The Cloth Diaper Foundation: Corruption or Compensation?

For the many parents who want to cloth diaper but can’t afford the initial investment, organizations that provide cloth diapers to these families can be lifesaving. These organizations are able to provide significant financial relief for families who can’t come up with the initial funds to cloth diaper, and are suffering from the long-term costs of using disposable diapers. By providing free diapers and diaper loans, these organizations give many parents an opportunity that they may not have had otherwise to cloth diaper their child.

One organization, a registered non-profit, The Cloth Diaper Foundation, is likely the most recognized cloth diaper organization. Originally known as Miracle Diapers, the Cloth Diaper Foundation began in 2005, located in Oregon. The Cloth Diaper Foundation states that they are “dedicated to helping qualifying families all over the continental United States get a jump start on cloth diapering.”

The Cloth Diaper Foundation works in a relatively simple, although costly, manner. Individuals and businesses alike are able to send donations of diapers that are in good, working condition. These donations are sent at the donor’s expense. The diapers donated do not have to be perfect, and may have been previously used, but they must not be in need of repair or alterations. The Cloth Diaper Foundation then redistributes these diapers to families who have filled out applications for assistance and have been approved. Recipients are required to pay for shipping.

Prior to 2011, the only real complaints that seemed to exist about the Cloth Diaper Foundation revolved around the limited application times. The Cloth Diaper Foundation was often closed to new applications and when applications were open, they were only open for short periods of time, making it difficult for needy families to apply. Another smaller issue that arose, was that Alaska and Hawaii residents were ineligible to receive diapers based on the allegedly higher shipping expenses. This exclusion didn’t make sense to many since the recipient was responsible for paying for shipping expenses.

Earlier this year, it came to the attention of the general public that the women volunteering for the Cloth Diaper Foundation were given some of the donated diapers. This information came to light when one of the volunteers posted a photo of her “starter stash” for her unborn baby, not due until October. The photo had a caption beneath that read, “Here’s my stash so far for this new little one….Many are CDF diapers.” Several posters responded to the picture of the diapers, mostly gushing about how cute and tiny they were, but one woman responded to the photo asking if the diapers donated to the foundation went to the operation manager’s personal stash. The response the commenter received from one of the owners was enough to shock, and outrage many people who had previously supported the Cloth Diaper Foundation. The Cloth Diaper Foundation responded “All the volunteers have stashes provided by CDF. It’s the least we can do since we’re 100% volunteer run.”

Initially, the Cloth Diaper Foundation tried to argue that the volunteer who had posted the photo would have qualified for diapers, had she applied. Outraged Facebook followers, however, pointed out that the volunteer was not within two months of her expected due date and was therefore ineligible based on the Cloth Diaper Foundation’s own policies. These policies listed on the application guidelines state “If you are expecting, you must be less than TWO (2) months from your estimated due date” in order to be eligible.

This seemingly small event began to create division in the support that the Cloth Diaper Foundation was now receiving. Some weren’t bothered by the volunteers being given diapers, taking the stance that as long as the Cloth Diaper Foundation was still serving families, there wasn’t any harm being done. Others were even supportive of the volunteers recieving diapers because their hard work ‘earned’ it. One woman shrugged if off, “Running the foundation can’t be easy. Shouldn’t they reap a little reward for their efforts?”

However, a large portion of people were outraged at the dishonestly and the deceit. One disappointed woman spoke out about the deceit, “Taking the diapers was, in my opinion, stealing from people who actually needed them. People donated in good faith, [believing] that diapers would be helping needy families… And instead volunteers took diapers for personal use.”

Donors were upset, knowing that the diapers they donated to be given to someone who needed them may have ended up in one of the volunteers hands instead. Many waiting recipients were also bothered, knowing that others, who like themselves, need help, aren’t helped as quickly because the diapers were being given to volunteers who hadn’t jumped through the hoops to apply, rather than being given to those in need. Even those who weren’t directly affected were outraged. Another commenter responded, “I don’t have children, but I was aware of the Cloth Diaper Foundation. I thought it was a great idea, but after seeing this? I am appalled to say the least. These so-called volunteers should be ashamed of themselves.”

The Cloth Diaper Foundation suspended all operations until further notice and alerted the public that they were conferring with a lawyer about the legal implications that giving volunteers diapers could have on the non-profit. One woman states, “I was stunned, truly stunned. I couldn’t believe that they ‘didn’t know’ it was illegal to take from a not-for-profit and not claim the goods for the IRS. If they had told people that they used the diapers [for personal use], and the IRS, people wouldn’t have been so outraged. But then they sent the yucky diapers to the people in need and kept the nice ones for themselves, then bragged about them in photographs. It was just unbelievable.”

The Cloth Diaper Foundation, seemingly without warning, deleted the foundation’s Facebook page and shortly after, two letters of resignation were issued by Roxanna Jolly and Lisa Johnston. Johnston had served as the operations manager and board chair for the foundation, while Jolly served as the foundation’s CEO. Just a few months prior, Johnston had published a blog post seeming to complain about some of her experiences as the operations manager at the foundation.

Since these issues have come to light, many have been hesitant to offer their support to the foundation, despite the resignation of Johnston and Jolly. A new CEO, by the name of Kristy Burt, has been appointed, however, the public has yet to see how she will handle to position and clean up the mess left by the former CEO. Although many people still support the foundation, others are not so forgiving and are turning to other organizations, such as the Cloth Cooperative and A Diaper A Day. No one knows if the Cloth Diaper Foundation will be able to repair it’s tarnished image as of yet, but like Ernest Bramah once said, ” A reputation for a thousand years may depend upon the conduct of a single moment. ”