Mrs. Colorado 2016 Erica Shields’s Amazing Adoption Story
On this episode of ADOPTION NOW, our guest is former Mrs. Colorado and Ambassador for Children Welfare from the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. She also works to stop human trafficking and is a strong supporter of adoption!
Host April Fallon starts off this episode by prefacing that this is the first interview conducted in the ADOPTION NOW studios without a pre-interview. How’s that for a special guest!
To get the ball rolling, April asks Erica to start her story from the very beginning.
Erica says she was born in Hawaii and immediately placed for adoption. Soon after she was adopted by a Navy man and a Japanese woman. But here’s the shocking thing: her first adoptive parents GAVE HER BACK!
When asked how old she was at this time, Erica said she was about 18 months old. She then was in the foster care system until three and a half years old. Eventually, Erica would find a home in San Diego, California with another Japanese adoptive mother and Caucasian adoptive father.
Fast forward to a very important realization in her life:
Erica was seven years old, washing dishes, and she noticed that she was already taller than her Japanese mother. Curious about the differences in their physical appearance, she asked her mother why they looked so different. To call her mother’s response “unexpected” is an understatement.
After receiving a farfetched answer without any further elaboration, Erica waited for her father to get home to investigate further. After clarifying that she was not ‘found in a garbage can under a bridge,’ they told her she was adopted.
Erica had no idea what adoption meant. She said from that moment on she became obsessed with adoption. She was an only child and so from then until she would track down her biological parents, Erica was on a mission to know where she came from.
When April asked what information her adoptive parents shared with her, she says that she had to find out the information on her own.
They did tell Erica that they picked her up from the adoption agency after observing her play with toys. Once they took her home, she immediately called them mom and dad. They knew she was going to be their forever child.
Despite having heart problems and other health complications, her adoptive parents felt strongly about taking Erica into their family.
April then asks Erica to share details on her quest to reconnect with her birth parents.
Erica said that because she is Mormon, genealogy is very important to her. To start her search for her parents, she began asking fellow LDS members in her congregation. They, unfortunately, did not have any information for her.
She says she remembers watching the Phil Donahue Show at just seven years old. And on a particular episode, they were talking with an adoption reunion registry called ALMA. She secretly contacted them and got all of the information she could. Her desire to know and reconnect was very strong.
When April asked her how she eventually got the information she needed, Erica says this:
After getting her Master’s in the Public Health field, she started working at the State Health Department in Utah. After borrowing a letterhead from the state, she decided to write to the California Center for Health Statistics. Much of the information they sent was whited-out, but she was able to see her original birth name.
After being directed to Hawaii for all of the information she would need, she and her husband hired a private investigator to track down some biological family members. As Erica states, a Hawaiian law guaranteed she would get all of her adoption information if a family member agreed to sign off on the necessary documents.
Suddenly, family members started coming out of the woodwork and calling. Erica said she just wanted to know if she had brothers and sisters, and it turns out she had 5 brothers and at least 3 sisters!
After getting in touch with an uncle, who was also Mormon, he connected Erica to her birth father and they talked on the phone. He had no idea he had a daughter because her placement as a baby was done in secret. Erica admits there wasn’t much of a connection over the phone with her father. When asked about her connection with her mother, Erica said she actually flew to Hawaii to the hospital her birth mother worked at. When she sees her, she momentarily lost courage and asked where the cardiology department was as an excuse. Her birth mother takes her down the hall to show her and leaves. Erica thinks quickly and walks back to reception, this is how she describes the experience:
“Here I am in my late thirties and I had flown over 3,000 miles specifically to meet my mother…she looks at me. There was this like recognition, instant understanding, and before the words came out of my mouth, she goes, ‘get out.’”
After thanking her mother for giving her life, she was escorted away by security. Erica said she was just grateful to have her life no matter how disappointing meeting her mother actually was.
April was in shock, “this is the moment so many adoptees fear.”
It was that moment that helped Erica realize that adoption saved her life. She was so grateful that she got to experience parents who really loved her.
When asked how Erica’s biological siblings reacted to her. She said they did not like her at first. First of all, she didn’t speak like them and there was just a huge difference in cultures.
This facet of Erica’s story reminds April of the intermingling of cultures when her birth dad reached out to her. For those who don’t know, April has a lot of Native American roots, so when she met her biological father, she experienced the Native American culture firsthand.
Erica’s story is so amazing because despite being adopted twice and being rejected by her birth mother as an adult, she rises to the platform as Mrs. Colorado 2016. She spends her life committed to the welfare of helping others and finds deep gratitude for her adoption journey.
To close out the interview, April wants to know about the first couple who sent her back to foster care, advice from Erica, and much more, listen to this episode of ADOPTION NOW! For a video of this episode, make sure to check out the ADOPTION NOW Youtube channel.