Waging Wars While Healing Wounds
A Man with a Mission
for Empowerment and Change
by Karen McGee
“The personal is political,” says Joe Soll, founder of the New York based non-profit Adoption Crossroads, which celebrates its 20th year this September. Electrical engineer turned clinical social worker, Joe conceived of creating the organization after uncovering the painful wounds of his own adoption story. Realizing that he and many others were in great pain-- and voiceless to express that pain within the bounds of the existing political structure--he took matters into his own hands.
Adoption Crossroads strives to voice the seldom-recognized underbelly of what Joe calls “the adoption machine". Mr. Soll has made it his mission to educate a generally unaware public about the negative psychological effects of the adoption process as it pertains to all three sides of the triad: natural parents, adoptive parents and child. He uses his training as a psychotherapist to help those involved heal what he sees as a deeply entrenched wound. And he’s succeeding- the organization serves as "the world's largest search and support network for adoptees and parents who lost children to adoption."
“I’m not shy to express my anger about being adopted and I encourage others to do the same,” says Soll. “ Expressing the anger along with the sadness and the fear we experienced as children allows us to validate what happened to us. What people don’t realize is that this is an overbearing reality that often unconsciously affects adoptees. We need to face that fact before we can learn to take the wheel of our own lives and drive. The healing comes from having power over ourselves- a power we were not given as children. We have always been asked to suppress the unsettling aspects of the experience. It is empowering and necessary to be truthful. I’m not willing to apologize for that. “
According to Joe’s book, Adoption Healing... A Path To Recovery, children aren’t aware that they are separate from their mother until around 9 months old. Thus, when that bond—a bond that’s been fortified throughout pregnancy-- is broken, it is extremely traumatic for both mother and child. Both experience enormous anxiety, depression and fear as a result of the unnatural separation. Joe argues that because adoption has become a multi-million dollar business, little is being done by government or adoption agencies to educate adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents about the special challenges and needs associated with a child who has lost their natural parent in the adoption.
A major issue Joe has focused on during his career is opening the adoption records. The United Kingdom recognized the need for and benefits of opening previously inaccessible records to adopted adults. As of January 1976 (in accordance with The Child Welfare Act of 1975) adoptees over the age of 18 can obtain information about their biological history. Names and other identifying information can be obtained, making search and reunion significantly easier. Australia and New Zealand also have long standing open record policies. In the United States, adoptees and birth parents are still wrestling with authorities to open records. In the meantime, they are forced to use generally ineffective internet search sites or pay to hire a private investigator.
In any event, Joe Soll continues to work within the system while he fights to correct it in through education and the occasional rally or protest. He hosts a weekly support group on the Upper East side of Manhattan every Wednesday evening as well as a bi-monthly group from his home in Rockland County. He leads an internet support group Monday through Friday in the evening for those who do not live in the area. He also leads regular “Healing Weekends” (generally held every other month) for a more intensive healing experience. For more information on Joe Soll or Adoption Crossroads, visit www.AdoptionCrossroads.org.