Because surrogacy can be a long and complicated process, most intended parents work with a surrogacy professional to help coordinate the process and provide the services and support they need. Others choose to pursue independent surrogacy, where there is far less guidance, and the intended parents are tasked with carrying out most of the surrogacy process on their own.
Read on to learn more about independent surrogacy and the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing surrogacy without an agency.
What is Independent Surrogacy?
Independent surrogacy, sometimes also called private surrogacy, is any surrogacy arrangement in which the intended parents and surrogate mother do not work with a surrogacy agency.
Full-service surrogacy agencies are essentially one-stop shops for intended parents and surrogates. These professionals provide all of the necessary surrogacy services, including advertising, matching, screening, counseling, surrogacy planning and case management, and coordination of the necessary legal and medical processes. In independent surrogacy, it is up to the intended parents to outsource these services to the necessary professionals.
Because it is often challenging to find a surrogate without the assistance of an agency’s matching services, most intended parents who choose private surrogacy already know their surrogate personally and are pursuing an identified surrogacy. In these situations, intended parents and surrogates may be able to work directly with an attorney to complete the surrogacy process.
While the technical aspects of the surrogacy can be completed using only legal and medical professionals, many independent surrogacy arrangements overlook the importance of having third-party support throughout the process — a service that is usually only provided by surrogacy agencies.
Agency vs. Independent Surrogacy
When intended parents decide to add to their families through independent surrogacy, they essentially lose three main types of services provided by surrogacy agencies: matching and screening, case management and counseling. In independent surrogacy, intended parents will either have to independently oversee these services or forego them altogether.
To fully understand the difference between agency and independent surrogacy, it’s important to understand the services that are only offered by surrogacy agencies:
- Matching and Screening Services: Surrogacy agencies usually have an established network of prospective surrogates and can match intended parents to a surrogacy opportunity based on both parties’ plans and preferences. Surrogates and intended parents who choose to work with an agency often also go through a thorough screening process, which helps to protect everyone involved. These services are vital for any intended parent who is seeking a surrogate or working with a surrogate they don’t personally know.Most intended parents who choose independent surrogacy are also pursuing identified surrogacy, meaning they have already identified a surrogate (and likely personally know her, either as a friend or family member). Finding and screening a surrogate without an agency is exceedingly difficult, so if you do not already know your surrogate, independent surrogacy may not be the best choice for you.
- Surrogacy Planning, Case Management and Coordination: Intended parents who work with a surrogacy professional often benefit from surrogacy planning and case management services. A surrogacy specialist will personally oversee each intended parent’s case and coordinate the entire surrogacy process, assisting the family in finding the necessary legal and medical professionals and offering expert guidance and education through each step of the process.In independent surrogacy, it is up to the intended parents to independently reach out to the necessary professionals for the services they need and coordinate each step of the process.
- Counseling and Support: Surrogacy is as much a social and emotional process as it is a legal and medical one. Many couples and individuals considering surrogacy tend to overlook the importance of having emotional guidance throughout the surrogacy process. These counseling and support services can be especially important for both intended parents and surrogates as they manage their relationship and process the emotional ups and downs of the surrogacy process. Often included in these services is contact mediation and facilitation. For intended parents who do not personally know their surrogate ahead of the surrogacy process, these services help the parties get to know each other. These services can also be beneficial in identified surrogacy, as it may be easier for a third party professional to relay information about expenses and contract disputes to avoid arguments between friends or family members.Intended parents may be able to obtain these services through a third-party counselor, but it may be difficult to find a licensed social worker familiar with the issues of surrogacy outside of a surrogacy agency.
While these services are more difficult to obtain in independent surrogacy, there are intended parents who are willing to do the extra work or forego these services. If you have a solid understanding of the surrogacy process and feel confident that you can navigate it without the help of an experienced surrogacy professional, independent surrogacy may still be an option for you.
Pros and Cons of Independent Surrogacy
While there are many challenges with independent surrogacy, there are also some benefits for intended parents who are able to complete the process successfully. It is up to each intended parent to weigh the pros and cons of private surrogacy before determining whether it is the right fit for them.
Here is an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of independent surrogacy.
- In some instances, intended parents can save money by pursuing independent surrogacy, because they won’t have to pay agency fees to cover the cost of services like counseling and support, case management and contact mediation.
- Legal and medical professionals may be the only professionals necessary in an identified surrogacy.
- As noted in the section above, many services are more difficult to find and coordinate in independent surrogacy, especially for intended parents who are unfamiliar with the surrogacy process.
- While an attorney may be the only professional (outside of a fertility clinic) needed to complete the independent surrogacy process, these professionals often charge hourly fees, which can result in higher legal costs as you consult with them throughout the surrogacy process.
- Without counseling and contact mediation services, you and your surrogate may not get the emotional support you need.
Pursuing surrogacy without an agency is generally more challenging, but it can be done. Intended parents must consider their comfort level with the surrogacy process, their relationship with their surrogate and the services and support they will need throughout the process before deciding whether to work with an agency or complete a private surrogacy.
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