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A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

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Adoption stories


Jean Erichsen
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.



Back to Adoption Stories


American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 04.28.16

    “My Frain is Bried”: Shadowing a Student

    "Welcome to our world." Educators take an entire school day to shadow a student and walk in their shoes. We find out how it went for one teacher.
  • 04.21.16

    High School Job Prep

    Want a job? So does every student ever! Maybe career and technical education classes are the way to go. Shaun Dougherty says you could be more likely to graduate and earn more if you do.
  • 04.14.16

    How Tutoring Helps Students

    Private tutoring is no longer just for the rich kids. Our guest tells us how the individual attention improves student learning and graduation rates.
  • 04.07.16

    Is Advanced Math Necessary?

    In our last episode, Andrew Hacker argued that math courses like algebra are unnecessary for most high schoolers. This week's guest couldn't disagree more.