Eran Amir, GUEST BLOGGER
Surrogacy is an incredible process but it can also be overwhelming to navigate. Having the support of a qualified surrogacy agency enables a smoother experience throughout – from matching with a gestational carrier (GC) to bringing your baby home, and everything in between. Surrogacy agencies can also advise you on the medical and legal matters that need addressing along your path to parenthood.
As an intended parent myself, I know all too well how challenging this process can feel – especially at the beginning. My own journey to my amazing 3 year old Ariel included not only surrogacy (working with a full-service agency), egg donation, and IVF – but also months of research in advance. While these decisions are highly personal, here are a few helpful tips, specifically around the benefits of working with an agency, and the factors you should consider when selecting one. After speaking with hundreds of other intended parents like myself, I can attest that knowing both what to look for and what to ask will help you reach a more informed decision.
Why should I work with a surrogacy agency?
Agencies streamline the surrogacy process. A surrogacy agency provides a broad range of services for both intended parents and prospective gestational carriers. Agencies aim to make the surrogacy experience as straightforward and stress-free as possible so intended parents can focus on the journey itself and prepare for their baby. They also ensure that the whole process is completed safely and in line with all legal requirements.
Full-service surrogacy agencies are a one-stop shop for everything surrogacy-related. Full-service surrogacy agencies serve as your case manager throughout the entire surrogacy process. Generally, surrogacy agencies:
- Analyze applications to ensure the seriousness and commitment of the GC
- Screen all parties for psychological and emotional readiness for the process and the GC for physical health and ability to carry a pregnancy.
- Match and carry out one-on-one consultations – ie. they support both intended parents and GCs until they connect with their best fit, given their needs and preferences
- Coordinate between clinics and surrogacy attorneys to address all surrogacy-related legal issues
- Provide support services, including counseling, throughout the journey.
- Promote a healthy relationship between the GC and intended parents
- Manage egg donation – (either through an in-house program or third parties) to allow for a more seamless journey
- Coordinate between all parties in the surrogacy process, including clinics, attorneys, financial staff, and social workers, among others
- Prepare for and coordinate the trip home post-delivery, including applying for a passport if required
- Offer guidance post-birth to ensure the well-being of the baby, the new parent(s) and the GC.
You can choose the level of support you need: Services offered by surrogacy agencies vary from agency to agency. While full-service agencies offer all the services you’ll need throughout the journey, partial service agencies assist intended parents to an extent but do not provide all of the services needed to complete the process. Partial service agencies are a good fit for intended parents who already have their own trusted professionals – for instance in relation to receiving legal or emotional support throughout their journey. You can potentially pay a lower agency compensation fee in this case, however this will require greater coordination efforts on your end as well as paying for specific support elsewhere (as an example, an attorney is a must in every surrogacy journey), so you’ll need to include that in your consideration.
Your surrogacy experts are only a call away: Surrogacy agencies are experts in the field, ready to assist you every step of the way. They’re happy to answer all your questions and address any concerns you may have from the beginning. More importantly, they’re your ongoing support system, offering assistance and insights along the way – based on their years of experience – to help make your journey smoother.
What should I consider when selecting a surrogacy agency?
If you do decide to work with a surrogacy agency, there are a few factors to consider as you research your options:
- Agency Experience: How long has the agency been in operation and how many babies have been born through its program? If they’re a newer agency, you may want to consider if the founders or staff have prior experience in the industry at other reputable agencies as well as through their own personal journeys.
- Gestational Carrier Screening Process: Agencies must screen gestational carriers before introducing them to the intended parents. If you’re looking into this before you work with them, you’d want to consider how they screen their carriers: does the agency properly connect with the GC? Do they carry out social worker, psychological and medical screenings, as well as financial and criminal background checks? Find out what percentage of gestational carrier applicants are accepted to get an idea of how selective the agency is (and like any of the other criteria that are important to you, it’s always good to compare a few top choices of agencies against each other for things like this). Determine if the GC’s location is important to you – does the agency have potential GC matches in the area you’re hoping for? If she’s near your IVF clinic it will save on her travel costs and if she’s near both you and your clinic, it makes it easier for you to join for important/milestone appointments (again, if that’s something you’re personally hoping for).
- Reputation / Ratings & Reviews: What do other intended parents say about the agency and its staff in verified ratings and reviews? Has the agency ever had any specific issues – for example, has it been sued by clients or GCs; does it have any pending lawsuits? Getting answers to these questions will help you evaluate the agency’s professionalism.
- Services Offered: As we’ve seen above, services offered by surrogacy agencies vary from agency to agency. It’s important that you’re aware of what the agency offers and which elements of the journey you’ll have to take care of yourself.
- Agency Staff: Based on your consultation call, do you feel comfortable working with the agency’s staff on your journey, did they show genuine interest in your case? How do you feel about your personal interaction with them? How many case managers does the agency have and what is their typical workload? You may check if there is someone available to answer emergency questions 24/7, and what the communication process is.
- Costs & Related Policies: What are the agency fees and when is the money due? Check for the complete breakdown of all costs involved – are they fully transparent about this? Consider what their process is for monitoring, tracking and paying the GC’s expenses. Look into if they have a rematch policy should anything change with your initial match, a refund policy, a sibling policy (ie. discounted fee for a second journey), or if they return unused funds at the end of the journey.
- Timeline: How long does it usually take the agency you’re considering to match intended parents with a GC? How long is a typical journey there? Shorter may be what you’re looking for but is not always necessarily better – especially, when it comes to carrying out all the necessary screenings. Make sure you’re comfortable with the explanation around their average timelines.
- Parental rights: Will the agency help with establishing parental rights? For international intended parents, does the agency provide assistance with the documentation required to register with the country of origin?
- LGBTQ+: Does the agency have LGBTQ+ friendly policies and does it offer LGBTQ+ specific services (such as appropriate counseling and support)? Consider asking the agency the number of LGBTQ+ surrogacy journeys they completed, how many gestational carriers in their program are willing to work with LGBTQ+ couples, and how long the typical wait is before being matched.
- International parents: If this applies to you; Is the agency experienced in working with international intended parents; do they offer specific services for intended parents living outside of the US? Consider asking how many surrogacy journeys the agency has completed with international intended parents, and if they provide support to establish parental rights in your home country.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to look for when researching surrogacy agencies. Again, whatever final decisions you make are highly personal – the right option is whatever is right for you and your needs. Good luck!
About Eran Amir
With more than 20 years of experience, Eran Amir has worked as both a software development and product management executive in Israel and the Greater New York Area. The development of GoStork combines his professional skill set with a personal mission. After undergoing a long, difficult, and costly process to expand his family via surrogacy and egg donation, Amir vowed to help other intended parents avoid the complexity and confusion he experienced. His passion led to the creation of GoStork, which proudly names Amir’s two-year-old daughter as its co-founder.