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.