The DIAPER Act (HR 3134) Supports Cloth Diapers
On October 6th, Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro introduced the DIAPER Act (HR 3134), a bill designed to provide diapers to families using subsidized childcare. To receive subsidized child care, you must be working or going to school. Childcare providers require that you provide diapers for your baby. Diapers are expensive. Unfortunately, it is impossible to work or go to school, even when childcare could be subsidized, if you can’t afford to buy diapers for your baby to wear during the day.
As response has grown to this issue, I’ve realized that most people aren’t aware of the stark realities impoverished families are living in the United States. I wasn’t enlightened myself until a meeting a few weeks ago.
Recently, we’d heard about a local judge who was doing something to help teens who’d been kicked out of school and left to roam the streets. Knowing that some of these teens are also young parents, my husband and I sat down with the judge to discuss how we can help educate the teen moms in his school about diapering their baby on a shoestring. During our conversation, he spoke of families who can’t wash their child’s clothing because they can’t afford hot water or detergent. He now offers the children in his school access to warm showers and a washer/dryer so they can have clean clothes. He asked us to take these limitations into account when working to develop material to educate these girls about how to take care of their baby.
We are taking some inspiration from The Flats Challenge (created by Kim Rosas). Using concepts from a blog post I wrote about diapering a baby with items around the house, we will be showing these moms how to use flats, teaching them to “bucket wash”, and working to find a way to easily provide them with detergent.
We are looking forward to helping the young people in the judge’s school, but we walked away from our conversation that day shaking our heads in dismay. We knew things were bad in North St. Louis, but we didn’t realize it was that bad… and for so many families. After doing some more reading, I’ve realized that most large cities have literal third world countries in their backyards. Real families are living day-to-day existences that most of us who live in suburban America choose to ignore. We don’t go to that part of town because it might be dangerous. Suburban and city cultures develop almost independently as children are raised in different schools, attend different churches and socialize only with children from their neighborhoods. Suburban families choose to remain obtuse; an embarrassing state particularly for the highly educated customers who tend to choose cloth diapers over disposables.
We have been writing for several years now about how low income families simply don’t have reasonable access to diapers. As a single company though, Cotton Babies can’t possibly “fix” all of the needs the babies have in those areas. There aren’t enough diaper banks to serve all the low income families. Their shelves are constantly empty. Private charities offering cloth diapers are small and as overwhelmed with the need. Laws governing WIC don’t allow the support of anything but nutrition services. Food stamps work in grocery stores and don’t work on diapers. The only federal funds that can be used on disposable diapers come from TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families), a grant given out by the states to only the most destitute of families. Families only qualify for TANF when they really have absolutely nothing. At that point in time, having a roof over their head trumps buying diapers. Other than TANF, there is no existing legislation or program to really help these families with a very basic, simple need. Friends, this is really the most meaningful effort I’ve seen by Congress in a long time to reach out to young, needy families. Legislation like the DIAPER Act could really make a meaningful difference.
As word about this legislation has spread online, I’ve seen some in the cloth diaper community reach to the DIAPER Act with outrage because they think it only pays for disposable diapers. It always amuses me when people react harshly to something they read, assuming it’s factual, rather than working to actually understand an issue. To avoid any further confusion, I’ve included the definition of “Diaper” as written in the DIAPER ACT (http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h3134/text) below:
3) DIAPER- The term ‘diaper’ means an absorbent garment worn by infants and toddlers who are not toilet-trained or individuals who are incapable of controlling their bladder or bowel movements. ‘Diaper’ refers to a disposable diaper or, where the administering agency elects to make available, a washable cloth diaper and the requisite diaper laundering and delivery services necessary to provide sufficient clean diapers for the eligible population. ‘Diapering supplies’ means items, including diapers, diaper wipes, and diaper cream, necessary for safe diapering.’.
While we’re being thorough, here is the rest of the Act for your reading enjoyment:
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress finds, pursuant to its authority under article I and the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution, that–
(1) access to a reliable supply of clean diapers is a medical necessity for the health and welfare of infant and toddlers, their families, and child and health care providers,
(2) a supply of diapers is generally an eligibility requirement for infants and toddlers to participate in early childhood educational programs,
(3) providing a sufficient supply of diapers can cause economic hardship to needy families,
(4) absent access to child care, parents and guardians of infants and toddlers cannot participate in the workforce, thereby causing economic harm to many families,
(5) providing diapering systems to needy infants and toddlers through child care programs furthers the national goals of improved health and sanitation for families and for staff in early childhood education and child care programs, and
(6) making available clean diapers to needy infants and toddlers who would otherwise be prevented from participating in child care programs furthers the national goal of safe and quality child care, and therefore enables better implementation of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990.
SEC. 3. PROVISION OF DIAPERS AS CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 9801 et seq.) is amended–
(1) in section 658E(c)(3)(C) by adding at the end the following:
‘Provision of diapers for use by eligible children within the State who receive or are offered child care services for which financial assistance is provided under this Act is a direct service and shall not be included in administrative costs.’,
(2) in section 658G is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘These activities include the provision of diapers and diapering supplies to enrolled child care providers sufficient for the population of children under the age of three whose parent receives or is offered financial assistance under this Act.’, and
(3) in section 658P by inserting after paragraph (2) the following:
‘(3) DIAPER- The term ‘diaper’ means an absorbent garment worn by infants and toddlers who are not toilet-trained or individuals who are incapable of controlling their bladder or bowel movements. ‘Diaper’ refers to a disposable diaper or, where the administering agency elects to make available, a washable cloth diaper and the requisite diaper laundering and delivery services necessary to provide sufficient clean diapers for the eligible population. ‘Diapering supplies’ means items, including diapers, diaper wipes, and diaper cream, necessary for safe diapering.’.
I stand by and applaud the Congresswoman for her efforts to reach out in a meaningful way to needy families.
Unfortunately, her efforts in kindness have generated a disgusting reaction from those who simply don’t understand either the goal of this bill or what it would do for our economy. On Friday, even Rush Limbaugh went off on the Diaper Act, describing it as ludicrous and ridiculous.
This unfortunate image is from Rush Limbaugh’s website.
Before he says anything else, Rush should consider reading through the research generated by Huggies last year; research that inspired their “Every Little Bottom” campaign. Their research showed that 1 out of 3 parents is choosing between diapers and something essential, like food, utilities or child care. It says that 1 out of 20 parents is reusing dirty disposable diapers. Rush needs to understand how much change this simple legislation could bring to impoverished families. [Rush, knowing that someone on your staff will read this, you should know that I’m a conservative. I’m a small business owner. I don’t talk about how I vote, but I do educate myself carefully, including being sure that I understand your perspective. On this particular issue, you’ve missed it 100%.]
This bill puts more parents to work earning paychecks that can be spent on consumer goods and services, driving up GDP; generating spending that helps get our country out of the current debt crisis. They only have to work a few hours at minimum wage to generate $20 in revenue to offset the government transfer payment to buy that package of diapers. They don’t pay taxes, but you can bet the businesses producing those goods and services pay a hefty tax bill. I know my company pays it’s fair share. Most importantly, this bill could enable parents to get their family off of government support.
This issue is my passion. I have done an enormous amount of research about the issue of getting diapers in the hands of needy families. As recently as last month, I had meetings with senior leadership in federal, state and local government agencies to discuss how we could partner with those agencies to reach out to those families. With each agency we’ve spoken with, we’ve found that leadership understands the need for diapers, but is prevented from acting to help families by the way legislation is written. The DIAPER Act is the first legislation we’ve seen that actually takes a step towards helping these families in a meaningful way.
I’ve focused most of this post on the human side of this issue, but from a business perspective, this legislation could be very meaningful for the diaper services within cloth diaper business community. If this bill passes, diaper services should experience an increase in their commercial subscribers.
I’d like to see the cloth diapering community get behind the Diaper Act. The community has a loud voice that frankly, could work to educate Rush Limbaugh and perhaps encourage him to change his opinion. If nothing else, we need to encourage Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in her project, raise awareness, and, by doing so, help her find a co-sponsor for this piece of legislation.
Do you know a family who has struggled to purchase diapers (cloth or disposable)? Do you know a family living the reality of diapers or food? Are you that family? Please leave a comment telling me your story. I’m guessing that Rush’s team and the Congresswoman’s team will have Google Alerts to let them know that this post is here. They need to know who you are and what you think.
Other ways you can help:
- Like this post on Facebook.
- Visit Congresswoman DeLauro’s Facebook page and let her know that you support her efforts and why. She is also on Twitter.
- Visit Rush Limbaugh’s Facebook page and let him know your thoughts. Rush is also on Twitter if you’d like to reach him there. Tell him your story. While you’re at it, point him to this blog post using this link: http://bit.ly/uSZ3hi
- Regardless of your opinions for or against this legislation, please be polite and educated in what you write.There’s no need to be ignorant or rude.
EDITED (1/31/2012): Corrected and clarified to ensure accuracy.