Stories Needed: Have you ever had to choose between diapers and food?
Nine years ago, armed only with a $30 weekly grocery budget and a WIC check, my family was facing the choice between diapers and food. A generous gift enabled us to begin cloth diapering our newborn son when he was four days old. Eight weeks later, we used $100 to start what is now known today as Cotton Babies. The business has grown extensively since then and, today, is a multi-million dollar company employing around 100 people in Missouri, Colorado and Washington. We manufacture bumGenius, Flip and Econobum; three of the best selling cloth diaper brands in the world.
Because of our family’s history, my passion is enabling needy families to have easy access to diapers. Believing that WIC and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – aka: food stamps) are the ideal way to provide this access, I had several meetings last year with senior-level staffers at both organizations. Everyone has acknowledged the depth of the need, but said that it would take an act of Congress to enable either of these agencies to take any action. Existing legislation confines both agencies to items surrounding nutrition.
According to a recent study, one out of three families is choosing between diapers and food, utilities, or child care.1
I’ve since found a memo written by a team of attorneys. These attorneys were tasked with examining various government programs to find one that could easily respond to the issue of diaper need. Their evaluation uncovered the same issues I’d been finding in my conversations with various agencies. For most agencies, any ability to respond to diaper need would require a major change to legislation and, in some cases, complete restructuring of agencies. This memo did point to one ray of hope though: The Child Care and Development Block Grant. This grant subsidizes childcare for impoverished children.
The DIAPER Act modifies this grant and, without appropriating any additional funds, enables the childcare provider to receive reimbursement for diapers (cloth or disposable) provided to children of parents receiving subsidized childcare through the grant. Currently, women who qualify for subsidized child care may not be able to buy enough diapers to allow their child to take advantage of the subsidy. With this change, they would have the diapers they need to use subsidized child care so they can actually go to school or get a job.
The author of the DIAPER Act, Representative Rosa DeLauro, shares my passion for families experiencing diaper need. Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with her to discuss how we can work together to push her DIAPER Act forward. DeLauro and her team believe passionately in the purpose behind this bill, but, to move it forward, we need your help. The Act is supported by research, statistics, and some legislators. Unfortunately, the information being provided to legislators and the media is missing the human element… stories about people like you. Statistics don’t tell stories. Only you can put a face with those numbers.
I’ll be returning to Washington, D.C. in a few weeks to meet again with her team. I’d like to arrive at that meeting with a stack of your stories in a binder. Your face, your baby’s face, your story, where you live, your desire to help your family be in a better place, and how the need to buy diapers impacts your ability to get that job done. Tell your story through the story collector I’ve put together using Survey Monkey. I’ll use your stories to continue building a case for the DIAPER Act in Washington, D.C. and, with your permission, I’ll share them through this blog.
We also need to build awareness, both in the general public and in Congress. Please use the power of your social network to help build a buzz around this topic.
- Tweet about this issue. One in three families is choosing between diapers and something essential like food, utilities, or childcare.
- “LIKE” this page and share it on Facebook.
- Ask friends to share their story.
- Blog about this issue.
- CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS AND TELL THEM ABOUT THIS BILL. Please ask your legislators to co-sponsor the bill. You can find instructions and talking points here: http://diaperdifference.org/archives/category/advocacy
- Photographers are needed to document the realities faced by families dealing with diaper need. Please reach out to your community, find a family with a story to tell, and tell that family’s story through photos. Select photos and stories may be shared through this blog.
- Media / Interview requests should to be directed for scheduling to my assistant, Rita Sciaroni.
- Finally, Help A Mother Out created the petition encouraging members of Congress and the President of The United States to support the DIAPER ACT. They have accumulated over 27,000 signatures to date. Please sign their petition here: Support The DIAPER Act.
Remember, every journey is taken in hard-fought steps. While this step doesn’t take care of every family or every baby, it helps some and, perhaps more importantly, opens an important dialogue about an essential issue.
Every baby deserves to have a clean bottom.
I know that I have an army of moms standing over my shoulder. Thank you for your help. I look forward to working together to take better care of babies by enabling needy families to have access to the diapers they need.
P.S. For those wondering if this bill allows access to cloth diapers… it does. Each state has health and licensing regulations that may govern the use of cloth diapers in childcare facilities. Where the states allow, cloth diapers will be covered. If your state doesn’t allow the use of cloth diapers in childcare facilities, you may need to begin taking some action of your own to get that situation resolved. Remember, you can bring change too. Research the regulations in your state. If the regulations don’t allow cloth diapers in child care facilities, pick up the phone, and start asking questions. Those regulations were likely written years ago, when the only voice was that of disposable diaper companies. Today, the internet has given you easy access to information and a way to use your voice. Use it.