Baby Basics knows what low-income families need
Somewhere in Naples right now — actually, in many places throughout Collier County — there is a baby with diaper rash sitting in an overfull diaper. The baby isn’t suffering from neglect or inattention, but from poverty. Keeping an infant or toddler in disposable diapers can run parents between $70-$80 a month — a modest estimate, but a whole lot of money for anyone living near or below the poverty line. So they leave diapers on longer and sometimes even rinse and reuse them.
Why don’t these parents use cloth diapers? Because cloth diapers are relics of days when babies stayed home with a parent. In families of the working poor, moms and dads head out to work and children go to daycare, which always requires disposable diapers to come from home. Even in families where a parent stays home with the children, most don’t have washers and dryers for cloth diapers, and laundromats do not allow cloth diapers in their machines.
“Families have told us that they had to stay home from work until they could gather enough money to buy diapers to get their kids back to daycare,” says Jean Ann Lynch, founder and board president of Baby Basics of Collier County.
Since starting the first chapter of Baby Basics 23 years ago in Ridgewood, N.J., Mrs. Lynch has started 15 official chapters and affiliates around the country to address families’ needs for diapers. Locally, the Collier chapter runs nine distribution centers (eight in Collier County and one in Bonita Springs) that disperse diapers monthly to qualifying families. Right now, the program supplies diapers to 378 babies.
“That’s 33 more babies than a year ago, a 9.6 percent increase,” Mrs. Lynch says. “The numbers are not decreasing. The need is still out there.”
Not only is diaper rash painful for a baby, but according to a study conducted by Yale University and The National Diaper Bank Network in 2013, low-income mothers who cannot afford diapers suffer increased rates of anxiety and depression. The whole family is affected by a baby who cannot be diapered properly, particularly children. Kids’ cognitive development is vastly influenced by their parents’ mental health, particularly their mothers’, and they can be negatively impacted when parents suffer over a seemingly simple need that can’t be met, the study showed.
Baby Basics is working with Florida Gulf Coast University’s College of Social Work on a similar study that focuses on local families. The results of that project, headed by professor Karen Landy, will be revealed on Thursday, July 16.
To participate in Baby Basics, a family must have one working parent, be within 185 percent of the federal poverty line, which is $24,250 for a family of four in 2015, and cannot be receiving state or federal cash assistance. All participants are accepted into the program on a referral basis from other local agencies and nonprofits that work with lowincome families. Babies are graduated from the program once they reach 3 years old.
Despite how necessary a plentiful supply of disposable diapers has become to modern families, one in three families in the United States reported to The National Diaper Bank Network that they experience diaper need. Food stamps do not currently and have never covered diapers, and no state or federal programs exist to specifically provide or assist in the purchase of diapers. Even more frustrating is that low-income families often to do not have the money to purchase diapers in bulk, which the network claims is much more costeffective. If Baby Basics can take care of that one essential item for a family living in poverty, parents can purchase other necessities for their children, such as food and medicine, Mrs. Lynch says.
“One little family said to me they were able to buy their daughter a new T-shirt” because we were providing diapers, she continues. “The use that money to enhance their lives and the lives of their family members.”
Kristen Thomas, a local mother of a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old, found herself suddenly in need of help last winter when her youngest was born with spina bifida. The condition had gone undetected during her pregnancy, and the family faced magnified and additional medical costs coupled with unpaid maternity leave.
“It’s one less thing we have to worry about,” Mrs. Thomas says about the diapers provided by Baby Basics. “When you have a child with special needs, the expense of everything goes up. Financially, we were already in the hole; throw that on top and it doesn’t help.”
Baby Basics volunteers were also able to connect Mrs. Thomas with other resources that could help with other needs her son will have.
Baby Basics of Collier County is run by 125 volunteers. There is a board of directors, an operations council, a development council and various other people who distribute supplies. It will cost the organization $122,641 to supply its current crop of babies with a year’s supply of diapers (72 families out of 378 are migrants who will only be here for seven months to receive their share).
Baby Basics receives its diapers by tractor-trailer load and volunteers disperse them to nine distribution centers. For more information about donating or volunteering, or to find out how to apply to receive Baby Basics services, visit babybasicscollier.org. ¦
¦ Baby Basics has been named Waterside Shops’ 2015 Coins for a Cause partner, which means the shopping center will donate all of the coins tossed in its fountains to Baby Basics for the entire year.
¦ The eighth annual Baby Basics Champagne Brunch & Fashion Show is set for Monday, Nov. 9, at Wyndemere Country Club.
¦ The seventh annual Baby Basics Walking Challenge will take place Saturday, Jan. 23, at North Collier Regional Park.
For more information, visit babybasicscollier.org.