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Every spring, scores of couples affiliated with the U.S. military in Europe converge on Kaiserslautern, Germany, to learn more about international adoptions and myriad related issues.

Some attendees know very little about the subject, while others are well- versed on the whole process. But no matter what the level of interest or knowledge, the symposium is one of the most heartwarming and informative gatherings on the calendar for Americans in Europe.

“Sometimes you feel you are all alone when you go through the process,” said Dana Barton, the adoptive parent of two children. “There’s just so much to learn.”

This year’s daylong symposium is scheduled for May 13 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kaiserslautern. By the end of this week, organizers expect to have the full agenda set and posted on their Web site The site includes everything from driving instructions to the symposium’s site to brief biographies on many of the presenters.

On average, more than 150 people attend the gathering, though sometimes the number approaches 250. There is a $5 — or 5 euro — “donation” to cover food and refreshments, but other than that, the symposium is informal and informative.

“We don’t require any advance reservation,” said Jeanie Veith, the driving force behind the symposium. “People just come.”

Most come from somewhere in Germany. However, every year the event draws couples from as far away as France or Belgium. Last year, Barton said, one couple rode the train from Italy to Kaiserslautern to attend. Veith already knows of an American family living in Switzerland that plans to attend.

Led by the Kaiserslautern Military Community Adoption Support Group, the event typically offers different seminars that run concurrently, lasting about 75 minutes each. The segments — last year there were five — cover an array of topics, from financing to country-by-country policy changes.

One of the featured speakers this year is Linda Foster, Oklahoma’s director for foster children adoptions. Organizers also plan to have more seminars devoted to post-adoption parenting.

Barton is the main coordinator for volunteers this year. She says between 30 and 35 are needed, and that anyone interested can learn more about it on the Web site.

The day’s calendar, Barton said, “is so concentrated, and you learn so much in such a short period of time that’ll carry you through the year.”


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