LEWISTON — Advocates For Children (AFC), a local organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

AFC was initially incorporated as Androscoggin Community Coordinating Committee (A Tri C) in June 1978, in response to the little recognition that was being given to sexual and emotional abuse in children and the need to identify gaps in service.

A Tri C started with a handful of “borrowed” staff that included people from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and other local organizations. The group recognized the need for prevention programs and began to develop them for teachers and students.

Collaboration with area agencies and professionals was key. A Tri C had a part in the development of AWAP (now Safe Voices), the Emergency Shelter for Youth at New Beginnings and a family support team program through Tri-County Health.

During his visit to A Tri C in 1982, Maine’s Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Petit, complimented the team on its work and reported he would be using the agency as a model for fledgling child abuse councils across the state.

New legislation in 1985 provided for the development and funding of a Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council (CAN Council) in each county in Maine. A Tri C then became an official 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, obtained its first grant funding and hired its own program-dedicated staff as the new CAN Councilfor Androscoggin County.

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In 1986, the board of directors for A Tri C revisited its mission and concluded the organization should be less about coordination and more about advocacy. The change in name to Advocates For Children (AFC) reflected the work that focused on legislative advocacy and public awareness campaigns that focused on issues such as emotional abuse, sexual abuse and shaken baby syndrome.

In the late 90s, acting executive director Nadine Edris worked on legislation that would bring the national Healthy Families home visiting program to Maine. In 1998, AFC became affiliated with Healthy Families (now Maine Families) and began offering state-funded home visiting services to families with infants.

AFC has seen changes in staffing, physical locations and funding levels through the years – but since 1978, Advocates For Children has played an essential role in Androscoggin County as a leader in child abuse prevention.

The organization believes that supporting the healthy growth and development of children and families occurs through a commitment to lifelong education and community outreach. AFC serves as a comprehensive resource for parents of children of all ages, answering questions, providing workshops and classes, and helping parents navigate the challenging world of raising children.

The staff at AFC includes experienced, highly trained and compassionate professionals who specialize in social work, early childhood development, psychology, prevention education in schools and the community, and professional training for service providers. On-staff educators use evidenced-based curriculums for all parenting programs.

These curriculums build upon the Protective Factors, a nationally recognized framework for parenting education that develops family strengths and encourages a family environment that promotes optimal child and youth development.

Research documents that each of the five protective factors in the framework helps to prevent child abuse and neglect, and helps to promote thriving children, families and communities.

In 2017, there was an increase in substantiated child abuse cases within Androscoggin County, with babies birth to one year old still being the largest age group at risk to experience abuse. AFC is working with community partners to reach more families than ever before, and hopes to continue strengthening families for forty more years.

For more information, and to follow AFC’s anniversary celebration throughout the rest of the year, visit www.advocatesforchildren.net and follow their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AFCLewiston/.


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