For Hague adoptions, you have a lot more paperwork to do and tighter requirements to meet than what families use to do before the Hague process went into effect. China put new rules into effect in May, 2007 and families must meet these criteria in order to adopt, too.
Most agencies that have a Special Needs program match families from what is called a Shared List. This Shared List comes out about every 4-6 weeks from CCAA. Agencies are able to see the children files that are posted to this shared list and then they try to match them with families that are open to specific Special Needs. Once an agency locks a child's file with a specific family, the family has 48-72 hours to make a decision as to whether or not they want to accept this child. When a family locks a child's file that they are considering, you will receive from your agency info. about the child and their specific Special Needs. Also, you will received medical reports as well as info. from the orphanage about the child's daily life and a few pictures.
When a family decides to proceed with a specific child, then the agency sends in a Letter of Intent (LOI) to CCAA telling them that a family is interested in a specific Special Needs child. The family then waits for CCAA to give them Pre-Approval (PA). From there you need have a completed and approved dossier in China before you move to the next step in the Special Needs process. Once you are approved by CCAA, you then wait for CCAA to send you a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) which tells the family that China has accepted you to adopt a specific child. Once your LOA has been signed and returned to China, then a family needs to wait for Travel Approval (TA) from CCAA in order to travel to China to complete the adoption. When you travel to China, you are usually there between 14-17 days.
You need to determine what Special Needs that you are open to accepting. There are some children with very minor needs and then there are ones with major special needs. Often, there are over 1,000 kids on the Shared List each month that are waiting to be matched with families.
You also want to find out from the agencies that you consider if they have their own staff in China. Some do and some do not. I have found that the agencies that actually have staff and offices in China, seem to have better luck getting info. for families and getting the documents processed quicker.
I would look at big agencies that are out there. Many of the smaller agencies that use to be very popular have closed their doors or merged with another agency.
The China program has significantly slowed down in comparison to what it use to be 5 years ago (especially the Non-Special Needs program). If you were to begin the process today and were to go Special Needs, it would take you about 12-18 months to complete most of it. But the time totally depends on how quickly you get your homestudy done and dossier completed in addition to getting approval from USCIS and the extra steps that you need to do for being a Hague case. Once your dossier is complete, it then goes to CCAA for review and approval. You will receive from CCAA a Log-In Date (LID). This is an important date because that is the date that your documents were logged-into the CCAA's system. In order to be matched with children that have been recently added to the Shared List (kids that were added within the last 30 days), you need to have a LID with CCAA. For children that have been on Shared List for more than 30 days, you can be matched with them and then work on getting your dossier together and sent to CCAA for approval.
Many families who began as Non-Special Needs adoptions back in 2006 have switched to Special Needs (us included) because the wait for a Non-Special Needs child is well over a 6 year wait after you have been LID with CCAA.
Also, be sure you understand all the costs that are involved in completing an adoption. Since the adoption process from China takes much longer today, families often have to re-do or (update) documents while they wait. Updating documents usually cost families more money. So be aware of what it is going to cost and plan for more.
Hope all this info. is helpful in making your decision about agencies and the adoption process.