Suzanne Stott turns the pages of the photo album and young, vari-colored faces of all ages peek out.

You can watch some of the children turn from toddlers into teenagers on the pages of this book, she says.Time passes and they get a year older, but they're no closer to having a family of their own.

Suzanne works for the Rocky Mountain Adoption Exchange, which helps prospective parents and special-needs children who are available for adoption find each other.

November is National Adoption Month. And staffers at the Rocky Mountain Adoption Exchange want people to remember the thousands of special-needs children when they consider adopting a child.

"Special needs" can mean any trait or condition that makes them hard to adopt.

For some of the children, it's a physical disability - or multiple disabilities.

Others have emotional or behavioral scars left over from feelings of abandonment or actual physical and sexual abuse.

Color and ethnic background can make a child more difficult to place in a permanent home. They try to place black children with black parents, for instance, although the agency that has custody of the children (and that agency varies from state to state) will make exceptions.

Sibling groups are generally more difficult to place, as well. But it's easy to understand why children who no longer have parents don't want to lose each other. Emotionally, they can't afford another loss of that magnitude.

It's not always easy to find homes for older children, either. So they frequently fall into the "special needs" category.

Last summer, I attended an adoption party sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Adoption Exchange.

Amid a background of clowns and music and dancers and laughter, people who had expressed interest in adopting a child got to meet some of the children who long for continuity and permanent homes.

It was a no-pressure situation, child and adult both relaxed.

As I talked to the children, I found I wanted to take them all home. I somehow couldn't believe that the 3-year-old black youngster and the 10-year-old Vietnamese child were not wanted very much by someone, somewhere.

I watched an Exchange staffer cuddle a little girl with golden curls and bright blue eyes. The child had severe mental retardation and physical disabilities as well - along with a lot of love and laughter.

I ran across parents who had adopted through the Exchange, adding to their existing family or starting one with a child who really needed them. I found it was a two-way street: They needed the child as much as the child needed them. Maybe more.

I even met single adoptive parents.

But the most important interview I did that day was with a man who had adopted a special-needs girl. She was about 10 and nestled nicely in his family among his three little boys.

I recently ran across my notes from that interview.

He talked about how hard it sometimes is to fold a child into the family - a child who already has a personality, and wants and needs and habits and a history.

He also talked about how much his family gained because they endured that hardship - and the joy involved.

His new daughter was from an ethnic background. He and his wife wanted to help her keep her racial identity while blending into new surroundings.

She was frightened, he told me, and liked to stick so close to him or to his wife they sometimes thought they'd smother. Several months had passed, but she still wasn't sure she was really home. She thought if she let them out of her sight, they'd disappear.

Emotional problems had put her behind in school, and they were fighting as a family to catch up.

As a family. It was a marvelous phrase and he commented on it.

"We really are a family. It's not `ours' and `her.' If she were to leave us, we'd never be a complete family again.

"It's not all sunshine," he told me. "But it's not all sunshine with the three boys, either. That's a fact of parenting. She hasn't had a particularly good past. We hope to be a part of a great future. And there's no way to describe what she's brought into our lives."

He could speak about the benefits and problems that all adoptive parents face. He could also sum it up:

"She's made our family whole."