Poverty costs money. Yes, you read that correctly. Consider the paradox of an overdraft fee on your bank account. If you don't have the funds to pay for your necessities, why would a bank assume you have $30 to burn on a fine? Taking the bus to and from work seems like a feasible option on its face if you can't afford a car. But that option can easily add up to well over $100 a month. In effect, a person making minimum wage works well over one day per month just two afford the means to go to work. And how are they supposed to pay for that first month's bus pass before they receive a paycheck? Parents who live in poverty struggle to meet their child's basic needs: diapers, formula, clothing, and safe baby gear.
These simple but devastating truths impact the lives of millions in our country and billions across the globe. Parenting in poverty is a matter of striking a fragile balance. Some families are forced to choose between their heat or electricity bill and formula or diapers. This unfathomable dilemma, called diaper need, affects one-third of families in the United States.
Diaper need is just one heartbreaking reality born of poverty. Many families resort to desperate measures in order to keep their child in diapers. Because diapering is a matter of personal hygiene and public health, it is mandatory for proper care of an infant. Unfortunately, not all parents can't afford the expense of diapering their child. The average newborn can go through 12 to 18 diapers a day. At an average cost of about twenty-five cents per diaper, the cost of keeping baby's bum fresh and clean adds up quickly! Some families have even reused disposable diapers in an effort to literally keep the lights on. This practice has the potential to create serious health complications, but parents in poverty may feel they have no other choice.
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Of course, you may know of diaper banks that exist in your area. You might even be familiar with the National Diaper Bank Network, a resource for finding organizations that seek to end diaper need. The NDBN sponsors Diaper Need Awareness Week, September 23rd through the 29th. But there is unavoidable hidden cost 2 procuring a diaper package from almost all diaper banks.
Most diaper banks have taken measures to prevent abuse of their resources. Many seek to meet the needs of as many families as possible, which means they can't afford to fully meet the need of any one family. In no way do I mean to criticize this strategy; some diapers for a baby are better than none at all. But even the best intentions can have unforeseen consequences.
Diaper banks commonly receive donations of full, unopened boxes of diapers. Volunteers then open and split the diapers into predetermined package sizes for charitable giving. For example, my local diaper bank packages 24 diapers in a saran-wrapped bundle. As a result, the family receiving these bank services run out of this donation within 1 1/2 to 3 days.
In addition, this diaper bank is not located and an area with high poverty rates. those who have the most need for these disposable diapers must take a bus route to the location, which can last up to 45 minutes one way. Since the diaper bank is only open during normal business hours on weekdays, a caregiver must spend an hour and a half of their day, several times a week, traveling to and from the diaper bank. This time can no longer be used to bring in income and can prevent a parent from seeking employment at all. The family also have to incur the cost of the bus ride itself.
Getting "free" diapers is usually not free at all. It's a logistical nightmare even in the most well-meaning circumstances. Diaper need disproportionately affects families parenting in poverty - and it's an issue we should no longer overlook.