BANGOR, Maine — The winter ahead promises to be a hard one for many Maine families, with the high cost of food and heating oil and local reverberations of the national economic condition. Public health experts are concerned that in the anxiety and stress of the situation, the needs of Maine children may be overlooked.

This Wednesday evening, the city of Bangor Department of Health and Community Services will hold a public forum, “Children and Tough Economic Times: How Financial Stress Impacts the Youngest in Our Community.” The event is free and open to the public.

The panel discussion will focus on the challenges children and families encounter in an economic downturn. Topics will include the relationship between domestic violence and economic stress, the impact on children when parents are forced to spend more time working to make ends meet, and the difficult choices some families may face, such as between purchasing heating oil and getting needed health care for their children.

Panelists will include representatives from the Penquis program, the Maine Equal Justice legal advocacy program, the Spruce Run program for victims of domestic violence, and the city’s Health and Community Services Department.

“By focusing simply on the current increased cost of heating oil, gas and food, we risk letting the needs of [children] go unaddressed,” said forum moderator and city department head Shawn Yardley. “Our hope in conducting this forum is to identify ways in which children are most commonly affected when families face financial difficulty and discuss how we as a community can help ensure their basic needs are not overlooked.”

The event will take place from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the City Council chambers at City Hall in Bangor. For information, call 992-4462.