When choosing to become a parent through surrogacy you can expect to be asked to thoughtfully consider a great deal of situations. Perhaps the very first choice that you will make is if you want to work with a surrogacy agency or do the journey independently.
For those choosing to work with an agency, understand that your costs will be a little higher than if you were going the independent route, but your level of involvement and stress will be far, far lower.
Working with an agency is almost like surrogacy “insurance” for you, as the agency will take care of properly vetting the surrogate and egg donor candidates, and are an experienced in the field to help guide every step of your journey.
Working with an agency allows you to focus more on the emotional side of your journey, while leaving the business side to seasoned industry professionals.
However, not all agencies are created equally, and it’s incredibly important to do your homework before deciding which agency is the right fit for you.So, how do you know which surrogacy agency is right for you? Here’s are a few things to consider:
How to Choose Your Surrogacy Agency as Intended Parents
History of the Surrogacy Agency
How long has this agency been around and operating? How many cases do they handle per month, on average? Approximately how many babies have been born via surrogacy with this agency?
While a long standing history isn’t necessarily an indicator of good business practices or success, it is a no fail sign of experience. An agency with several years of experience has likely, “seen it all” and is prepared to help you overcome any obstacle you may experience as part of your journey. A proven, established agency will also have a proven track record of success (or failure) and a rich community of peers for you to seek out for opinions. You can also inquire about any potential past lawsuits when an agency has been around for a long time.
Young agencies can still be great, and often offer an enticing price point, but there are a lot of unknowns to consider when working with an agency that is just establishing themselves. You’ll want to pay particularly close attention to their practices, promises, and potential at each step moving forward. To learn more about younger agencies, ask if the founder has other agency or surrogacy experience. We often find that a person might leave an agency they are working for, and start their own. So while the agency itself is still new, the people behind the agency will still have that history and experience as mentioned above.
What kind of time frame are you looking at, working with this agency start to finish? This is a question we probably don’t need to remind you to ask. More likely it’s the first question on your mind when talking to multiple agencies.
What’s important to bear in mind is that all time frame offerings are only rough estimates. An agency cannot promise you how long it will take to find you a surrogate because there is so much that does into matching, like where you live and what specifics you’re seeking in your surrogate. The agency can’t promise you’ll have a baby inside of a year, because transfers (sometimes) fail and women miscarry every day.
Be wary of agencies that do make sweeping timeframe promises; especially if they tend to sound, “Too good to be true.”
Instead, ask them what their average time frame tends to be from the time you are matched with a surrogate until the time you experience a transfer. Look for realistic answers that are honest, not just hopeful.
A big breakdown between agencies happens right here. You should ask each agency how strict their surrogate screening standards are, what screenings and processes have been completed before a surrogate is presented as a candidate, and whether or not the surrogate completes a full screening before matching. The difference between a partial screening and a full screening can save you months of time and, potentially, loads of cash.
A fully screened surrogate is one who has already passed her physical, mental, and background screenings. A doctor has reviewed her medical records and essentially signed off on her, giving her the go ahead to become a surrogate. This woman is (for the most part) ready to get pregnant right away.
A partially screened surrogate is one who has likely been cleared in every way except medical, though this will vary from agency to agency. At minimum, a partially screened surrogate should have completed her full agency questionnaire, had her medical records and pregnancy history reviewed, and passed a background check (as well as her spouse/partner, and anyone living in the home over 18 years of age).
Once a partially screened surrogate is selected by Intended Parents (and she agrees to the match), she would then complete her medical screening with the IPs fertility clinic.
You’ll want to ask who is responsible for paying screening costs in the case that your chosen surrogate fails a screening, as it could wind up quite costly to screen multiple women. It is worth noting that a large portion of agencies do only partially screen their surrogates, and complete the full screening once matched, with the Intended Parents selected providers.
One major benefit to working with any agency is their access to industry professionals. Before signing a contract with any one agency, be sure you know exactly what they’re able to offer you. The best agencies have regularly used legal, mental health, and support services. These agencies will be able to put you in contact with these professionals with no additional effort on your part.
Other agencies may be able to refer you to professionals, but do not incorporate their services into your agencies fees. This means you’d be responsible for arranging your own appointments and paying the professional directly. This can add cost and time to your experience.
Finally, some agencies serve as little more than a matching facilitator, leaving you on your own to find, secure, and pay for professional services on your own. No way is right or wrong, but it’s important for you to know what you want, and what you’re getting, at each agency you consider.
Like it or not, cost is a large consideration in choosing the agency that is right for you. Surrogacy agency fees can span a wide range, often up to or even above $30,000. Ask about costs up front, what is included in those costs, and when they’re due. Ask to see areas where costs are fixed as well as areas where costs can only be approximated.
Trust Your Instincts
Overall, it is important to find the agency that just feels right for you. The biggest and oldest surrogacy agency may not feel right for you. Or maybe it does. So much of surrogacy is guided by that gut feeling that just tells you when something is right.
It’s important to speak with several agencies, and even to attend a surrogacy conference if possible to meet as many professionals as possible. This exposure allows you to find the fit that just feels right for you and the experience you want to have.
Reach out to other Intended Parents to see what agencies they have used, and what their experiences were. Facebook has many groups filled with people who have worked with a multitude of agencies. Talk with these people, but remember, for every 5 star experience you find, you’re likely to find a 1 star rating to counterbalance it. Put your stock in those who are willing to give you a subjective review of their agency, pinpointing both things that they liked and things that they feel could be improved upon.
Ready to Get Started?
Click the photo below to grab your FREE Surrogacy Agency Questionnaire! This questionnaire will help you ask the important questions when interviewing surrogacy agencies to hire for your journey to parenthood via surrogacy.