Both the Waldo County Commissioners and the Belfast City Council have signed proclamations in observance of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Among other points, the proclamations call for understanding that the consequences of child abuse and neglect are felt by the entire community and that most child abuse situations occur when parents find themselves in stressful situations, without community resources. Effective prevention activities succeed because of partnerships among local agencies, schools, faith communities, civic organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community.

Research begun in the late 1990s in California came to be known as the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study. The study focused on events in a person’s life prior to age 18 and their subsequent health histories. Those events included five types of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect, and five categories of extreme household stressors including: a mother treated violently in the home; having a parent incarcerated; an adult household member who abuses substances; having a parent with mental illness; and parental separation or divorce. Adults who experienced one or more of these childhood traumas were more likely to have poor health in adulthood, to have adult relationships where violence occurred, and to abuse substances.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention summarizes the impact of this study by reporting: “The ACE study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation's worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.”

Prevent Child Abuse America offers these strategies that individuals can take to prevent or reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect.

Be a friend to a parent you know. Ask how their children are doing. Draw on your own experiences to provide reassurance and support. Offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear. Show you understand.

Be a friend to a child you know. Remember their names. Smile when you talk with them. Ask them about their day at school. Show you care.

Talk to your neighbors about looking out for one another's children. Encourage a supportive spirit among parents on your block. Show that you are involved.

Give your used clothing, furniture and toys for use by another family. This can help relieve the stress of financial burdens that parents sometimes take out on their kids.

Volunteer your time and money for programs in your community that support children and families, such as parent support groups, child care centers.

Advocate for public policies, innovative programs and issues that benefit children and families.