Diaper Distribution Programs: Overview of Programs and Available Research

Diaper Distribution Programs: Overview of Programs and Available Research

OPRE Report #2023-019
Published: Jan 31, 2023
Publisher: Washington, D.C., Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Diana Gates

Sarah E. Campbell

Megan McCormick

Key Findings

Findings from the literature address three areas: (1) existing government support for diaper assistance, (2) diaper distribution program structures, and (3) output measures and potential outcomes related to addressing diaper need through diaper distribution. Key findings include:

  • Most state and federal government programs that support families with low incomes do not provide resources for diapers.
  • Diaper distribution programs vary in their organizational structure but often use a network of community partners to distribute diapers directly to caregivers and families.
  • The size, capacity, and reach of diaper distribution programs vary.
  • Diaper distribution programs have the potential to improve the lives of families and communities. Almost all reviewed research highlighted observed and potential outcomes related to meeting diaper need, and a few articles suggested potential outcomes that could result specifically from diaper distribution programs.

Diaper need, or the gap between sufficient diapers to keep a child dry and what their caregiver can provide, affects more than 5 million children in the United States. To help meet this need, diaper distribution programs provide diapers and diapering supplies to caregivers and families experiencing diaper need, often through a network of community partners. The Office of Community Services in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) launched the Diaper Distribution Demonstration and Research Pilot, the first federally funded diaper assistance initiative. The purpose of the pilot is to provide funding to strengthen and expand existing diaper distribution programs through a robust network of community partners.

The purpose of this brief is to provide foundational information about diaper distribution programs. The brief begins by summarizing the literature review approach and highlighting key findings about diaper distribution. Then, the brief summarizes current knowledge about diaper distribution programs and the research on these programs. Mathematica conducted this review as part of the ACF Evidence Capacity Support project funded by OPRE.

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