Emma Pivato was born in Elk Point, Alberta. Her mother was a rural school teacher who rode horses to the one-room schools lost among the pine and aspen forests scattered across the northern prairies. The family moved to Calgary where Emma graduated from high school and began attending university. She taught school in Coleman, a mining town in the Rockies, and then returned to university completing a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She worked as a school psychologist in Edmonton and Toronto, and then as a forensic psychologist in Alberta Hospital, the major mental institution in Alberta. She later worked for Catholic Social Services and in private practice as a psychologist. Her last career before retiring was as a graduate instructor in psychology at Athabasca University.
From the time her daughter, Alexis was born in 1978, Emma also worked as a volunteer advocate for individuals with severe disabilities. In 1981 she established the GRIT program to assist parents with severely handicapped children to conduct the necessary therapy at home on a daily basis. She also advocated for the inclusion of these children into the normal school systems. In 1984 she edited a collection of stories about these children entitled, Different Hopes, Different Dreams.
With her husband, Joe, Emma established a new system of home care for these children and young adults allowing them to live at home with family or in a home run by their family. See the website for Home-Within-A-Home Society of Edmonton.
She has also been able to take her wheel-chair bound daughter, Alexis to Mexico 13 times and to the Rocky Mountains almost every year since 1989. Emma and Joe have two other children in addition to Alexis: Marcus Janni who lives in Peterborough, Ontario, and Juliana in Toronto.
Emma Pivato’s mystery novels in the Claire Burke series is an extension of her advocacy work promoting the inclusion of people with severe disabilities into normal society.