The Lord has opened your hearts to the idea of adoption and you are desiring to make those first steps. Where do you go from here? First, I would encourage you from the start and as you go through each step to put this entire process before the Lord in prayer. Allow the Lord to guide your steps.
When families decide to look at adoption seriously they are often overwhelmed by the many decisions they have to make rather quickly. It is recommended by many sources that you start out by deciding what type of adoption you are desiring; foster to adopt, domestic, or international.
For foster to adopt local agencies are very willing to work with you. If you are proceeding with a domestic adoption there are a couple of attorneys in our area that specialize in adoption and many agencies that will help you to complete an adoption. If international adoption is your choice deciding on a country will help you to narrow down some of the choices for an agency.
Following are some questions to consider and to ask an agency to help you make the best choice:
What kind of adoption options does the agency offer?
How long has the agency been involved with adoption? with the country you are interested in?
How many placements does the agency make every year? in the last year?
Does the actual agency complete your Home Study or do you need to find a local social service agency to complete your Home Study?
If you are to use a local agency, are there specific agencies you must use to complete your Home Study?
Are there any free informational meetings?
What services does the agency provide both before and after placement?
What type of experience does the program staff have?
Is their agency the only agency involved or does a secondary agency handle things in the adoptive country?
Can you speak with, at least 3, families who have adopted through their agency? (Especially those that have adopted through the same program.)
How does the agency prepare families for international adoption?
What kind of cultural and counseling services are available later?
Are ALL of the fees charged explained - not just the initial fees?
What possible fees are there that are not included in their costs?
What fees will be refunded if the adoption process stops at any point?
Is the agency accredited to work in Hague Convention countries?
At the time of travel, does someone from the agency accompany you/meet in in-country?
I would like to add that while talking with a friend that has used an agency is a very good way to get a recommendation it should not take the place of you actually conversing with someone at the agency. Some details that are not so important to some families may be of great importance to another. You are going to have a rather lengthy relationship with an agency with many emotions surrounding it and you want to be comfortable with the decision that you make.
In closing do not lose sight of why you are taking this step. Let the Lord direct your choices as you seek to be in His Word and in prayer. Adoption is a lengthy process and the Lord will use this time in your life in many ways, may it be a time of growing a deeper relationship with the Lord.