It’s Time For A Change
Imagine your baby crying. You begin to try and figure out what’s wrong. Maybe she is too cold? Maybe she is too hot? No, she seems to be at the right temperature. She must be tired, but you remember that she just got up from a nap. Then you feel her diaper. It is wet and needs to be changed. You reach for a clean diaper and realize you don’t have any clean diapers left and need to wait for your next paycheck in two days before you will have money to buy more.
Imagine what that feels like.
Thirty five percent of mothers have reported running out of diapers in the United States (Cybele Raver, 2010). Vermont has a population of about 18,700 children under three years of age. Most likely, all of these children are in need of diapers.
Within the greater Bellows Falls community people kept hearing about families not being able to afford enough diapers for their children or not changing diapers as often as they should to conserve their supply.
A group of community organizations including the Building Bright Futures Springfield Area Regional Council, Windham County Youth Services, Parks Place, Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, Our Place Drop in Center, Southeastern Vermont Community Action, and the Just Us Moms Program decided we needed to do our research about the need for diapers. The results we found were shocking and confirmed that this is a greater challenge then we had originally thought, and this was how Time For A Change Diaper Bank was born.
The Dirty Truth of Diaper Need:
We discovered that one in three moms reported having a diaper need which is defined as “the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep a baby clean, dry and healthy” nationwide (National Diaper Bank Network, 2017). On average, in a year, each child needs 2,912 diapers which costs about $936 (Cybele Raver, 2010). Currently, there are no government programs that assist families with diaper needs in Vermont. This has a wider impact than you might imagine.
The most obvious impact as you might guess, is on the child. When families run out of diapers, children spend prolonged periods of time in dirty diapers, reuse of diapers becomes common practice and children may face emotional and physical consequences such as signs of irritation, discomfort, diaper rash and other medical ailments (Cybele Raver, 2010).
Diapers are an expensive necessity for families. In the United States there are 5.7 million children under three years old that live in poverty (Steefel, 2015). These children may experience diaper need and the cost of diapers may be even higher for these families. Oftentimes families with low incomes have difficulty accessing transportation to travel to big box stores or discount stores and are unable to access online ordering or coupons. Instead, families must buy diapers at local supermarkets or convenience stores where the price of diapers is often higher (Steefel, 2015). Some may think that cloth diapers would be a good option for these families since they are reusable. However, this is not the case. Families using cloth diapers must have access and resources to be able to wash these diapers regularly which often isn’t the case. Also many child care providers will not accept cloth diapers.
In Vermont, more than 70% of children under the age of six have all available parents in the work force (Let’s Grow Kids, 2016). It is likely that these children spend time in child care which require families to provide their own supply of disposable diapers. This may present a barrier to access to child care. As we know, children who receive high quality early childhood experiences are three times more likely to go on to higher education (National Diaper Bank Network, 2017) have higher employment and earning, and have lower crime rates compared to those who do not (UNICEF, 2013). Time for a Change believes that a lack of diapers should not be the reason preventing a child from having those high quality experiences that set them up for success in the future.
When children aren’t able to attend child care it becomes more difficult for caregivers to find and remain employed. This then limits the income a family has to spend on basic needs. 52% of mothers in a study by Huggies reported having difficulty meeting any essential household expenses including housing and food (Cybele Raver, 2010). 44% of mothers have reported having to choose between diapers and other basic necessities because they could not afford both and 12% reported skipping paying utility bills such as electricity or heat in order to pay for diapers (Cybele Raver, 2010).
We also found out that diapering not only impacts the child but also the mother. 89% of mothers say they feel a sense of joy and pride diapering their child (Cybele Raver, 2010). Mothers who are unable to provide the proper diapering for their children have reported more anxiety, difficulty in stress management, depression and coping with trauma (Megan V. Smith, 2013). When mothers are experiencing anxiety, stress and depression the child can be negatively impacted.
We knew we had a problem and an idea was conceived.
The Birth of a Diaper Bank
Time for a Change Diaper Bank began with a small grant from the United Way of Windham County and a lot of community support. It was born because this group of community organizations believed that every child should be able to have their diaper changed when needed.
Right now we are primarily supporting the Bellows Falls area with some outreach in Brattleboro and Springfield. There are no eligibility requirements to access diapers. We understand that life is unpredictable and some months families might have a car repair or a doctor’s bills or a million other things that come up which strains the families’ financial situation. We don’t want this to endanger the health of the child. This is why we want everyone who needs to be able to access the diaper bank. We also have support services available if families need help with budgeting, would like to know more about community resources or have questions about their child.
The Diaper Bank is housed at Parks Place and can be accessed anytime Parks Place is open. Diapers of all sizes are available along with wipes. When families come in asking for diapers they are asked how many diapers they need, allowing them to be in control of what their family receives.
This summer we were also able to provide swim diapers for free at the Rockingham Rec Pool. Diapers are also available at many different community organizations such as Youth Services of Windham County, and through home visiting programs.
Time for a Change has collected in total approximately 29,500 diapers since beginning and about 10,500 between February 1st and September 1st this year. We have given out a total of approximately 11,300 diapers. Between February 1st and September 1st we handed out approximately 10,400 diapers to families in need in the Greater Falls area.
It is our hope that eventually all children will have access to the diapers they need to be healthy.
There are plenty of ways for you to help.
The most simple, learn! What is going on in your community? Talk to your neighbors with young children. Is someone already collecting diapers? Check in with food banks, churches, shelters or other community organizations. Can you assist someone by giving them a ride to a bargain store with cheaper diapers? Ask child care providers and parents what you can do to help.
Donate. If you are interested in donating diapers or money to Time for a Change or other organizations, don’t hesitate to do it. If you have an open pack of diapers that your child or grandchild has outgrown donate them. If you would like to purchase diapers, please do! You can contact Parks Place at (802) 463-9927 to find out which size diapers are in greatest need or send donations to 44 School Street Ext Bellows Falls, Vermont 05101 (make sure to indicate the donation is for Time for a Change).
Advocate. Currently, there is a bill introduced in congress addressing diaper need across the country called Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infant and Toddlers Act of 2017. This act will help set up demonstration projects to help eligible children with diaper need and then study the impact that the project has. You can Email or call Vermont Representative Peter Welch and tell him that you support this.
Together we can make sure that no child experiences diaper need and they start off fresh, ready to grow and develop into thriving children.
Cybele Raver, N. L. (2010). Huggies Every Little Bottom Study. Huggies.
Let’s Grow Kids. (2016, June). STALLED at the Start Vermont’s Child Care Challenge. Retrieved from http://www.letsgrowkids.org/sites/default/files/Stalled%20at%20the%20Start%20Report%20Updated%20June%202016_0.pdf
Megan V. Smith, A. K. (2013, August). Diaper Need and Its Impact on Child Health. Pediatrics, 132(2), 253-259.
National Diaper Bank Network. (2017, August 28). Diaper Need in America. Retrieved from http://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/what-is-diaper-need/
Steefel, S. P. (2015, May-June). Diaper Need: A Change for Better Health. Pediatric Nursing, 41(3), 141-144.
UNICEF. (2013, June 26). Why Earlychildhood Development? Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/index_40748.html