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Marelle Morgan knew for years she wanted to start a family.

In a few weeks, the 39-year-old teacher from Ramstein, Germany, will become a single parent. And a 7-month-old girl from Guatemala will have a new mommy.

“I’ve already held her and we’ve played and smiled, so I feel like the countdown is on,” Morgan said. “I don’t care what anybody says — love at first sight happens with adoptive parents, too.”

Others looking to share in the joy of adopting a child are invited to attend the 11th European Adoption Symposium Saturday at the Faith Baptist Church in Einsiedlerhof-Kaiserslautern.

Morgan went to her first symposium in 2001, and found she had a lot to learn. After two years of soul-searching and sifting through paperwork, Morgan is waiting word on her court date.

“Then I’ll fly to Guatemala,” she said.

Jeanie Veith, an adoption volunteer with the American Red Cross at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which is sponsoring the event, said Saturday’s attendees should take a few pens, some writing paper and be ready to absorb information.

A roomful of experts will discuss the different stages of adoption, from whether a couple (or single parent) is ready to adopt, to the costs involved to dealing with post-adoption situations that arise.

Veith said, would-be parents have a lot to think about:

Adopting a child can cost from almost nothing (for a foster child, a ward of the state) to $35,000 or more (for a child with specific looks and background).

Adoption can take from several months to three years, depending on circumstances.

Adoption laws can change. For example, the United States last year closed adoptions from Cambodia because parents and children there were being exploited.

There are currently 300,000 children of all ages in foster care in the United States available for adoption.

“The symposium helps people put their feet on the ground and ask the right questions,” Veith said.

Morgan, a language arts reading specialist at Ramstein Intermediate School, returned to the 2002 symposium ready to adopt.

“I’ve gotten to the point in life where I’m settled and feel I have so much love to give,” she said.

Last July, Morgan finished putting together her immigration forms, applications and other documents. In October, she was referred to the agency that would bring together her and little Maria.

The baby will be renamed Syrena Kathleen Morgan — Syrena for the baby’s great-great grandmother and Kathleen for her grandmother.

“I was notified two weeks ago it had gone through the final stage in Guatemala,” Morgan said last week. “I know now that if you want to adopt a child, it can be done.”

Event details

What: 11th European Adoption Symposium.When: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.Where: Faith Baptist Church, Lichtenbrucherstrasse 17, Einsiedlerhof-Kaiserslautern.Cost: A 5 euro donation to the Landstuhl American Red Cross is suggested to cover the operating costs for the symposium.Lunch: Snacks, beverages and a cold lunch are provided. There are food services in the area, although not within easy walking distance.Featured: Legal advisers, American immigration officials, adoption agency personnel. Adoption-oriented books will be available for purchase through special arrangements with a consignment agency. Bring cash or checks for purchases.Information: www.usadopteurope.com; Ramstein Air Force Base Family Support Center, DSN 480-5100, civilian (+49) (0)6371-47-5100.

— From staff reports

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