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Congress addressing a "dirty truth" about diapers

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Anita Peppers/Morguefile
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The pressure to provide diapers for their children often forces low-income parents to make tough choices.

One dirty truth about child rearing is the high price of diapers, which can cost families from $70 to $80 per month per child. Congress is considering legislation that would fund pilot programs in states such as Michigan to help low-income families afford this necessity.

There are currently no federal programs that meet the need, according to Alison Weir, chief of policy and research for the National Diaper Bank Network.

"You tell people that you can't buy diapers with food stamps or WIC, and the first response is 'What?'" Weir said. "Neither program is meant for that, but the programs that were meant to provide for basic needs have all shrunk to the point where there's a big hole in the safety net."

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the only program that provides money that could be used for diapers. In Michigan, that benefit is limited to $490 per month for a household with one parent and two children.

Missouri recently opted to fund diaper banks, and California is considering a voucher to offset the cost for children enrolled in subsidized day care. The federal bill was referred to a House subcommittee for consideration.

The pressure to provide diapers for children often forces parents to make tough choices, Weir said. It's a fact illustrated by a survey from the group Feeding America, in which parents shared some surprising confessions.

"A large number of folks admitted to delaying changing a diaper or, in some cases, shaking a diaper out and trying to reuse it," she said. "And if you don't have diapers, in most cases you can't leave your child at day care because most day cares require parents to provide the diapers their child will use."

There are currently eight diaper banks in Michigan.