There are many roads to parenthood, and you need to look at all of them with an open mind.
1. International adoption. There is a misconception that international adoption is always outrageously expensive, but it is often less expensive than domestic newborn adoption. Yes, adoption from certain Eastern European countries is very expensive; when it was open, adoption from Russia often had very high fees, mainly because of the fact that it required 2-4 trips to complete the process; the air travel is usually the largest component of an international adoption's costs. But the good news is that there are lower cost countries where legally free children under four are available, such as South Korea, the Marshall Islands, and Ethiopia, if you are open to non-Caucasian children. And if you adopt a "waiting child", who may have very manageable special needs or needs that can be corrected fairly easily if you have good health insurance, you may keep costs and the time frame more manageable. Do remember, of course, that, nowadays, almost all non-special needs international adoptions take up to two years, and sometimes longer, from homestudy to homecoming. Even if you get a referral within six months, it can easily take a year or more beyond that for all of the legal processes in the U.S. and overseas to be satisfied, and for all the paperwork to be completed. But this can actually be a good thing, if cost is an issue. Most of the fees are "pay as you go", while you will pay for the homestudy and USCIS clearance early on, some travel costs, such as hotel and meal charges, won't be paid until you are actually overseas. Some people use the time between homestudy and homecoming to work extra shifts or a second job, or to save money in other ways.
2. Domestic newborn adoption often involves a long wait for a pregnant woman to be referred to you as potentially planning to relinquish her baby. Fees can be high, especially if you will accept only Caucasian babies. And you will wait quite a while for a referral, in most cases, if you cannot accept a pregnant woman who has some risk factors or unknowns in her situation -- for example, if she admits to using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, or if she has had no prenatal care and is close to her due date, or if she states that she was raped by a stranger (with unknown medical history), or if there is the possibility of a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder. The good news is that you will, most likely, be present when the child is born or receive him/her not long after delivery. Many agencies will allow you to indicate that you are not open to matching with pregnant women who will need legally allowable expenses paid for them -- for example, the teen who was thrown out of her home by her parents when she became pregnant, and needs a place to stay, or the woman who does not qualify for Medicaid.. This could reduce your total charges considerably, but you may not have access to as many matches as a family open to paying
3. Adoption of a child whose domestic or international adoption was disrupted or dissolved. There are times when a child has been placed with a family for adoption, or when the child's adoption has already occurred, and the adoptive family cannot continue to parent the child. In such cases, some, although not all, agencies will help to find a new home for the child. While some of the disruptions and dissolutions occur because a child turned out to have unanticipated psychiatric or medical needs, such as reactive attachment disorder or a severe fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, other disruptions occur because the family is faced with a life-changing situation, such as the death or terminal illness of a spouse, or because the couple is divorcing, or simply because a couple simply is ill prepared for raising an adopted child. No single agency specializes in finding new families for disrupted adoptions, and many agencies give preference to families already working with them, but a nationwide search can help you find a child in the age range you seek, who has no or minor special needs. Because it is hard to find new families for the children of disruption, and especially those who have some challenges, agencies often discount fees greatly.
4. Adoption from foster care. Don't conclude that foster care has no young, relatively healthy children, just because you've looked at a website like AdoptUSKids. Photolistings are used mainly for children who are considered very hard to place, such as school age children (especially males over age 10), children with fairly significant special needs, and sibling groups that usually consist of three or more children with at least one of school age or with signficant special needs. They are simply not needed for young, healthy children, and if you see a child listed as young and healthy on such a site, ask a lot of questions. In general, if a foster child who is relatively healthy winds up needing a new family because reunification isn't possible and there's no extended family willing and able to adopt, the foster family already caring for him/her will have priority. First off, your county or state may not have any young, fairly healthy children coming into care very often, and you could wait months or years for a foster care placement. Second, if you do accept a foster care placement, there is a good chance that the child will return to his/her biological parents or other family members. And finally, if the child is available for adoption, you may or may not feel that you can meet his/her needs, long term, even if he/she doesn't have an official diagnosis of a disability, or you may feel that the birth family has some volatile members, who could pose safety issues to you and your family, long term, if you adopt the child.
5. "Private" adoption. I'm putting the word private in quotes, because no legitimate adoption is truly private. You cannot simply have a woman turn over her newborn or toddler to you, without having her do a legal relinquishment and without having you do a legal adoption. The term simply means that you are adopting without using an adoption agency or attorney to find you a child. Domestically, it is possible to find a pregnant woman on your own, via networking and/or, in states that allow it, advertising, and then to use a social worker for your homestudy and a
n attorney to make sure that you do everything ethically and legally, including finalization. Internationally, while you can, in some countries, identify a situation on your own -- for example, through relatives living in the country -- U.S. law now requires you to use a Hague-accredited U.S. agency as the "primary provider" that ensures proper conduct of the proceedings. Some private adoptions are surprisingly inexpensive. Unfortunately, because most people do not have the amount of adoption experience that agencies and attorneys have, and even they can be fooled sometimes, the risk of scams and fall-throughs is very high. If you have multiple situations where you spend money and do not wind up with a child, before you actually finalize an adoption, the cost can be great.
In short, there is no "ideal" type of adoption, but there are many possible routes to becoming parents. If you do some serious research, you will find an approach that works for you