In defense of diapers, Dannel Malloy and Rosa DeLauro

28 Oct

Yesterday was “Diaper Needs Awareness Day” in Connecticut, thanks to a proclamation from Governor Dannel Malloy, support from Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and years of groundwork laid by The Diaper Bank of New Haven.

The effort has been ridiculed by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Our friends over at CT Capitol Report were among the first to pile on. Hartford area radio show host Dan Lovallo even posted a cartoon of the governor wearing a diaper and sucking on a bottle labeled “Diaper Dan.”

To them, I guess it seems ridiculous that a governor would highlight such an “obscure” cause.

And they have even stronger criticism for DeLauro, who has filed legislation that would allow child care providers to use a portion of the federal money they receive to supply diapers to low-income families.

I’m puzzled by the fight that Rush and company have picked over this.

Few would object to government assistance for the poor to purchase food or heating oil this winter. Why are diapers in such a different category?

The Diaper Bank was founded by social worker Joanne Goldblum (a former New Haven Register Person of the Year). She launched the effort after seeing low-income families stretch their diaper supply due to cost. That meant babies and toddlers sat in soiled diapers all day long. Or that parents were having to choose between purchasing an adequate supply of diapers or paying for medicine or a proper supply of food for their family.

As a newspaper publisher and volunteer board member and later campaign chairman for the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, I have seen local food pantries, homeless shelters and emergency domestic violence agencies divert money from other crucial areas to pay for diapers.

And so with Joanne’s advice, in 2008, The Register Citizen and United Way partnered to launch the Northwest Connecticut Diaper Drive. With generous initial support from Shaw’s Supermarkets and our readers that year, we were able to distribute thousands of diapers to agencies such as the Susan B. Anthony Project, FISH homeless shelter, Salvation Army and nonprofit daycare centers.

Did you know that over the course of the past year, it has been common to see newborn babies living at the FISH homeless shelter in Torrington? Do you realize that people from all walks of life have escaped violence by showing up at the Susan B. Anthony Project emergency shelter with practically nothing but a few changes of clothes and children in tow?

What’s interesting about the criticism of Malloy’s diaper declaration and DeLauro’s bill is that they are NOT proposing to spend an extra dime of taxpayer money so that low-income families and emergency agencies like those I just described can receive diapers.

Malloy’s proclamation simply urged residents of Connecticut to support nonprofit efforts such as The Diaper Bank and local food pantries. DeLauro’s bill would only allow child care providers who already receive taxpayer funding more flexibility in how to spend it. Right now, funds that are aimed to help low-income parents aren’t allowed to be used for the purchase of diapers, and DeLauro’s bill would fix that.

This topic is personal for me. I’m the father of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old who can easily afford diapers and pretty much anything else my children need. But every time I change a dirty diaper, I think of the parents living in Torrington and other parts of Connecticut who have to stop and think twice about the cost of doing that, and the impact that has on their innocent and helpless children.

Dan Malloy and Rosa DeLauro are not going to ride this topic to any kind of political gain, obviously, but they deserve thanks for using their bully pulpits to raise awareness about it.


13 Responses to “In defense of diapers, Dannel Malloy and Rosa DeLauro”

  1. Sydney October 28, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    I suppose the idea of cloth diapers and a good washing would be out of the question! My mother raised 8 children before pampers. There is no reason cloth diapers cannot be used if pampers are cost prohibitive. These are ,to me, articles of convenience not necessity. Also I am sick of seeing them lying in the street and in parking lots.

    • mattderienzo October 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      Actually, there’s been a bit of resurgence in interest in cloth diapers in the past five to 10 years, mostly driven by environmental consciousness. (Although there have been studies showing that cloth diapers are actually worse for the environment, because they consume a larger carbon footprint than disposable diapers because of the water and energy consumed in washing them.)

      When we launched the Northwest Connecticut Diaper Drive, we offered to purchase cloth diapers if anyone would take us up on it, because of criticism like yours. We did not get much response.

      The fact is that something in the range of 99.5% of North American diaper use is disposable – society has just changed in that way. Day care centers won’t necessarily allow them, and in most middle-class or lower-income families, or single-parent households, every parent is working and day care is a fact of life. Plus, low-income families often are using laundromats, which either frown upon or outright prohibit cloth diaper washing at their facilities.

      • Sydney October 30, 2011 at 11:03 am #

        If as you say every parent is working and daycare is a way of life why can they not afford to buy diapers for their children? Daycare is expensive, I never afforded daycare for my children, I worked from home, I worked at night when others were home. The bottom line is the government handouts and assistance are out of control. Most of the programs are abused and misused and the recipients are not using funds for the intended purpose. There are so many “bodegas” that will let you buy whatever you want with your assistance money for a percentage and the baby still gets no diapers.

  2. Delia7 October 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Totally ridiculous! Too bad our law makers don’t focus on more desperate programs for the aged and veterans, but hey, let’s continue to support these people who are having babies indiscriminately (okay, maybe not ALL, but why should MY tax dollars be spent on diapers when I can’t even afford decent healthcare?). The system isn’t screwed up; it’s the idiots running it who are! God forbid they should focus on something really important.

  3. Nunof Urbiznes October 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    It is very easy to throw up a sob story and then point a finger at those who have questions about the necessity of another governmental intervention. Your story offers no statistics to indicate how wide spread a problem this is. There is no analysis as to the budgets of these unnamed low income people, and whether they could afford to purchase these items if they changed their spending habits. There is no discussion as to what extent private charities provide baby items for people in such a situation, and what the shortfall is. Instead you simply looked to play on people’s heart strings, as though it is irrational for anyone to question whether it is necessary for the federal or state government to get involved with this issue. It stems from the unfortunate mindset that has grown in the past 75 years: “What is the government going to do about problem X?”

    While the proposed bill may not call for increased funding now, there is the distinct probability that adding this as a possible expense under the existing law will result in the same advocates of this bill calling for increased spending to pay for these items in the future. As you should know, federal spending on such programs never decreases.

    Additionally, what has the New Haven Diaper Bank or other entities like them done to raise awareness of the problem, which you seem to think is so rampant in Connecticut? Have they advertised for donations from private individuals either in the form of money or packages of diapers? The link you provided only indicates that they receive “donations from private foundations and state and federal grants”. Nothing is mentioned as to outreach to individuals. Have they looked into donation spots, similar to what is done to donate clothes for the needy?

    Perhaps before getting on your soapbox and lashing out at those with a different viewpoint, you should do a little more research on the issue and what alternatives might be available beyond government intervention.

    • mattderienzo October 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

      The Diaper Bank definitely has reached out to individuals for fundraising, and when we did the Northwest Connecticut Diaper Drive, that was all we did – no grant money or foundation support there. DeLauro’s bill is actually based on a pretty conservative principal – that if the government is going to provide support to private aid organizations to help low-income families, they shouldn’t dictate how that money is used. DeLauro’s bill gives them more flexibility to meet the most crucial needs. And I’m going to bet those organizations at the front lines of helping people know better how to spend that money than the federal government, a congresswoman or you and me. The bill doesn’t say they have to spend it on diapers, just that they can.

  4. Brian October 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Having been a reader of Journal Register publications over the years, I would suggest donating your newsprint to be made into diapers. You would end up with approximately the same product.

  5. NHDUDE October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Thank you Matt for setting the record straight on this– the same people who say read the bill on every piece of leg, did not read this bill and think Rosa wants to hand out diapers to people on the street– to them I say, READ THE BILL.

  6. Mark October 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    I would be more interested in programs that teach people not to have babies when they can’t afford their own diapers. When does responsibility come back into vogue. Sadly, this is not about helping less fortunate families, it’s about buying votes. That is the real tragedy here and people are saps to believe anything different.

    • mattderienzo October 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

      I’m down with that … one of the programs supported by our United Way in Northwest Connecticut is a fatherhood program that teaches and mentors young men on taking responsibility for the kids they’ve created. The problem with the reaction of so many to not contribute to charity, period, or support the government helping anyone in need is that, first of all, what happens to the children involved? They can’t be held responsible for the actions of their parents, can they? And second, there are very legitimate cases of need that shouldn’t be painted with the same broad brush. I’ve heard the stat that the average family is two paychecks away from foreclosure/not being able to pay the rent. Getting laid off, or in a debilitating accident, could put a hard-working person in that situation.

  7. Donna Avila October 28, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    Doesn’t anyone realize that this has to have something to do with favors to the unions?

    • mattderienzo October 29, 2011 at 6:54 am #

      I’m missing the connection. Can you explain your logic?

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