My academic and professional life has focused on understanding how human minds develop, and how parental expectations and culture form the parameters of a child’s world. I earned a Masters in Cognitive Anthropology in 2005 and studied this issue cross culturally. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Education Policy, studying how the structure of our educational system interacts with families. However, I have found the reality of raising a child is far different from studying it. My first child, Jack was born in Oct 2009 and he was difficult–he cried all the time and rarely slept. Somehow we survived the first year and Jack has turned into a joyful toddler. As Jack outgrew his infancy, I began to think about families who didn’t have the support I did–how did they survive those first few awful months? How do you soothe a crying baby when that baby is hungry? How do you calm an infant in pain from diaper rash if you don’t have money for medicine? I began to think about all I had studied alongside the stats on poverty. As of 2009, 18,000 children under age six live in poverty in DC–and that’s just the official count. How could I help them? Diapers may seem like a strange answer to that question, because, really, what can a diaper do? A lot. A typical baby needs 10 to 12 diapers a day, and a toddler uses about eight. At a cost of $100-$120 per month, diapers are a significant expense. One in twenty moms who has had to cut back on other purchases to pay for diapers has reused a disposable diaper and 36% of mothers living in poverty regularly run out of clean diapers for their infants. Families receiving Food Stamps can’t use this assistance to purchase diapers because they are “hygiene items.” Babies who remain in dirty diapers for prolonged periods can experience diaper rash and infections. Diaper rash often leads to more crying and babies who cry excessively are the most likely to be victims of shaken baby syndrome. A clean diaper is only a little thing to those who don’t have to worry where the next pack will come from. I formed a board and incorporated the DC Diaper Bank in October 2010. We are currently preparing our application for 501(c)(3) status and meeting with potential partners. We begin diaper collection in mid December. The DC Diaper Bank will, through a combination of diaper drives and fund raising, distribute diapers through a network of existing social service agencies already working with families in need in the DC metro area.
Funded by Washington, DC (January 2011)