Embarking on a surrogacy journey is a life-changing decision. The decision to seek a surrogate can be one of the most important decisions you will make. This is why many intended parents and surrogates choose to have an agency to represent them.
Parents and surrogates need to make sure that the agency representing them has their best interests at heart. For that reason, it is important that you ask the agency as many questions as you can. While you may have specific ideas about your journey, the lists below are questions that every intended parent should ask. We will break these down into categories such as about the agency, about the surrogates, expectations of intended parents, logistics, and other questions.
About the Agency:
- How long has your agency been in business? While a new agency is not necessarily a bad choice, an agency with a long history can be reassuring for many intended parents.
- How many successful surrogacies does your agency complete per year? Intended parents need to make sure that the agency has a history of successful surrogacies. The follow up to this question should be: What do you consider a successful journey? Do they consider a completed journey resulting in a baby a successful one? Or do they simply consider a surrogate/ intended parent match as successful? You should make sure that your ideas and the agency’s ideas of success are similar.
- What is the region that the agency assists? Do they only practice in certain states, provinces, or areas? Why did they select to work only in these areas? You should understand where the agency is practicing because that may impact where the surrogate you select lives or how far you may need to travel.
- How are your staff members trained or certified? It is important to know how staff members keep updated on their knowledge of changes in laws, trends, and medical breakthroughs.
- What types of surrogacy do you accept? Does the agency accept traditional and/or gestational surrogacy journeys? If you want to pursue a traditional journey, it is important to find an agency used to managing these journeys and their specifics.
- What services do you provide? Some agencies will provide referrals to external professionals while others are full-service agencies. It is important to understand which services are available in-house and which services you will need to locate elsewhere.
About the surrogates
- How do you screen the surrogates? Are surrogates fully screened prior to matching with the intended parents? Proper screening of surrogates is critical to ensure that the surrogate is a good candidate, and she is ready to start the process.
- How do you match surrogates and intended parents? Surrogates and intended parents need to ensure that they are a good match for each other. Agencies normally ask questions to the surrogates and intended parents to determine their preferences and needs before facilitating a meeting. Some of these questions are usually related to the location of prospective parents and surrogate, level of communication they want during the process, the number of embryos to be transferred, and their thoughts on abortion.
- How do you coordinate the first meeting? Is it done by phone, video meeting, or in-person? Meeting a potential surrogate for the first time is a major event. The first impression you get from the other party may determine if you are going to embark on this journey together. Making sure that the meeting goes as well as possible should be a foremost concern of the agency.
- What if we already know the surrogate we want to use? If intended parents already have a surrogate in mind, it is vital that they understand what she needs to do to be accepted by the agency. They also need to know whether or not the agency will accept a pre-chosen surrogate.
Expectations for Intended Parents
- What are our responsibilities?Intended parents need to understand what they will be expected to do during this process.
- How do you screen intended parents? Intended parents must also understand what screenings they will need to undergo or pass.
- If the intended mother is also the genetic mother, what are the agency’s expectations of her? Intended mothers need to know what the medical history or examination requirements are for them prior to donating their eggs. They need to make sure that they will be accepted by the agency if they are using her eggs.
- What happens if we have an issue? Do you have counseling or mediation services available if a problem arises? Sometimes a disagreement or concern arises between the intended parents and surrogate. The agency needs to be prepared for this in advance so that all parties know their roles in resolving an issue.
- What is the application process? Each agency has its own process for intended parents. Be sure that you understand what forms, background, funds, or other documentation you will need to provide.
- How do you handle our wishes? Some intended parents want the surrogate to meet stricter requirements than the agency. It is a good idea to make sure the agency is prepared to meet those requirements.
- How do you handle payments to the surrogate? Will we use an escrow account, or will they contact you at the time of payment?
- What other professionals will we need? Some agencies may have a network of professionals they prefer such as attorneys, while others may prefer for you to find your own providers. You need to understand which professionals you will need to hire separately to complete the surrogacy journey.
- What are your fees? This is one of the most important questions. If this agency costs significantly more or less than other agencies, this is a good time to find out why.
- What do your fees cover? It is essential that you find out what those fees cover. Some agencies have “hidden fees” that are not disclosed at the beginning. It is necessary to understand what fees are included and what fees are not.
- How are payments spread out? Some agencies allow installment payments while others would like fees upfront. You should understand the payment structure including how and when payments are to be made.
- How long does it usually take for intended parents to complete the process? While agencies cannot give exact numbers, it is a good idea to make sure that they can provide averages that make sense. Nine months is unlikely; likewise, three years is probably not the best answer either.
- Why should we choose you? Sometimes you just need to know what the agency thinks are their strengths and weaknesses. Ask them.
These are not the only questions you will ask. Each category and question are designed to get you thinking about what is important to you in this journey. Meeting your needs for this journey and realizing your dream of becoming a parent is the ultimate goal. Ask questions that will support that goal.