It has been a long, long time that I’ve been stuck in the land of diapers. From the birth of my daughter almost seven years ago, followed by my other children one after one, I have been purchasing diapers of some sort for at least one child since 2007. There was that magnificent, glorious period of about two months where my oldest was only using a diaper at night and I hadn’t yet given birth to my second, but that was quickly made up for when she fell off the wagon as a reaction to no longer being an only child. Since then it has been non-stop, and often more than one child at a time.
No wonder I always feel broke.
Luckily, with two fairly steady incomes in our home, purchasing diapers has been more of an annoyance than a hardship, although I must admit that as we start edging our youngest towards potty training, I can’t help but count the months until hopefully an end will be in sight. For our family, who easily spends anywhere from $50 to $100 a month on diapers (and yes, has been doing so for almost 7 years, for a rough estimate of nearly $20,000 overall), the cost is inconvenient but something we can handle. For someone who struggles to meet basic expenses? That is nearly insurmountable.
I’ve been advocating for a diaper subsidy for years here at Care2, arguing that programs like WIC and SNAP need to relax their rules and allow diapers, which are a completely unavoidable part of parenting a baby or toddler, to be covered as an essential. “The government provides assistance to help with families who can’t afford the high prices of formula and other food for children, via programs like WIC (Women and Children) or foodstamps,” I wrote in 2010. ”But for unavoidable necessities like diapers, parents, most often mothers, still require cash to be able to pay for them. And to have that cash, they must find someplace else to cut corners.”
Now maybe, just maybe, we are getting one step closer to that finally happening. California lawmakers are introducing Assembly Bill 1516, a bill which would allow an $80 a month subsidy for diaper purchasing for parents on welfare. The $80 is per child, as well, as long as the child is under 2-years-old (which sets an unreasonable level for potty training, frankly, since most children don’t even start until 2 and a half or 3, but that is a whole other argument).
The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, poses the reform as a way to help get parents back to work and off the welfare program itself. “Gonzalez said easing diaper costs would help families exit CalWORKS, the state’s welfare program. Most child-care centers, even those subsidized by the state, require parents to bring four or five diapers per child per day,” reports UT San Diego. “Parents who cannot afford the diapers might decide to stay at home with their children and forego searching for a job,” Gonzalez said.
Oddly enough, Republicans are opposed to it in the sort of “they brought it on themselves” mentality that seems to go hand in hand with poor women having children. One opponents said there should be “plenty of existing resources” to get diapers from, while another states that it’s impossible to prove that the $80 is actually going to keep the child covered.
“We do want to provide resources when there’s an absolute need, especially with children who can’t help themselves,” said Amanda Fulkerson, a spokeswoman for the Assembly Republican Caucus. “But, right now, the way it’s crafted, there’s no way to verify that the need is actually being met.”
The dismissive, “that money could end up anywhere” mentality makes it clear that Republicans don’t seem to understand that diapers are a necessity in parenting and, without them, it’s pretty obvious when that need isn’t being met.
As a supporter of the legislation I have one suggestion for those who would like to see the subsidy pass. Take your children, set them on a lawmaker’s lap, and show them exactly what happens when a person doesn’t have the money to afford diapers.
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