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Marelle Morgan, left, of Ramstein, Germany, adopted Syrena Kathleen last year after gathering information at the European Adoption Symposium.
Marelle Morgan, left, of Ramstein, Germany, adopted Syrena Kathleen last year after gathering information at the European Adoption Symposium. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

RAMSTEIN, Germany — Marelle Morgan had a good job and good friends and liked where she lived. Not bad, but not enough.

“I’ve always had so much love to give and wanted to give of myself,” Morgan said. “I wanted someone to share that love, to pass on family traditions.”

Enter Syrena Kathleen, the little girl whom Morgan adopted last year.

“She has put wings on my heart,” Morgan said, smiling at the 18-month-old as she sat in a high chair, playing with her food. “She’s just been so good.”

The 12th European Adoption Symposium will be Saturday at the Faith Baptist Church in Einsiedlerhof-Kaiserslautern. The daylong event features presenters sharing their experiences on the legal, financial and practical aspects of adopting.

Morgan began exploring adoption at the 2001 symposium, shortly after she moved to Ramstein from Dubuque, Iowa.

“For me personally, I felt it was a time in my life where I was secure financially, secure job-wise and in myself,” said Morgan, a reading teacher at Ramstein Intermediate School. “I was 37 at the time and wanted to be able to have a lot of time with my child.”

Adopting isn’t as simple as picking out a puppy at a kennel.

Decisions need to be made on the sex, age and race of the child. Countries have different laws about placing children up for adoption. The process can take a few weeks or a few years. Adopting a child can be free of charge or cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances.

“Different adoption agencies specialize in different (geographical) areas and types of children,” said Morgan, who decided she wanted to adopt a baby girl.

Her search turned up a pregnant woman in Guatemala who was already raising four children. The woman decided to put up the baby for adoption. On May 27, Morgan and her 7-month-old adopted daughter became a family.

But not until she’d been through two years of research, decisions and paperwork. The hard work paid off. Surprises have been few, the rewards plenty.

“If I had [adopted] 15 years ago, I might not have had as realistic of a picture,” Morgan said. “As you get older, you realize there’s a storybook version of things and a reality version.

“I knew she’d fill up my life as much as she has. Being a single mother, there are time issues.

“It’s actually better than I ever thought it would be,” she said. “It’s exceeded all my expectations.”

More than 200 people attended last year’s symposium, according to Jeannie Veith, coordinator for the adoption support group of the Kaiserslautern Military Community American Red Cross.

Veith said she tries to keep the event current with changing times. For example, this year’s symposium will feature a segment on “open adoption,” where everything is out in the open between the birth parent, adopting parent and child.

“Adoption isn’t a secret, hidden thing anymore,” Veith said. “Very often it’s most important for the adopting parents to have contact with birth parents for the benefit of the child,” including knowledge of the child’s medical, family and social background.

“Adopted kids eventually ask about their siblings, and they wouldn’t be able to know if it weren’t for open adoptions.”

Veith said Saturday’s topics also will include adopting older children and military issues with adoption.

Morgan said she celebrates every morning when little Syrena Kathleen wakes up, opens her eyes and says, “Mommy.”

“She runs up to you with her arms out,” Morgan said. “At the beginning of the day, the end of the day, in the middle of the day — she is yours and you are hers. That love, that connection, that bond is there.

“It just fills you up with so much.”

Adoption symposium

What: 12th European Adoption Symposium.

When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Faith Baptist Church, Lichtenbrucherstrasse 17, Einsiedlerhof-Kaiserslautern.

Cost: A 5 euro or $5 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.

Featuring: 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; American Red Cross DSN 486-7298.

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