Any last-minute edits before I hit send???????????
Dear Mr. So and So,
After 7 years as a Software Developer, my husband is entering graduate school full time to pursue a Master’s Degree in Counseling. Realizing that we will be on a limited income during his two-year program, I applied for our family to receive Food and Medical Benefits through the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.
We (myself, my husband and our two young children) arrived on Friday February 2nd, 2007 for our scheduled appointment at the Spokane Valley Community Services Center. During our appointment, I began to quietly nurse my little one. The intake caseworker, Ms. Such and Such, immediately asked me if I was going to “do that the whole time?” A bit taken back, I asked if she meant breastfeeding? She rudely and crassly declared her disgust with what I was doing. I told her that I had the legal right to breastfeed in public and that I wished to speak to her supervisor. Her supervisor, Mr. This and That then came to the cubicle and informed me that Ms. Such and Such was “uncomfortable” with me nursing my child. I asked if there was another case worker who would be comfortable with it. He indicated that he was not comfortable with it either. Mr. This and That then asked me if I could use a blanket. I politely refused stating that I was being adequately modest (even if my breast was accidentally exposed, the law in Washington, RCW 9A.88.010 2001 Wa. ALS 88; 2001 Wa. Ch. 88; 2001 Wa. HB 1590, exempts me from indecent exposure) He persisted, then asking me if I could please just switch seats with my husband so that I would be behind a partition blocking Ms. Such and Such’s view. What if I was an African-American individual and a caseworker made it known to me that she was “uncomfortable” with the color of my skin? What if her supervisor then asked me to sit behind a partition for the remainder of my appointment, so that the case worker would not have to see me? Obviously, this situation would be utterly intolerable!
While remaining completely calm, we complied with his request, fully intending on filing this formal complaint.
Mr. So and So, I am a veteran breastfeeding mother who is confident in and knowledgeable of the well-researched nutritional and emotional benefits that both mother and child receive during the breastfeeding relationship. Imagine however, if a young mom in-need with a newborn baby came into that office to apply for benefits. I
f she was treated this way, she may likely feel shame and humiliation that could effect her decision to nurse at all and compromise the health of her baby (human milk is nutritionally superior to artificial milk) as well as herself
(breastfeeding serves as a protective mechanism for four types of gynecological cancers as well as other chronic illnesses). In addition, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that "Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired." They also note that "If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned." (AAFP 2001)
It is absolutely unacceptable
that state government employees in an office to serve the people can break the law and violate a mother’s and a child’s civil rights in this manner. I am confident however, in your desire to provide education to your entire staff of the Spokane Valley Community Services Office, about the rights of breastfeeding mothers and I look forward to your response.
papercopy cc: Regional Administrator