PITTSFIELD — Every month, 58 children are abused in Berkshire County.

On Friday, pairs of shoes representing each one of those children lined the steps of City Hall as nearly two dozen women, and a few men, gathered to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention month.

"Isn't it a child's birthright to be loved, nurtured and protected?" Mayor Linda Tyer asked the crowd?

At the annual Step Up for Kids event, sponsored by Child Care of the Berkshires and the Children's Trust, public officials addressed the challenging job of parents and the resources available to ease the burden.

While the number of shoes displayed at City Hall is significantly lower than last year's total of 89, child abuse remains a major issue in Berkshire County, according to Shanna Curley-Graham, director of the Childcare of the Berkshires' North County office.

"With the drug issue we have right now, there's a real crisis," she said.

That crisis requires that prevention programming and parent education are properly funded, politicians said.

As of now, 87% of the state's budget for children and families is allocated to children who already are in state care, according to state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield. About 15% is spent on children in the care of their parents.

Farley-Bouvier hopes that funding dedicated to families will increase so that children can remain in their homes.

Noting that Massachusetts has some of the highest rates of child abuse, state Sen. Adams Hinds, D-Pittsfield, acknowledged that prevention funding is not where it should be.

"We'll be doing everything we can to make sure that money is going up," he said.

Still, despite a lack of funding, groups like Childcare of the Berkshires and Berkshire Children and Families provide resources and education to families in the county so they are better prepared for the challenges of parenting.

"There is no job tougher today than being a parent," said state Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams.

"I'm a parent; I still read articles on how to talk to adult children," added Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children's Trust, a nonprofit that develops and funds children and family support programs throughout Massachusetts.

Colleen White Holmes, president and CEO of Berkshire Children and Families, stood at the podium in front of City Hall and looked around at the crowd of mostly women Friday.

"We're not going to let the dads off the hook," she said.

Comparing her own father to the one in "The Brady Bunch," White Holmes addressed how television can set unrealistic expectations for dads.

When Mike Brady got mad, he simply donned a disappointed look and called a family meeting.

"That's not what mad looked like in my house," she said. "My father was all types of things. He was loving, but he could be scary when he was mad."

White Holmes noted that people are human and multifaceted, and how it's important to provide dads who are struggling with the tools they need to be the best parents they can.

"We are whole and imperfect. We may want to be heroes, but when we fall short, that doesn't necessarily mean we are monsters," she said. "We don't expect them nor need them to be screenplay-written TV dads. All we need from them is to be real dads."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.