Firt thing we did was research and decide if we wanted domestic or internationa, each has its pros and cons depending on what you want. We decided that international was best.
At this point we looked at how financially capable we were and how much we could afford to swing. International programs really vary.
We researched different countries but were very limited with our age. Each country has different guidelines and requirements you must meet. We were limited to Guatemala but that was fine with us since that was what we were leaning towards and seemed a good fit for us.
Then we looked online at different agencies as well as talking to local ones to see how many cases they handled and just to get a sense of if we would click or not. We narrowed it down to two agencies and went to one of the agencies seminars. It was very informative and we were able to talk with people who had used them in the past to hear good and bad. That settled it for us.
From there you begin the agencies adoption process, which again varies by country.
If you are interested in adopting an older child, you might consider adopting through a public agency, i.e. your county or state. They probably have informational meetings. The cost is usually nothing or close to it. It would be a good starting place at least.
Also, as you enter the world of adoption, it's important to be thoughtful about the best way to speak about things. In general, it's probably best to refer to "birth" children (when and if you must distinguish) rather than "natural" children, because of course adopted children are not "unnatural", right?
I recommend the following books. Although you may not need to read all of each of them, I really do think each book is extremely helpful.
1. The Essential Adoption Handbook, by Colleen Alexander-Roberts: A
great overview of the processes
2. Is Adoption for You : The Information You Need to Make the Right
Choice, by Christine Adamec: Even if you know you want to adopt, I
think this book really focuses on the emotions involved with
adoption, and takes you more in depth regarding your feelings
3. Adopting in America: How to Adopt Within One Year, by Randall
Hicks: This is a
book that has all of the state agency and some attorney
information in it. It covers the legal processes very well.
4. The Adoption Resource Book, by Lois Gilman: This one I found to be
a great source of questions to ask other people, including
5. The Complete Adoption Book, by Laura Beauvais-Godwin, Raymond
Godwin: This one is, I think, biased towards US domestic
independent adoption, but it does have a lot of pro/con
information about different types of situations.
After doing the research, DH & I used some of the talking points from "Is Adoption for You?" to help us focus on what we wanted in a family. We chose domestic adoption through a private agency, as we wanted a baby. We were race-neutral and our DS is AA/CC (or, as his bmom says: "mixed with black."
I should warn you that those involved in adoption frown on the term "natural." All children are "natural"; some are "biological", some are "adopted". Also note that "natural" applies to you too: You are/will be your childrens' "natural" mom, but your adopted child will have a "birthmom" or "first mom" or "biological mom."