Communication and Community

Communication is a critical aspect of any new social enterprise.  And communication, to be effective, has to be a two way street. We’ve reached out to you and you’ve reached out to us–we’re continually amazed at the number of committed, caring people we’ve met volunteering to step up and create diaper pantries and diaper banks to help people in their communities.  We hope that anyone interested in learning more about diaper need feels free to call or email or post to our Facebook account (comments here are good too) with any questions they might have.  We are here to help.

But we also want to make sure that you are talking among yourselves and sharing all the creative ideas you have.  One of our missions at NDBN is to create a community of diaper banks that will interact with other diaper banks, helping to foster and encourage new banks and to share best practices so  we can all share our  lessons learned. On Wednesday, we launched a Google group for diaper bank leaders to talk among themselves and share their best practices directly.  The group has been busy all day as diaper bank leaders swap ideas to maximize the effectiveness of diaper drives and stretch limited funds buy the most diapers.  It is great to see the network really forming among and between diaper banks–so many committed people tackling diaper need in so many creative ways.  If you’d like to join the conversation, send us an email at

But in addition to learning from each other, sometimes it’s good to learn from an expert.  Our next webinar, Grant Writing for Diaper Banks, will feature Jennifer Heath,the Executive Vice President of the United Way of Greater New Haven, who will provide her expertise on what makes a successful grant proposal.  Make plans to join us on Wednesday, April 11, at 3:00 Eastern.  For more information, send us an email at

Struggling to Climb out of the Hole of Poverty

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, or “the end of welfare as we know it” was intended to help people climb out of poverty through work, and included some important support systems, such as subsidized childcare and work training and counseling programs.  In the 1990s, when times were good, the program was credited with getting millions of people of the welfare rolls. But we are finding that in order to leave poverty through work, there must be work available, as a study by the Economic Policy Institute finds, noting that the successes of the 1990s have been largely erased in this past decade.  As Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institute, one of the architects of welfare reform writes, “What is needed is a stronger safety net for as long as it takes to get the unemployment rate back to reasonable levels.”

It is hard to climb out of poverty when you are in danger of falling through in one of the holes in the safety net.  Food stamps cannot be used for diapers, toothpaste, or other hygiene supplies.  Although some food pantries have diapers occasionally, they are treated like a precious commodity.  As one mother quoted in an article by Tom Zeller Jr. in the Huffington Post said, “There’s no program for diapers. . . .That’s what we went to the food bank for. So we would stand in line at the diaper lady. We would run to that line, because boy you needed them. And she would cut the bag in half and she kept track of how old our children were, and she would do the grandmotherly thing and say, ‘Why is your child still in diapers?’ to encourage us to do potty training. Not because she was the Grinch, but because you only had so many diapers and there were mothers coming up behind you whose children were not in that age to start potty training.”

Diapers are a small thing, but donations to a diaper bank can help fill at least one hole in the safety net, and help parents struggling to make the climb out of poverty.

We Meant to Share This Radio Interview With You Weeks Ago….

This  interview and story  by Elizabeth Wynn Johnson  was done in February when The National Diaper Bank Network and Kids in Distressed Situations kicked off their distribution partnership in Washington DC.

New Haven Diaper Bank idea expands      

We Should All Be Talking About This….

I read the article This Week in Poverty: Welfare Reform—From Bad to Worse  with a heavy heart.  I want to know why more of us are not talking about this.  Poverty , and how to make real change for people living in poverty, should be on the top of the list for important national conversations.  For some reason – that is not the case.

Please let us know what you think of this report and how we can put the focus of our country on those in need.  Really – I need help understanding this.  Your comments on this post could be your good deed for the day!

Why Diapers? Some Facts That Might Surprise You

Diapers are a basic need for children in the United States, as essential to their health and well-being as food, shelter and a parent’s love.  Unlike other necessities such as food and heat, diapers are not recognized as a basic need by the federal government, and so no provision is made to help families acquire diapers.  Federal anti-poverty programs such as Food Stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) do not cover diapers, leaving poor families without the means to properly diaper their children.


Families from a range of incomes struggle to afford diapers, including both families who fall below the federal guideline of poverty ($22,350 for a family of four) and families with incomes above the federal poverty guideline but who are still considered low-income.  Research suggests that families earning twice the federal poverty guideline still struggle to meet their basic needs, making the poverty level figures cited in this plan a very conservative estimate of the universe of people struggling to meet their diaper needs.


Families unable to afford diapers are forced to choose between a range of undesirable alternatives that can severely impact the health and well-being of both the child and the rest of the household.  According to a study by Ravers and Letourneau, 34% of families surveyed had cut back on basics such as food, utilities or child care in order to purchase diapers for their children.[1]  Other families reported leaving their children in soiled diapers for a longer period of time than they otherwise would have.  Some families even resort to cleaning out or drying soiled diapers and reusing them in order to meet their diaper needs.


The lack of diapers also limits families’ child care options.  Most licensed child care programs do not accept children who are not sent with an adequate supply of disposable diapers and do not accept alternatives such as cloth diapers.  When parents run out of diapers, they are forced to withdraw their children from child care, hindering their ability to work or attend school.


Twenty-two percent of all children under five years of age in the United States live in poverty, ranging as high as 34% in Mississippi to 12% in Maryland.[2]  In the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, as many as 57% of children under five live in poverty.  This poverty is most pronounced in households headed by single mothers, where 54% of children under five live in poverty, compared to only 27% of children under of five in single father households and 10% of children under five in households with two married parents.[3]


In absolute terms, 4.4 million children under five live in poverty[4], of which roughly 2.6 million are children who wear diapers (0-36 months).  At a rate of six diapers per day per child, diaper wearing children in poverty in the United States require more than 5.8 billion diapers annually to keep them clean, dry and healthy.

An inadequate supply of diapers can have severe repercussions for the health and economic and emotional well-being of the child, parent and rest of the household.  Most immediately, an inadequate supply of diapers forces many parents to leave their child in a soiled diaper longer than is appropriate, which frequently leads to diaper rash, and may cause staph infections and urinary tract infections.  Uncomfortable babies also experience irritability, prolonged crying and poor sleep.  These consequences, in turn, erode mother-child attachment and may lead to lower levels of self-esteem and even depression for parents who are not able to provide the diapers their children need.  In many cases, these outcomes result in neglect[5] and abuse of the child.


The inability to enroll children in child care due to lack of diapers threatens parents’ economic and educational opportunities.  Without proper child care, parents cannot work to support their families and cannot attend the schooling that will help them provide a firmer economic base for their family.


Moreover, the unplanned removal of the child from child care when diapers run out may itself cause harm to the child’s well-being.  Adams and Rohacek report that instability in child care arrangements has been linked to a range of negative outcomes in children, including problems with relationship attachment, social competence, behavior, cognitive ability, language development, school adjustment and overall well-being.[6]


In cases where parents cut back on other expenses to afford diapers, families suffer due to a lack of other necessities.  Cutting back on clothing, heat or prescription drugs can negatively affect family members’ health and emotional well-being.

[1] Ibid.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Laura Frame, Parent-Child Relationships in Conditions of Urban Poverty: Protection, Care, and Neglect of Infants and Toddlers, Center for Social Service Research, School of Social Work, U.C. Berkeley, 2001, p.4.

[6] Gina Adams and Monica Rohacek, Child Care Instability: Definitions, Context, and Policy Implications, Urban Institute, 2010, p.6.

Diaper Distribution–the First Wave

Have we mentioned how excited we are that Huggies, our Founding Sponsor, is donating 20 million diapers for us to distribute to diaper banks across the country?  And how excited we are that the nonprofit organization Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) is partnering with us to ship the first 5 million diapers to over 90 agencies in 33 states and the District of Columbia?  We kicked off the distribution in Washington DC, and now, diapers are getting into the hands of people who need them.  For those that missed it, here is a radio story about the kick-off:   WSHU PUBLIC RADIO.

As of this writing, diapers have been distributed in Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio and Indiana, and more deliveries are scheduled for Texas, New Mexico,Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington. And there are still another eighteen states where agencies will receive diapers this quarter!  Agencies from thirty-three states and the District of Columbia will receive diapers in this distribution.

As wonderful as it is that we can help agencies across so many states, the need for diapers exists in every state, but to our knowledge, there are several states that do not have a diaper bank that could deliver diapers to people in need.   We hope to help establish diaper banks in all fifty states by the end of 2012.  Check our website to see if there is a diaper bank in your area.  If there is, help support it by donating diapers, funds, or your time.  If there is not, consider whether you would be willing to help start a diaper bank.  You would be helping families by providing basic needs to their most vulnerable members, and adding yet another link in our charitable network.  Contact us and we will help.

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