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Indiana agency works to expand reach and fill statewide diaper need

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An estimated 1 in 3 caregivers in Indiana struggles to buy enough diapers for their baby. Health advocates say inflation has only made it worse, since housing, food, and gas prices have increased, but a list of partners is working to fill the need.

The need has grown tremendously, particularly in the last year. Partly due to families still trying to bounce back from the pandemic, but also a growing immigrant and refugee population. Every month, 100,000 diapers are distributed to Indiana Diaper Bank partners, and it’s still not enough to meet the need.

The shelves seem packed with diapers of various sizes, but they are constantly being taken back off the shelves, put into vehicles, and eventually sent off to the 44 Indiana Diaper Bank partners.

“We have families coming to us with their child wrapped in a newspaper because they are completely out of diapers. They’re doing the best,” Ashley Burns, president and CEO of Indiana Diaper Bank, said.

Each year, the need spikes. As a parent, Burns knows the challenges of trying to get by with limited diapers. “I had two boys under two, and I was a teacher at the time with a limited salary. I had to figure out, ‘Okay, what am I going to give up?’” Burns said.

The idea of poverty typically brings up thoughts of food and shelter, but diapers, Burns says, fit in that category.

“You’re spending at least $100 a month on diapers per child. So, if the family has three under three, they are spending at minimum $300 a month on diapers,” said Burns.

Eskenazi Health is one of Indiana Diaper Bank’s largest distribution partners. Dr. Deanna Reinoso, a pediatric doctor with Eskenazi, says the need for diapers has become a social determinant of health.

“It’s hard with paying for childcare, and food and housing. With the increase in prices, a lot of families are embarrassed to say they are struggling,” said Dr. Reinoso.

In addition to the threat of diaper rash, children also face possible urinary tract infections and yeast infections. Parents and caregivers face mental health issues wondering how they’ll keep their child clean and dry.

“I think of every parent who has a child in diapers and consider whether or not you reach out directly and just buy a pack of diapers,” Dr. Reinoso said.

“Parents and caregivers are trying their best,” Burns said. Though financial donations help the Indiana Diaper Bank buy in bulk and get the most for their dollar, being supportive and giving a little grace goes a long way.