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Trevor and Marlene Janzen's first miracle took nine months. To the Saskatchewan, Canada, couple, that seemed a natural time to wait for a baby. They adopted their first son, Eyob, from Ethiopia in 2005.

Although they had been through the process once before, their second adoption took twice as long. After waiting 18 months, the Janzens welcomed little Sofoniyas home in 2007.

Soon, they were ready to bring a third child into their family.

"We thought it might take two years," Marlene said. "And we waited and waited."

In May 2011, they returned to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, to pick up their second daughter, Biruktawit. The "roller coaster" process took four years.

Long considered one of the easiest nations from which to adopt, Ethiopia is in the midst of dramatic changes that are making the adoption process tougher, longer, and more expensive. Government officials say the shift will ensure the legitimacy of such adoptions. But critics, including many adoptive parents, argue the new policies are punishing young children who need families by slowing down a process that can already take years to complete.

For some, it has stopped things entirely. Since it began facilitating adoptions in Ethiopia, Oregon-based Holt International has placed more than 500 orphans with American families. This fall, the organization stopped taking applications from families wanting to adopt from Ethiopia.

"It's not fair to families to say, 'Sure, come on in and begin the process,' and then have them wait and wait and wait," said Susan Soon-keum Cox, Holt's vice president for public policy and external affairs. "We already have families waiting longer than we feel they should." Such complications have caused the number of international adoptions by ...

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In the Magazine

January 2012

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