Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute

Empowering Families, Changing Lives

Children’s Friend Nurse-Family Partnership Team receives inaugural Elizabeth Burke Bryant Hero Award for transforming the lives of Rhode Island's children and families.

Brown University’s Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute recently revealed the honorees of their 2023 Elizabeth Burke Bryant Hero Award. The award recognizes individuals who have had a profound influence on the well-being of children and families in Rhode Island. This year’s awardees are Maria Chionchio, the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) Nurse Manager at Children's Friend, along with her colleagues: Jacqueline Phillips, NFP supervisor; Brandie Garcie, NFP Nurse; Luisa Martinez, NFP nurse; Ariane Almeida, NFP nurse, and Maria Bolivar, NFP nurse.

The Nurse-Family Partnership is an evidence-based program that offers home visiting services to first-time mothers and their newborns. Under Chionchio’s leadership, expectant mothers are paired with a registered nurse who delivers free and intensive support within the comfort of their own homes. The nurse continues to provide these services to both the mother and her child until the child reaches the age of two.

The trust the NFP team builds with mothers and children results in significant improvements in pregnancy outcomes and overall family health and well-being. The outcomes of their patients have been remarkable, with 89% of babies born full term, 92% of mothers initiating breastfeeding, 97% of children receiving all their immunizations by the age of two, and 56% of mothers over 18 securing employment within 24 months.

"I am committed to a population that will someday change this world,” Chionchio said. “I believe in a mantra: 'We are the lifeline for many of these families.' It's challenging work, but every day I know we can change the life course for these young women, enabling them to become successful, self-sufficient parents."

Chionchino has been the NFP Nurse Manager at Children’s Friend since the program’s inception over 13 years ago. She has trained and mentored more than 20 registered nurses and has sustained a focus on Rhode Island’s most vulnerable—particularly pregnant teenagers. David Caprio, president of Children’s Friend, said the efforts of Chionchio and her team “have led to a reduction in child abuse and neglect risks, decreased emergency room visits, and long-lasting effects on children’s behavior and intellectual development.”

"Elizabeth Burke Bryant has been such an effective advocate for children and family across the United States and here in Rhode Island, and the Hassenfeld Institute felt it was important to honor that legacy with its inaugural 'Hero Award,’” said Dr. Michael Silverstein, director of the Hassenfeld Institute. “The Nurse Family Partnership team at Children's Friend, led by Maria Chionchio, is emblematic of Elizabeth Burke Bryant’s commitment to children and families. Maria and her team are every bit the group of heroes that Elizabeth has been over the years."

The Elizabeth Burke Bryant Hero Award was established by Brown University's Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute in the winter of 2022. It recognizes and celebrates the extraordinary contributions of Ms. Bryant, who served as executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count for 28 years. Throughout her life, she championed the well-being of children across Rhode Island and the nation. The Hero Award honors individuals or teams who embody Elizabeth’s values and share her commitment to child health and wellbeing and the wellness of families and communities.