Last in a seriesWhen James Kariger first tried to adopt a child, a social worker laughed in his face and told him the only way he could get a child was to go to Mexico and buy one.

Ten frustrating years later, Kariger thinks the lady was right.His credentials are impeccable: a stable job and two homes, including one on a small farm. "A real nice little place that would be a great experience for kids."

But Kariger is a single man, and adoption agencies are reluctant to give children to single men, even ones with impeccable credentials. Kariger started looking for a child when he was 30. His friends had just adopted a Down's syndrome child, and Kariger realized how much he wanted to be a father.

Kariger wants a boy between 8 and 12 years old. Old enough to be self reliant but young enough to need a dad. He tried everything. He worked with youngsters through the Big Brother program, Little League baseball and the Utah School for the Deaf.

He is eager to adopt a child with handicaps as long as the youngster can get himself up and ready for school in the mornings. Kariger leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. "I've always thought I would be good with a deaf kid because I have that experience. But it still never panned out."

He's willing to take on siblings. "I'm not against two or three kids. Four would be rough financially, but I could handle it."

Despite the flexibility of his dream, Kariger can't make it come true. An agency gave him a 7-year-old boy once, but warned him that the youngster was a pyromaniac who had been sent away from 12 homes. In the three weeks Kariger had the boy, the youngster set several small fires in the house and a large one that destroyed a bathroom.

Kariger couldn't give the child the 24-hour supervision he needed. He kept looking.

"I always call on children featured on `Wednesday's Child.' Just hoping. I always thought there was one out there for me. I see the same kids in the exchange books year after year. I've called on kids that still weren't adopted four years later, just waiting for a two-parent family that will never come.

"Granted, some of them have quite a few problems, but they've got to be given a chance somewhere along the line. I'm not out there looking for a baseball player or a genius."

But the agencies want a mother for handicapped youngsters, not a father. "If a woman wants to adopt, no problem. It's natural for a woman to want to be a mother. But for a man to want to be a father?"

Several agencies told the Deseret News they were reluctant to adopt to single men, believing a single man could not give a child the home life the agencies wanted the youngster to have.

Kariger has heard of other single men who successfully adopted, but he doesn't personally know of any. When he reads newspaper articles about children killed by abusive parents, he gets angry. "I would be a good parent. I have great references. I just want someone to take a chance on me. I always thought my place was to take one of these kids that nobody else wanted."

Only to find that adoption agencies didn't want him.

Now 40, Kariger is ready to take the advice the social worker gave him 10 years ago. He's contemplating a trip to Mexico.