by Mary Kilgore, MSW and Mitchell Kilgore, MSW
Helping Abandoned Kids Is Mary Kilgore's Mission
How do kids feel when they've been abandoned by parents? How can adults help children cope with this tragedy—and with the fear that they may be abandoned again by caregivers or relatives or adoptive parents?
Helping children and those who love them with this struggle has been Mary Kilgore's mission throughout her career and now she's brought it to publication, with Where Is My Mommy?
The first children's book about abandonment with a father and son as the central characters, Where Is My Mommy? shows the confusion and agony of a little boy whose mother has disappeared. It also shows how his father recognizes that the boy's actions demonstrate his fear and sorrow.
"This book is for children who seldom or never see their parents," emphasizes Kilgore, a clinical social worker who has worked extensively with day and residential programs for children. "It's also for the adults in these children's lives, the custodial parents, the foster and adoptive parents, the grandparents and legal guardians. It helps them address the fear of abandonment when they respond to children's questions and behavior."
A native of Iron Mountain, a one-time iron-mining town of about 8,000 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Kilgore started work as a playground director at age 16. Always drawn to angry children, the ones with serious problems, she majored in special education at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The program required summer work at the university-run Fresh Air Camp, where Kilgore developed an interest in psychiatric social work. Soon after earning her B.S., she returned to campus to pursue a master's degree in the field.
She worked as a therapist at Hawthorn Center, a Northville MI psychiatric hospital for children and then moved to San Francisco, where she served as therapist and then resident director of a residential program for emotionally disturbed teenagers at what is now the Edgewood Center for Children and Families. Later she moved to Homewood Terrace, a residential program now merged into Jewish Family Service.
When Marin County Community Mental Health Services included a Child and Youth Division, Kilgore worked there in child therapy and consulted to the Marin County preschools, identifying children at risk for problems in school. Through the county, she also provided such preventative services to children who were in crisis due to their hospitalizations or that of their parents, death and divorce. Two major studies during her tenure were psychiatrist Clyde Miller's Childhood Mourning Project for children who had suffered the death of a parent, and social worker Judith Wallerstein's The Divorce Project, later the basis of several books by Wallerstein.
After a private practice that specialized in emotionally disturbed children, adolescents and parents, she returned east to Baltimore, to run the Jewish Family and Children's Service department that provided adoption services and outpatient mental health care for children and families. She finished her psychotherapy career in Rochester NY, where she directed the day treatment program at the Convalescent Hospital for Children from 1982 to 1987 and consulted to Head Start centers. Kilgore later worked as a school social worker in Rochester schools, facilitating placement of children in outpatient and residential programs and then returned to private practice, counseling the emotionally disturbed of all ages.
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