By the age of twelve, Jill Jones Soderman was working as a nurse’s aide at Memorial Hospital of Queens (NY), emptying bed pans, changing beds, and comforting young children who suffered from terrible diseases or were undergoing terrible treatments.
At that time in the 1950s, Jill put in a plea for children to be treated differently from adults and to be allowed to have their parents with them. This advocacy work not only laid the groundwork for the development of children’s services at Memorial Hospital of Queens, but also provided foundational awareness for Jill as to the special needs of children.
When she worked as a case aide at Cancer Care, Inc. in Manhattan, Jill assisted in validating the need for funding for medical support services for families of children with terminal metastatic cancer, to help the children be able to stay in their homes with their families.
During graduate school in the 1970s, Jill was assigned a social work internship in the French Hospital in the “Hell’s Kitchen” community in Manhattan, NY. Through this experience, seeing the ways that the “least of these” were treated, she was motivated to help mobilize and energize this community—in spite of the collective of institutions, school, hospital, and local government—to help them begin operating a Head Start Program. In the same hospital, she helped establish the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous programs in medical wards.
After obtaining a master’s degree in social work from Hunter College, Jill was accepted at New York State Psychiatric Institute, a division of Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. There she studied and worked full time in social work for five years, eventually becoming the general supervisor for general clinical services, working under Dr. Otto Kernberg and being given access to treatment of a number of primary patients, with the psychoanalytic training that was cutting edge at the time.
Involved in New Jersey Institute for Psychoanalysis and the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis, Jill continued to develop her career as a psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, family therapist, and mediator. Through the 1990s she consulted as an expert with attorneys and judges, testifying in courts as an expert witness in the areas of family dynamics, family treatment, psychopathology, and personality disorders.
In 2001, Jill helped found and support the development of the Sussex Country (NJ) branch of Families in Transition (FIT), a nonprofit designed to help families who are engaged in high conflict custody conflict
- stay out of court
- avoid conflict
- accomplish successful mediation and settlement
The program was so successful that in 2006 the Sussex County Family Court adopted it as an official court program, to which families could elect conflict resolution over court supervision.
When interacting with the tragic case described in this article, Jill’s awareness of the desperate needs present in high-conflict custody cases with one Protective Parent led to her creation of the Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts.
Well-skilled in speaking truth to power, Jill continues to consult with lawyers and other professionals dealing with high-conflict custody litigation for Protective Parents accused of “alienating” their children.
As the Executive Director of the Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts, a cornerstone of Jill’s profession has always been an alertness to
- institutional bias
- racial and economic discrimination
- citizen disenfranchisement
- the need to listen to the voices of those challenged as to their ability to speak for themselves
- the need to speak out against seats of power and authority for disenfranchised, demoralized citizens
As she did through her childhood and teen years, Jill seeks to give a voice to the voiceless and defend the rights of the oppressed and needy.