Adopting is such an exciting and intimidating prospect. Becoming a parent to a beautiful new baby is a dream come true for so many hopeful adoptive families. But where to begin? One of the first questions many families looking into domestic infant adoption ask themselves is the following: “Is adoption expensive?” The short answer is yes. A domestic infant adoption can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000 dollars.

The next question that comes up is usually “Why is it so expensive?” The truth is harsh. Adoption is an industry, and the demand far outweighs the supply. At any given time, there are roughly thirty couples waiting for every infant placed in the United States. Because there are so many families and so few babies, rates go up.

This is not the only reason adoption is so costly. In order to have a legal, ethical adoption, there are several steps you have to take. First, you need a social worker to complete a home study. Then, you need to advertise that you are looking to adopt and be matched with an expectant mother. Sometimes after you are matched, there are expenses related to the medical care and basic needs of the expectant mother during her pregnancy. Then you need an attorney to draw up the adoption papers and make sure that everything is legal. A few months after you are placed with your child, the adoption is finalized in court. Each of these steps cost money—lots of it.

So what can you do to make adoption more affordable? You can’t make it cheap, but there are a few things you can do to ease the impact on your finances. Exploring all of your options and weighing the pros and cons is the best way to find out what works for you.

Adoption agencies are a one-stop shop for all your adoption needs. Most of them will provide the home study, advertising, and attorney for you. It’s a lot less work on your part, and you are less likely to fall victim to a scammer. However, because of these conveniences, some adoption agencies inflate their prices. Some agencies have grants that you can apply for to help with fees, but they are few and far between.

Another option is to adopt independently. This means hiring your own lawyer in which you will end up paying for an adoption consultant or other certified social worker to complete your home study and self-advertising. Adopting privately takes more effort. Advertising that you are looking to adopt takes a lot of work, but it costs a lot less than paying someone else to do it for you. Finding someone to do your home study takes time. Lawyers are expensive, some more than others. However, oftentimes a private lawyer costs less than one from an agency. If the extra effort is worth the lower cost to you, adopting privately might be the right way to go.

Domestic infant adoption is one of the most expensive ways to adopt. Adopting through the foster care system costs next to nothing. Most of the time, this means adopting an older child, but it is not unheard of for infants to be adopted out of the foster system.

Adopting isn’t cheap or easy. It’s something you have to work hard for, regardless of whether you choose an agency, private adoption, or foster adoption. But the money, waiting, and work are so worth it for so many families the moment they meet their new baby.

Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.