Remember food stamps? The U.S. Department of Agriculture now calls it SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), but the principle is the same—helping low income families purchase nutritious food. In Michigan, families use the Bridge Card, which works like a debit card, to buy eligible items. But there are some things you cannot use SNAP benefits to buy and one of them is diapers.
The average cost of a disposable diaper is about 25 cents, and the average baby goes through about a dozen a dayhttp://www.toysrus.com/shop/index.jsp?categoryId=10872434. Toddlers use fewer diapers (about eight/day) but they’re bigger and cost a little more. So, bottom line—diapers run about $3.00/day. For families living in poverty, diapers are a luxury they sometimes cannot afford and that can lead to serious—and costly—consequences for babies, families and communities.
Child neglect comes in many forms, and something as simple as keeping a child’s diaper changed might not come to mind. But it is identified by child welfare officials as a common and potentially serious form of neglect. Sometimes it’s a parenting knowledge issue, but more it’s often family economics. However, whenever neglect is suspected mandated reporters (childcare providers, teachers, health and social workers, law enforcement and others) must contact local child protective services. That triggers an investigation of the conditions in the home, and so a family struggling with an impossibly tight budget could end up the subject of an investigation when all they really needed was diapers.
What can you do? Support your community’s baby pantry and other charities that provide supplies to families with young children. And if you think that families should be able to buy diapers with SNAP benefits, contact your legislators. This is a problem we can solve together.
For more information on local and state-wide economic impacts of early childhood and to get involved, contact Great Start at the Chamber: Mary Manner firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-995-7114.
-By Mary Manner