Helping Families Access Diapers

Early Childhood
Poverty & Family Economics

iStock_000008115156LargeWhen you think about the basic daily needs of families with very young children, an obvious but often overlooked necessity are diapers.

Those with young children know that diapers are expensive – on average, they can cost a family $80 a month. Yet nearly half (47 percent) of all children under 6 in the United States are living in low-income households. For these families, the cost of diapers can be prohibitive.

In fact, according to the National Diaper Bank Network, 1 in 3 families in the United States struggle with diaper need. Families receiving funds from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cannot use them to purchase diapers, and many communities have diaper banks that are doing great work, but this is not enough to meet the need.

Lack of clean diapers can affect the physical well-being of children, as well as cause considerable stress for parents. Many childcare centers require parents to supply a day’s worth of diapers. If families are unable to afford this, they may be from prevented from accessing childcare and struggle to maintain employment.

San Francisco recently launched a pilot to distribute diapers to families in need, with plans to expand to serve 1,300 families with children under three years old. In this program, diapers are distributed to families that are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in California (known as CalWORKS) through resource centers where families already visit for other services.

Recognizing the need for federal action to help low-income families access diapers, today First Focus Champions for Children Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), along with 17 original co-sponsors, introduced the Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act of 2015 (H.R. 4055).

This legislation would create grants to States to develop demonstration projects to test ways to help families in accessing diapers for their young children. Through these projects, States can coordinate the distribution of diapers through other programs already serving families, including but not limited to: child care programs, home visiting programs, and community health centers. This will provide a streamlined way of identifying families in need of diapers and then ensuring they receive them.

Providing diapers to families is a simple idea, yet it makes a big impact by relieving a major stressor for families who are struggling to make ends meet. We applaud Congressman Ellison, Congresswoman DeLauro, and all of the original co-sponsors for their leadership.

Look for materials from First Focus Campaign for Children in the coming days for ways you can support this legislation.

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