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Changing Rules Complicate Overseas Adoptions

Californians Tim and Jeni Mahon are the proud parents of a son named Tommy, adopted in Guatemala two years ago. And now the police sergeant and his wife hope to add a second child to the family.

But as NPR's Steve Inskeep reports, Guatemala has become one of many countries tightening adoption regulations after a flood of would-be parents from overseas and fears that some children were being kidnapped for sale on the international adoption market. The new rules are keeping the Mahons waiting, even as they spend thousands of dollars on the services of the adoption agency, a Guatemalan lawyer and trips to see baby Miguel who they would like to name Michael.

Guatemala has remained one of the more popular places for American families to adopt children. Russia, China and South Korea are among the others. But legal battles, rules changes and other concerns create an ebb and flow in some markets. Honduras has waned as an adoption destination. And last year the United States shut down all adoptions from Cambodia, amid reports that brokers were tricking poor mothers into surrendering their babies.

Deborah Capone adopted daughter, Noelle, now three, from China. Capone writes books for adopted children, and expects to adopt a second child. But her agency tells her that China's rules have changed, making it harder for single mothers like Capone to get a child. Now she's considering a journey deep into Central Asia, to a new frontier for prospective American parents: Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government plans to issue new regulations on international adoptions. Currently, the State Department is in the midst of a public comment period that ends Nov. 14.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.