AMERICAN couples are paying up to US$3,000 ($23,190) for clearance to adopt disabled Hong Kong babies - and the toddlers are advertised in a magazine supplied to potential adoptive parents. The bi-monthly magazine, Hi Families, carries descriptions of individual children, including their medical condition and photographs when available. The profiles are supplied by Hong Kong welfare organisation Mother's Choice, which has agreed to provide special-needs children to an Oregon-based adoption agency, Holt International Children's Services. The agreement, which has been in place for more than two years, was formally announced yesterday after ratification by the Social Welfare Department last Friday. A department spokesman said the fee was purely 'administrative'. Six children have so far been placed with US families and three have been matched. A further 22 are awaiting placement. The children's disabilities range from Down syndrome to physical handicaps. Mother's Choice director Helen Stevens said disabled children who could not be placed in Hong Kong were referred to her organisation by the Social Welfare Department. 'Sadly enough, Hong Kong couples who give birth to disabled children often feel they are unable to parent them,' Ms Stevens said. 'The first choice would be for these babies to stay with their biological parents, or at least within the same race, but where this is not possible, the arrangement with America is clearly a better option than the children growing up in institutions.' She said the fee paid by adopting parents was to cover the cost of assessments carried out by Holt International, and should not be seen as payment for the child. Ms Stevens said both Mother's Choice and Holt International were non-profit organisations concerned with the children's welfare. Potential parents are checked for financial, physical and mental stability before they are allowed to collect their child. Social workers also visit the homes regularly for six months after the child's arrival. The adoption is usually finalised at this stage and no further monitoring is done. Ms Stevens said Hong Kong couples wishing to adopt were gradually coming around to the idea of adopting special needs children.