A public agency is usually run through the state and usually offers foster care, foster adopt and adoption programs through county or state child welfare or social services departments. There are most often older and special needs children through these agencies who are looking for families as well as newborns, infants and toddlers. The cost through these programs are most often minimal, however the process may take longer and might be more volatile whereas some of these children may have been removed from their birth families homes and the adoption process is not always straightforward or easy.
A private agency is run by a company or organization that is licensed through their state and who provides domestic and/or international adoption services. That agency may be non-profit or for profit. Some private agencies specialize in certain types of adoptions like open adoption, or special needs adoption, while others may be affiliated with a religion or ethnicity. Most potential adoptive parents are able to find the agency that is the right fit for their family.
Whether you decide to go through a public or private agency, the key is to research each agency and make sure that they meet the needs of the adoptive parents as well as the adopted child. Look into each agencies policies, procedures, background, and get feedback from those who have used that agency. An agency adoption carries the least amount of risk compared to an independent adoption or an adoption completed by a adoption facilitator because the licensed agencies are monitored and checked up on by their state or county licensing agency.
There are several factors to take into account for when deciding what type of agency to choose from. If you are looking for a completely open adoption, and/or a newborn or infant adoption you might choose the private agency over the public agency. However, if you are just looking for a child to love and share you r life with and age, race, ethnicity and/or if special needs adoption is not a deciding factor, than a public agency might be a better choice.
If you are looking into an international adoption , a private agency is most often the clear choice. Look for an agency who specializes in the international program you are interested in. Research the agency, find out how often and how long they have been working in that country. Lastly, look into post adoption support, cultural support groups in your area and adoption finalization laws in your state.