Project Undercover On the Op-ed Page of the Providence Journal

providence-journal_logoWe were proud to open the pages of the Providence Sunday Journal on Mother’s Day and find an op-ed piece from our very own Vice President, Jeanette St. Pierre. Discussing the need for diapers and putting the focus on moms who struggle, Jeanette delivered an emotionally resonant message on a day that’s near and dear to our hearts. Read the full text below:

Originally published in the Providence Journal, Sunday, May 10, 2015.

Jeanette St. Pierre: Don’t forget moms who struggle

Mother’s Day is the day when we honor and show gratitude to all the moms in our lives. We celebrate them for all that they give to us: love, support, affection, hugs, nourishment, guidance. We do something nice for them to celebrate the joys in their lives.

What we don’t often do on Mother’s Day, however, is take a moment to acknowledge the struggles and difficulties they face every day. Flowers, cards and Sunday brunches are wonderful salutes to those mothers fortunate enough to have a solid support system around them, but what does Mother’s Day mean for those who aren’t so fortunate?

There are far too many mothers in Rhode Island today who aren’t wondering about what gift they might receive, but rather, will they have enough diapers to keep their child clean and dry all day. In “Diaper Need and Its Impact on Child Health,” a July 2013 study published in the journal Pediatrics, a team of Yale researchers found that 30 percent of mothers struggle to afford diapers for their children. They also note that at an average cost of almost $1,000 per year for just one child, the average single mother working full-time at a minimum-wage job will spend more than 6 percent of her gross income just on diapers. It’s a sizable expense that is beyond her control, as many mothers in low-wage jobs are also forced by lack of time or transportation to purchase diapers at nearby convenience stores, which can double or triple the cost compared with bigger discount retailers.

The need for assistance with diapers is staggering and immediate. Infants require up to 12 diapers per day, and toddlers need about eight. Furthermore, many mothers cannot even turn to reusable cloth diapers, because they are not allowed at most laundromats or child-care centers.

The struggles that result from this diaper need are real and can make a lasting impact on a child’s life. Babies who remain for too long in a soiled diaper are exposed to potential health risks, and parents who cannot meet the basic sanitary necessities of child-care centers are often forced to stay home from work. Similarly, older children who lack clean, dry socks and underwear often have to miss school, or have trouble concentrating because they are damp and cold throughout the school day.

While any mom would love to receive flowers or candy today, there are far too many for whom just the bare necessities to get their children through the day would truly be a gift. Those mothers, and their children, are exactly the people that we here at Project Undercover try to remember on Mother’s Day — and they’re the families we serve every single day of the year.

We provide diapers, socks and underwear for children in need throughout Rhode Island. Through more than two-dozen partners statewide — mostly social service agencies, community action partnerships and community centers — we are able to distribute these basic necessities directly into communities that need them most, guided by data from the state Department of Human Services. With almost 45,000 Rhode Island children living in poverty, according to data from RI Kids Count, there is no shortage of need for our work.

We get phone calls and emails every day from mothers facing hardships that could easily afflict any of us: families with lost incomes, unexpected illnesses, hard choices between buying food or diapers. They’re heartbreaking, and remind us every day that there is still much to be done.

Project Undercover believes that every kid has the right to a clean, dry bottom. If you do too, I encourage you to learn more about our work at www.projectundercover.org. Happy Mother’s Day.

Jeanette St. Pierre is the executive vice president of Project Undercover, which provides diapers, socks and underwear to children living in poverty, and the mother of two children.

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