American families looking to adopt a child or children have three main paths open to them: from foster care, through a private adoption or agency, and through international adoption.
If you are prepared to adopt a child from the foster care system, there are many children waiting for families. These children are often referred to as special needs children; they may have mental or physical challenges, or they may have emotional special needs because of their situation. The children are at least three years old, and many have been in institutions or foster settings for years. These children may have come from problematic backgrounds, and may have experienced abuse. It requires a lot of care and love to adopt a special needs child, but these are the children who most need the support of a real family. The special needs group also includes siblings who need to be placed together.
People who cannot have their own children often prefer to adopt an infant; however, the number of babies available for adoption in America has dropped dramatically in recent years. Families or individuals looking to adopt an infant can contact adoption agencies or adoption attorneys, or they can advertise privately to find a birth mother who wants to give up her child, and then approach an agency or lawyer together. In the last decade or so, birth families have become much more involved in choosing the adoptive parents of their child and many adoptions are at least partially open, so that there is a level of direct contact between the birth and adoptive parents.
Some families choose to adopt abroad, either in order to give a home to a child whose well-being is in danger in their home country, or because it can be easier to find an infant for adoption. Countries that are signatories to the Hague Treaty on inter-country adoption have specific rules for adoption, and you will need to learn about the legal requirements for bringing a foreign adopted child into the U.S.