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Born in America, adopted abroad

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"I think that more Americans would adopt these babies if they knew they were available," says Stacy Hyer, a white American living in Germany with two adopted black children.

There is evidence of increasing adoption of black babies by white American families. But ingrained preferences still play a part in who is chosen for adoption.

The majority of couples seeking to adopt are white, but there aren't nearly enough Caucasian babies available in the US to meet the demand. Although exceptions certainly exist, American parents generally prefer babies to toddlers, girls to boys, and Caucasians to African-Americans, adoption professionals report. Other ethnicities fall in between, depending on their skin color. African-American boys are at the bottom of this "ranking" system, they say, which is why they're harder to place.

"We have to work much harder to find homes for our African-American babies," says Robert Springer of Christian Homes, an adoption agency in Texas.

No one is equating babies with commodities, but the principles of supply and demand apply. Adoption costs and waiting times in the US vary depending on a baby's ranking in the "desirability list."

The children who are in the greatest demand are also in the shortest supply. Those who want to adopt healthy white babies in the US may wait as long as five years, agencies say. In contrast, they add, the waiting for African-Americans is often measured in weeks and months, especially for baby boys.

The demand for biracial (black/white) babies falls in between, and the wait reflects this. The waiting period for a biracial girl can be more than a year.

It's also the case that adopting a white baby costs more than adopting a black or biracial one.

Adoption fees for healthy Caucasian babies can be as high as $40,000, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. For biracial babies, the cost is about $18,000. For African-American newborns, it ranges from $10,000 to $12,000, agencies say.

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