BOSTON – Surrounded by hundreds of shoes lined up at the Grand Staircase in the Statehouse, state Rep. Ellen Story told an audience assembled to honor her that as a child “I didn’t know from (shoe) brands.”

“Kids now, when they buy shoes … it matters,” Story told those gathered for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“We have some of the finest shoes available that we are going to be giving to kids who … will not feel stigmatized in their school because they do not have on the most expensive, fancy shoes,” she said.

Story and Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr, R-Gloucester, received the Children’s Trust “Valuing Our Children” award for their work on children’s issues amid 772 pairs of shoes placed to symbolize the number of confirmed child abuse and neglect cases in Massachusetts each week.

“Take a good look at those shoes behind me,” said Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust. “They all represent families. The numbers are staggering.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that Massachusetts had the highest rate of child abuse and neglect nationwide in 2014. At the end of September 2014, 31,863 children were reportedly neglected or abused—a number that jumped 57 percent from the previous year.

Bartley said more than 138,000 mandated reports were filed with the Department of Children and Families by professionals, such as teachers or pediatricians, who work with children and are required by law to report when they have reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected.

While 40,000 of the more 138,000 families were screened and received Department of Children and Families services, the remaining families were “left alone to fend for themselves.”

“We can do better,” Bartley said.

In her 11 terms in office, Story — a wife, mother and a grandmother — has worked on issues facing children and families, including postpartum depression and child-abuse prevention. She is chairwoman of the special legislative commission on postpartum depression.

Story, who spent 17 years with the Family Planning Council of Western Massachusetts before taking office, has announced that this is her last term and that she will not seek re-election after 24 years in office.

In a prepared statement, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, D-Winthrop, called Story “a leading voice on issues affecting our youngest citizens,” who “has improved the lives of children throughout the commonwealth.”

The event was attended by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito; James Rooney, chairman of the Children’s Trust Board of Directors; several Children’s Trust board members; and a number of sponsors.

All shoes were donated by BCNY International, Clarks Americas, Crocs, Khombu and New Balance in partnership with Two Ten Footwear Foundation. They will be given to families in Children’s Trust programs.

This article was originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on April 8, 2016.

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