Arkansas County Judge Joseph Wood recounts his road from orphanage to race for lieutenant governor

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Autoplay When Illinois made it possible in 2010 for adult adoptees in the state to apply for their original birth certificates, Joseph Wood hoped he would find the answer to questions that had been troubling him for 45 years.

Wood, a Chicago native who now serves as county judge in Washington County, Arkansas , instead learned that his earliest record is a foundling certificate, which listed March 20, 1965 — what he thought was his birthday — as the day he was found abandoned in a shoe box in front of an apartment building.

In an interview this November with Fox News Digital to commemorate National Adoption Month , Wood recounted the journey that took him from an orphanage in Chicago to running in next year’s Arkansas lieutenant governor’s race . ‘The struggle was real’

When he uncovered his foundling certificate, Wood found out he had been discovered by a man named Ceasar Johnson, whom he later tracked down and met. Wood learned he was only about two weeks old when Johnson found him and took him to a downtown orphanage.

Wood spent much of his childhood being shuffled through foster homes before he was adopted at age 10.

"They loved on me, they wanted kids in the worst way," he said of his adoptive parents, who would go on to have children of their own. Even so, Wood wrestled with a profound identity crisis."I always struggled with trying to identify who I am," Wood said. "Why was I given up for adoption? What did I do?"Wood recalled that, as a teenager, he ruminated constantly over possible explanations for why he had to be adopted. He wondered if his mother had been a prostitute or if his parents had been involved in some forbidden interracial or incestuous relationship. He worried he might have been conceived through rape. Courtesy: Joseph Wood Wood’s internal struggle took place against the backdrop of Jeffery Manor, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago that was replete with gangs, drugs and crime."The struggle, as they say, was real, growing up in the tough areas of Chicago," he said.Wood pinpoints 1988 as the beginning of his political career, when his parents were getting divorced, and his mother told him to take care of his younger brothers and sisters."I started a youth service group, a young teen organization," he remembered. "And it just was a way for me to keep my brothers and sisters together." After a local church gave him the keys to their building so his group could meet, a growing number of young people showed up to participate in the productive work they did in the community."I didn’t know how many parents were really looking for something, a safe haven, a safe place for their kids to be away from drugs and gangs on the South Side of Chicago," he said. ‘Watershed moment’ The lessons Wood learned in Chicago would carry over into the rest of […]

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