Nonprofit launches efforts to supply diapers to low-income residents
In January, Michelle Old, cofounder of Kidcycle, a local, twice-yearly consignment sale, spearheaded the initiative to establish The Diaper Bank of North Carolina. With start-up funding from Kidcycle and Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, the Durham-based organization has announced its official launch.
The Diaper Bank of North Carolina intends to ensure that children living in poverty receive the diapers they need, said Old, who will serve as executive director of the new organization.
With 26 percent of children living below the poverty line, North Carolina has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country, she said. A rarely mentioned consequence of this poverty is babies who go without clean diapers, said Winnie Morgan of Durham’s Partnership for Children. Morgan is president of the board for The Diaper Bank.
“The Diaper Bank is a much-needed resource, arriving at a time when we're seeing increased commitment for providing essentials to infants and children,” said the Rev. Mel Williams, coordinator of End Poverty Durham and former pastor of Watts Street Baptist Church. “Efforts such as this one demonstrate how individuals can join together to drive real change in our community.”
Existing safety-net programs such as WIC and food stamps do not cover diapers. With the cost of diapers averaging $100 per month per child, many families struggle to afford the diapers their children need to stay healthy and comfortable.
The impact is significant:
In low-income households, babies and toddlers often spend the entire day or longer in the same diaper. Inadequate diaper changing increases the risk of numerous health problems including severe diaper rash and skin infections, and may be linked to an increased rate of hepatitis.
Discomfort caused by inadequate diaper changing increases distress and crying. Studies show that a baby crying for a prolonged period may be at greater risk of physical abuse by caregivers.
Most childcare facilities require that parents leave a full day’s supply of disposable diapers. Families that cannot afford to do so are unable to take advantage of childcare, including free or subsidized programs. This creates additional problems of work and school absenteeism.
The Diaper Bank will collaborate with established family-support organizations such as Welcome Baby and Healthy Families Durham to distribute diapers to low-income families.
“Diapers are such an integral part of the day-to-day caring of our little ones,” said Patience Mukelabai of Welcome Baby. “When a parent has to go without due to circumstances beyond their control, it is heartbreaking. The Diaper Bank not only recognized the need, but also created a plan to meet it.”
In addition to distributing diapers through partner organizations, The Diaper Bank will provide emergency diaper kits to meet immediate needs, and offer guidance and administrative support for diaper drives. Once established in Durham, The Diaper Bank plans to replicate the model throughout North Carolina. “Our goal is not only to address the unmet need for diapers, but also to advocate for recognition of diapers as a basic human need all children deserve,” said Old.