LEWISTON — Advocates for Children will celebrate the prevention of child abuse in April.

Each year the President of the United States issues a proclamation to announce April as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

Children who are abused or neglected are more likely to experience delays in their physical and social-emotional development. This will impact a young child’s ability to be school ready and older children may experience lower school achievement or truancy as a result.

According to the 2013 Maine Kids Count report, the numbers in Maine are increasing. And according to the 2012 Maine DHHS Child Protective Services Annual Report, the DHHS in Lewiston had the most new child abuse reports assigned for assessment (1,605 cases) and the bulk of those were for children birth to 4 years old (1,310 children).

Beyond the obvious immediate impacts of child abuse and neglect, there are more subtle impacts that can follow a child throughout their lifetime. The research surrounding Adverse Childhood Experiences demonstrates that 10 specific experiences of child abuse, neglect or hardship can cause poor health outcomes later in life. The outcomes range from obesity, alcoholism, heart disease, anxiety, depression and other chronic health disparities.

Current research shows one in four Maine children have experienced two or more adverse experiences. It is not difficult to imagine that a parent having experienced adversity in their own childhood will be at risk of repeating a similar pattern with their own children.

Advocates for Children works to combat child abuse and neglect by educating parents about protective factors. Protective factors are learned attributes such as being nurturing, understanding child development and showing resiliency. These serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress. Research has shown that these protective factors are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect.

In April, Advocates for Children will celebrate the prevention of child abuse and neglect in a variety of ways:

On April 5, Spider-Man will visit Lewiston and Augusta to present his Character Counts program.

Playgroups held Monday and Thursday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Advocates for Children will highlight BLUE activities — a symbol of prevention.

Purple hats will be handed out at Central Maine Medical Center to each new baby as a reminder to parents of the importance of the Period of Purple Crying and prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

And a Pinwheel Garden will be “planted” on Main Street in Lewiston. Blue pinwheels are a nationwide symbol to remind us all of the unlimited potential of each and every child and — most importantly — of the freedom from negative influences every child deserves.

For more information about Advocates for Children, child abuse and neglect prevention, or any of the April activities, call 783-3990 or visit www.advocatesforchildren.net.

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