Longtime KIDS COUNT leader Burke Bryant to step down

Updated at 6:02 p.m.

PROVIDENCE – The only executive director in Rhode Island KIDS COUNT’s history will step away from the organization by the end of the year.

KIDS COUNT board Chairperson Marisa Albanese in a letter to the community announced late Tuesday that Elizabeth Burke Bryant, who has been the child welfare advocacy organization’s director since the nonprofit was founded in 1994, will step down from her position.

The letter did not make clear what led Burke Bryant to step away from the organization. KIDS COUNT spokesperson Katherine Chu in an email said Burke Bryant “will be exploring [her] next steps soon but right now she is still fully focused on her work at Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.”

Albanese in the letter said Burke Bryant has helped KIDS COUNT become the Ocean State’s premier child advocacy organization, pushing to help improve health, education, early childhood development and the safety of children with a commitment to equity. The organization, under Burke Bryant’s direction, also produces an annual Factbook, which regularly focuses on glairing disparities in child outcomes by race, ethnicity and income, Albanese said, as well as calling for ending racism that has led to the disparities.

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KIDS COUNT has also helped push policies to help improve child welfare in the state, Albanese said. Among them are the state’s pre-kindergarten program, full-day kindergarten, children’s health insurance, reducing lead poisoning in children, extending R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families’ services for foster youth up to the age of 21 and reversing a law that allowed 17-year-olds to be tried as adults.

The organization has also focused heavily on reducing childhood poverty and increasing access to both better nutrition and affordable housing, Albanese said.

“Elizabeth [Burke Bryant] has also built an exemplary team of child advocates … who collaborate with other advocates, community-based organizations and partners inside and outside of government,” Albanese wrote, “to promote equitable policies and to elevate the voices of those most affected by these policies, including parents and youth.”

Albanese said the board is undertaking a search for Burke Bryant’s successor, beginning by looking internally.

(SUBS 3rd paragraph with comment from KIDS COUNT.)

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.