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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Trying to adopt a child while living overseas comes with a unique set of challenges.

It often means heaps of paperwork, meeting additional foreign country requirements, working with an adoption agency stateside and extra travel expenses.

And then there’s navigating through the ever-changing political landscape that can sometimes delay or even stall adoptions in foreign countries, such as in Russia, where lawmakers late last year banned adoptions of Russian children by American families.

Living abroad shouldn’t discourage families from adopting, said Kelly Racela, the lead organizer for Saturday’s 2013 European Adoption Symposium in Kaiserslautern.

The annual symposium, typically held Mother’s Day weekend in Kaiserslautern, is intended for families interested in adopting and those who have already adopted, Racela said.

“It is in fact possible to adopt while you’re living here in Europe; you don’t need to put anything on hold and wait to do this just because you are stationed here,” she said.

Racela and her active-duty husband four years ago adopted their son from a small country in Africa and the couple is trying to adopt a second child from there. They’ve also been on the waiting list for a child from China since 2006.

“I always feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to adopt,” she said. “We’ve had some failed adoptions; the fact that we were able to bring our son home and he’s a part of our family” means a lot.

The KMC Adoption Support Group, which holds monthly meetings and regular play groups for adopted children, along with the Ramstein chapel, sponsors the day-long symposium at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Lauterstrasse 1 in Kaiserslautern. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the symposium starts at 9. A $5 or 5 euro donation is suggested; lunch is included.

Families who’ve already adopted may share their stories, network and gain information.

Adoption is “an ongoing process,” said Jeanie Veith, one of the founding KMC Adoption Support Group members. “When you’re raising children that don’t have their entire family history as part of your family history, sometimes there are things that come up, so there’s always something new to learn.”

Two seminars will discuss adopting through the foster care system in the U.S. while stationed overseas, Racela said, a viable but not easily understood option for families abroad.

Many of the hourlong seminars are geared to prospective parents, with titles such as: “How to get started with adoption,” and “Yes, you can adopt when you are single.”

“If it’s just a gleam in their eye or a spot in their thoughts, they should come and get the information because it never hurts to be informed and it could help them out three to four years down the road,” Veith said.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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