank Network CEO Joanne Goldblum, originally appeared August 15, 2016 in U.S. News & World Report.


by Joanne Goldblum

I attended to the big picture stuff, like getting them subsidized housing and making sure that everyone was signed up with Medicaid. As a social worker serving families who had been homeless, I was supposed to help them dodge the catastrophes that could land them back on the street. Today, I understand that it does not take a catastrophe: Families are often pushed over the edge by things so mundane that we fail to provide help or even to take notice. Thus we increase the likelihood that poverty will be permanent.

When I saw my client Sallie dump the solids out of a diaper and put it back on her baby, I was shocked. “That’s not healthy,” I explained and urged her to use a clean diaper every time. Sallie told me she couldn’t afford enough diapers to do that. I reminded her that she was on a number of aid programs, including Food Stamps and WIC, which buys groceries for pregnant women and babies. She replied that none of these programs can be used to pay for diapers – and she was right. Yes, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (often called welfare) pays cash benefits. But those payments do not even amount to the market-rate rent on a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country.

Sallie was stuck. She qualified for subsidized child care. But centers require that parents supply disposable diapers for their children, and without child care, she could not attend the job training program required to receive “benefits.” And without a job, of course, she could not afford diapers. She was trapped in one of poverty’s ubiquitous Catch-22s.

She was not alone. An industry survey found that one in three low-income American families struggles to afford diapers. Another study, one we collaborated on with Yale researchers, showed that 30 percent of low-income mothers said they could not afford to change their children’s diapers as often as they wanted. I started the National Diaper Bank Network to attack this problem. Our members have distributed 98 million diapers and serve about 350,000 children a month. That is fabulous – and completely inadequate. There are 5.3 million babies living in poor and low-income families in this country. We need to get on the other side of that decimal point.

Feminine hygiene products are essential, as are shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent. Imagine preparing for a job interview if you had none of these. When jobs move away from cities, workers frequently find that there is no public transportation option. And here is another Catch 22: If they attempt to save up for the down payment on even an old clunker, they will likely run over the asset limit for public aid.

Basic needs are more than food and shelter. Yet that’s what safety net programs provide. In fact, calling any of our safety net programs “anti-poverty” is a stretch. They are “keep-you-alive-but-still-in-poverty” programs.

Likewise, low-wage jobs leave Americans unable to meet their basic needs. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour ($2.13 an hour for tipped employees!), which would yield $250.40 after taxes for a 40-hour work week. The median rental in the U.S. is $934. There is barely enough for food. Certainly, there’s nothing left for a winter coat for a child, a bottle of acetaminophen, a stick of deodorant.

I am a social worker, not a legislator. My purpose is not to lay out a policy agenda. As a social worker, however, I have a lot of experience with patterns of thinking that trap people in a bad place. In this case, it is a country that needs to change its thinking.

There has always been a suspicion that people take advantage of public assistance and charity – and that both must be appropriately meager to discourage malingering. Every year we see lawmakers in various states propose that assistance recipients be tested for drugs – the implication being that aid to the poor gets immediately diverted to drug dealers. The cost of these screenings would be better spent providing the resources that people need to escape poverty.

I am honored to be a part of a new movement that is fighting for basic needs. People are telling their state legislatures that things like feminine hygiene products and diapers should not be subject to sale tax, because they are basic needs. Anyone who disagrees has, I suspect, never had occasion to use either. The White House has recognized diaper need as a serious issue. They have worked with the private sector to help address the issue of diaper need, and President Obama called for an end to diaper need in America. Congress is currently weighing a measure to dedicate some public funding to diapers.

The Fight for 15 also goes on. And whenever some politician gets an idea about submitting the most vulnerable members of our society to further humiliations just to get a brick of surplus cheese, there is a mighty outcry from people who see the cruel stupidity of it.

That outcry needs to get louder and it needs to be organized. We must make America see the truth that has long stared us in the face: Our policies perpetuate poverty by only fighting it with half measures. We give people just enough to keep them hanging by a thread, but not enough for them to get on their feet.

Sallie could explain that better than I. She could talk about the inanity of a system that left her no way to diaper her baby, and therefore no way to access day care, and therefore no way to get job training.

Why does one in five American children live in poverty? Because we are too shortsighted to give their parents the tools they need to become self-sufficient. In the long run, this costs us all more by perpetuating intergenerational poverty. If as a nation we will not grow kinder, we should at least get smarter.



Babies Have Back-to-School Needs, Too

Posted on: August 2, 2016 by admin

The following article was written by Summer Hunt, the editorial coordinator for publications at AWHONN, and it appeared originally in Healthy Mom&Baby on July 26, 2016.

Nurses Make Change Possible for Babies_1

This time of year from late July into August, many moms are preoccupied with back-to-school shopping for all the basics: pencils, paper, glue and the like, as well as products like paper towels, hand soap and facial tissue. Just as these items are important for school-age kids, babies and toddlers have “back-to-childcare (and preschool)” needs, too—and diapers top that list.

Did you know that babies and toddlers can’t attend childcare without an adequate supply of extra diapers? It may not seem like much, but for the 1 in 3 families who don’t have enough diapers to keep their babies clean, dry and healthy, buying extras typically breaks the bank. Without enough diapers, parents are forced to choose between work—and a paycheck—and taking care of baby.

The Harsh Realities of Poverty
Diapers cost $70-$80 per month, per baby, and parents can’t use food stamps for diapers—in fact, there is zero direct government assistance for diapers. Low-income families can’t afford to buy diapers in bulk, and many do not have access to big-box discount stores or online shopping. This means families hurting the most financially are hit hardest when it comes to buying essential care items like diapers. In fact, the poorest 20% of Americans spend nearly 14% of their income (after taxes) on diapers, according to the National Diaper Bank Network (citing 2014 government data)—that’s $1 out of every $7 of their average $11,253 income spent on diapers, or $1,575 a year on average.

Parents just want to do right by their children. We spoke with four moms last year who talked about their experiences with diaper need. These families are doing their best to keep their babies happy and healthy, even if that means going without or making tough decisions about paying other bills. And with 5.3 million babies in America living in low-income families, these moms are not alone in their struggles.

Nurses on the Front Lines
AWHONN is proud of all the work our nurses to do to take care of moms and babies, especially those in the most vulnerable populations. Our Healthy Mom&Baby Diaper Drive gives nurses the recognition they deserve when they go beyond patient care and collect items like diapers, wipes, clothes, car seats for their tiniest patients.

Across the country, at section and chapter meetings, through community baby showers and diaper drives, when donating diapers to diaper banks and women’s shelters, and in their own hospitals and clinics, nurses are on the front lines every day combatting diaper need for their patients.

Let Us Share Your Efforts!
What are YOU doing in your area to make sure that babies are clean, dry and healthy? Are you:

  • Giving out diapers at community and education events?
  • Participating in a diaper drive event with your local faith community or civic group?
  • Sharing diapers with families in need in any other way?


Tell us your stories at AWHONN.org/diaperdrive, or contact our Diaper Drive consultants Jade Miles and Heather Quaile. Our consultants can also help you increase your efforts or start something new and make sure that your current successes are counted in our final totals. You can also visit DiaperDrive.org to make a dollar donation that will be used to purchase diapers at wholesale for diaper banks across the country. Are you an advocate for cloth diapering? There are several diaper banks that accept cloth diapers, and you could even initiate a cloth diaper drive in your community!

As families everywhere get ready to head back to school, why not toss an extra pack of diapers into your cart to donate to your local bank? Or, head over to DiaperDrive.org while surfing the Internet for prime deals on books and binders and donate $20 dollars to diaper a baby for two weeks. You’ll ensure a brighter future and a better bottom line for babies everywhere—and that’s a guaranteed A-plus in our books.