What Should I Look For In An Agency?
Surrogacy arrangements can be either independent or done with the guidance of an agency. There are numerous details involved in this intricate process, and you will likely find that going alone is overwhelming. That’s when an experience surrogacy agency comes into the picture. Choosing to work with an agency reduces the risk of complications and ensures the process runs smoothly for everyone, but it’s important to understand the agency’s part in the process and ask some specific questions when making your decision.
What should I consider when choosing an agency?
Do your homework before selecting your agency. Do they offer referrals? It is best to know someone who worked with the agency. Do they seem reliable and available? Almost any agency that has experience and positive referrals can be great when there are no issues. The true test of a good agency is how they handle situations and bumps along the road. You’ll need your third party voice if a medical or emotional/social issue arises. Realistically, during the surrogacy process it is necessary to have an expert advice and support you with an issue.
Are they professional and experienced?
It is vital the company you choose to help you build your family is professional and has experience in the fertility field. They may be a medical, legal or mental health professional or have expertise in a related field. There are many who hang a “shingle” and consider themselves competent based on their experience as a surrogate or intended parent. Delve into their experience to evaluate what they can do for you. It’s also a good idea to ask about how they will handle potential situations that can compromise your outcome.
Is the agency responsive?
If you call and email and routinely don’t receive a prompt response, this is a red flag. Remember, you haven’t started working with the program yet and you should be able to speak to a representative. Determine if you will have one contact person or several. It is important that the person you rely on is available for emergencies as needed.
Will they work with a single client or same-sex couple?
It may be hard to comprehend in this day and age, but there may be an agency or physician who will not help an individual or same sex couple have a family. Be sure to inquire first and ask if they have a single parent and same sex contracts for review.
How does an agency screen their surrogates?
As part of their program, an agency should recruit and preliminarily screen surrogates. The agency should have a copy of pregnancy and delivery records from children the surrogate has given birth to. The agency may request a medical clearance letter from her delivery physician to ensure she is currently healthy enough to carry a pregnancy as a surrogate. A copy of her current health insurance should be reviewed and available for both the intended parent and surrogate attorney to review. The agency should also complete a criminal background check, and have the candidate and her husband/partner (if applicable) meet and be evaluated by a mental health professional experienced in fertility. In many instances, this is completed before a surrogate meets potential intended parents.
The agency should be able to provide you referrals for:
- Fertility clinics
- Qualified mental health personnel
- Attorneys who work with surrogates
- Insurance providers
Major medical insurance is needed. If the surrogate does not have maternity coverage, she will either need a policy that covers complications or comprehensive surrogate insurance. She will also need life insurance and the minimums may fluctuate according to those involved.
How does an agency handle the financial aspect?
This is an expensive and emotionally stressful process, and you should ask detailed questions about financial expectations:
- What is included or excluded in their agency fee?
- What is the base surrogate compensation?
- What are other potential expenses?
- Is any “cushion” required by the escrow?
Ask who they work with for escrow services, and what those fees are. Some states require independent escrow agents (not either of the attorneys involved in the arrangement). It is very acceptable to schedule a consult with them either in person or via phone if needed - if at all possible, a face to face meeting is best. There are many details coordinated by your agency and many times it is worth the fee paid to them.
Nancy Block is the founder and director of The Center for Egg Options, an agency specializing in gestational surrogacy and egg donation. Since the inception of CEO, there have been over 2,300 matches made with intended parent couples, singles and same sex couples worldwide. Nancy’s vast experience in the field of obstetric, gynecological and fertility nursing along with her dedication to intended parents, donors and surrogates has made her a leader in her field. She is a national spokesperson for the infertility industry and currently sits on the board of Parents Via Egg Donation. Nancy can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.egg411.com.