Morning Zen

Mary Emmons, Child Welfare Icon, Retires After 40 Years of Service

October 20, 2016

Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ This Zen Moment brought to you by Kimberley Blaine, former employee at CII ~


Mary M. Emmons, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Institute Inc. (CII), is retiring after many years of dedicated service. For 35 years of her career, Mary oversaw the operations of CII, a Los Angeles-based child welfare agency with more than 47 programs dealing with child abuse prevention, treatment, and training.

A graduate of The University of Chicago, Mary has a background of more than 40 years in government and nonprofit health and children’s services including positions with HeadStart, the U.S. Office of Child Development, City of Chicago Model Cities Program, and the Daniel Freeman Hospital Medical Center.

After joining CII in 1981, Mary expanded its capabilities to create a comprehensive, community-based continuum of services for children and families and a training center for professionals working with abused children.

Mary proved herself to be a quiet leader whose brilliance had a positive impact, improving services and support systems for the families of children with mental health challenges. From effecting changes in policy, childcare and advocacy efforts to best practices for mental health services, Mary was the pillar of strength that stood behind over 900 employees at CII.

When you meet Mary, you quickly discover she is a fierce advocate for vulnerable children. For over 18 years I witnessed her assemble top-notch teams of mental health leaders. Watched as she led policy summits, approved and implemented best practices for in-home and foster care services and developed state of the art early childhood mental health teams that would change the way we viewed mental health forever. Through the development of innovative projects addressing child sexual abuse, therapeutic day care and perinatal substance abuse, Mary pioneered new methods of preventing and treating abuse that are now considered models throughout the nation and the world.

There was never a dull moment for Mary at CII. She was so busy that if you wanted to see her but didn’t have an appointment, you’d never get in. Your only option was to wait in the hall and chase her down as she headed to her next meeting. If you were able to get into her office, it surely meant you’d have more work when you walked out for she was the golden goose of delegation. However, if you had a problem, she’d make sure you had the tools and support to find a solution.

Mary was great in crowded events, amazing under pressure and a woman who could navigate the political waters of government entities. What most people don’t know is she loves to travel and loves photography. Her office at CII was adorned with professional-quality photographs she and her late partner, Bill, had taken on their travels around the world. During our weekly meetings, I loved to look at the pictures behind her desk and daydream about traveling as she did. Her photographs made her real—more dimensional. More importantly, they made her happy.

What do you say to a woman who has done so much for the well-being of thousand of families? For all those who have thrived off Mary’s tireless accomplishments, you don’t say a word. You offer gratitude for those who believe that we can all live better and be better while protecting America’s most vulnerable children—which is what she’s done.

Mary, I thank you with all my heart. We at the Children’s Mental Health Network wish Mary the best in her ‘next chapter’—for whoever she’s with next is in for real treat.

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kimberley blaine

Kimberley Clayton Blaine is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and is named one of the most powerful moms in social media by Working Mother Magazine. She is an inspirational speaker, author and a nationally recognized mindfulness and positive-psychology thought-leader. Kimberley’s writings have appeared in Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best-sellers as a contributor to the soul healing site of which has over 50 million readers weekly. She was one ofGoogle+‘s first family partners, launching their Online community where parents share and communicate about family life. Today you’ll find Kimberley hosting empowerment retreats all over the country. Her retreats focus on balance and wellness not only for moms but for all women striving to find that perfect mix of mindfulness and empowerment. Kimberley serves on the Children’s Mental Health Network Advisory Council.

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