The Woodlands, TX
Birth Country: Colombia
Decade of adoption: 1970s
My husband, Heino Erichsen, and I were the first to adopt a baby in Colombia and to pave the way for thousands of singles and couples to find children in Latin American countries.
During our personal quest to adopt, we had to think on our feet: we battled our way through the adoption process by figuring out the state and foreign adoption laws and puzzling out the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Service.
Our two months of frantic effort culminated in the placement of twin baby girls at Casa de la Madre y el Nino in Bogota, Colombia. A Colombian friend of mine had located the babies; the agency sent us their names and birthdates, but nothing else. We didn't even know what the expenses would be or how long we would be abroad. Yet we "bonded" to that bit of information and made plans accordingly. Our friends and relatives told us we were taking too many risks and shook their heads. As I look back at it now, I'm glad we threw caution to the winds and followed our hearts.
One of the most memorable days of my life was when the ladies at the orphanage brought gorgeous Spanish/Indian babies dressed in long christening gowns. They cooed, smiled, and stole our hearts. The process was far from done at that point; we still had to get through the Colombian court system and U.S. immigration. My husband and I were nervous wrecks, fearing that something would go wrong. Our protective maternal and paternal instincts were maxed out until that wonderful day when our plane was in the air and headed for Miami.
Our personal mission to adopt became a mission to help others. I could never forget the faces of abandoned children, some as young as two, trying to earn a living on the streets of Bogota. For the next six years, my husband and I shared what we learned about the process with others, as volunteers for adoption agencies in Minnesota. In 1981, we opened the first international adoption agency in Texas, Los Ninos International Adoption Center. Since we began serving families throughout the United States, we have placed over 2,600 children.
Today, one of the twins is the Executive Director of the agency and we have direct adoption programs in Asia and in Eastern Europe as well as in Latin America. My husband and I are still involved as consultants and continue to develop new programs and write adoption information. Both of us feel great satisfaction in the knowledge that a lot of children have loving families, thanks to our efforts.