You have decided you’re ready to get started as a surrogate — who do you talk to next?
Surrogacy professionals can help guide you through the entire surrogacy process, from your first medical evaluation to the birth of the baby. As a prospective surrogate, it will be up to you to choose the professional you feel most comfortable working with.
Primarily, there are two types of surrogacy professionals: surrogacy agencies and surrogacy attorneys. These professionals vary in their strengths and the services they offer. Which you choose will largely depend on the type of surrogacy you are pursuing, as well as the services you need throughout the process.
The following section provides a basic overview of each type of professional and includes tips for choosing the agency or attorney that will work best for you.
Surrogacy agencies often provide most or all of the services you will need throughout the surrogacy process. They can generally work with surrogates from across the country and offer services to intended parents in the United States and beyond.
Many surrogates choose to work with an agency because they offer the widest range of services, education and support. Some common services provided by surrogacy agencies include:
- Advertising and outreach to a large pool of prospective intended parents
- Screening and matching services that ensure safety and compatibility between surrogates and intended parents
- Counseling, education and support before, during and after the surrogacy process
- General oversight and case management, coordination of services and surrogacy planning
- Legal services provided through a surrogacy attorney
- Medical services are scheduled and provided through a fertility clinic
- Contact mediation and relationship development
- Escrow account management for surrogate compensation
- And more
Why work with a surrogacy agency?
Working with a single expert throughout the surrogacy process can be advantageous, and women who choose to work with an agency to complete their journey enjoy a variety of benefits. However, there are also some challenges that may arise when working with a surrogacy agency. Here are some of the top pros and cons to take into account as you weigh your surrogacy professional options:
- Surrogacy agencies offer the most robust advertising, screening and matching services. Agencies often work with a large number of intended parents from all around the world, giving you more prospective families to choose from and increasing your chances of finding the perfect match within a limited wait time. Surrogacy specialists use advanced databases to help prospective surrogates find a match based on their specific goals and preferences, and all matches are pre-screened to ensure all parties are protected throughout the process.
- All necessary surrogacy services will be coordinated by one professional. Established surrogacy agencies often provide most or all of the services you need, from surrogacy planning to legal services and more. They can coordinate the entire process from start to finish, working with the most experienced legal and medical professionals to ensure the surrogacy is completed safely, legally and ethically.
- Agencies provide vital counseling and support services that aren’t available anywhere else. At some point during your pregnancy, you are likely to encounter difficult feelings. Whether your intended parents are friends, family members, acquaintances or strangers, it is vital to your relationship that you have third party support available. Surrogacy agencies employ qualified counselors who can provide the support and contact mediation services you need to make your experience as positive as possible.
- You may be more limited in your choice of intended parents. Surrogates who forego an agency’s services may choose from a larger pool of prospective intended parents than those who are working with a particular agency.
Finding a Surrogacy Agency
Different surrogacy agencies may offer different programs and services, have different requirements for their surrogates and more. These are some of the factors you should keep in mind as you compare potential surrogacy professionals. Carefully research the agencies you are considering and choose the one that will best meet your needs.
Here are some questions you can ask the surrogacy agencies you are considering to help you make your decision:
- How many surrogacies have you completed?
- How is your organization licensed and regulated?
- I live in (state). Can I still work with your agency?
- What surrogacy programs do you offer? What services will I receive as a surrogate?
- What is your average wait time for a surrogate and intended parents to find each other? How does the matching process work?
- What are your screening requirements for the surrogates you work with? Can you explain the screening process?
- Are you a full-service agency? Will any services be outsourced to other professionals?
- How much control will I have throughout the surrogacy process? What choices will I be able to make regarding my surrogacy experience?
- Will you coordinate the necessary legal and medical services?
- How much do you spend on advertising for intended parents? How many intended parents are you working with currently?
- How are the intended parents screened? How will I know intended parents are safe to work with?
- What counseling, support and education services do you offer? What about contact mediation? When will I have access to my surrogacy specialist?
In any surrogacy arrangement, you will need an attorney to draft legal contracts and complete any other necessary legal services. If you choose to work with an agency, your surrogacy specialist will coordinate an attorney’s services for you, and you will not need to consult with an attorney separately.
However, in some situations, an attorney may be the only surrogacy professional you need. If you are working directly with the intended parents in an independent surrogacy, without an agency’s involvement, your attorney can provide the necessary legal services and outsource any additional surrogacy services to other professionals.
Why work with a surrogacy attorney?
Many surrogates choose to work with an agency because of the abundance of services and support these professionals offer. However, some surrogates are comfortable enough with the process to pursue independent surrogacy with the help of an attorney alone. If you are considering independent surrogacy, here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when working with a surrogacy attorney:
- Legal services are necessary in every surrogacy arrangement. Whether you choose independent surrogacy or surrogacy with an agency, you will need an attorney to represent your legal interests and negotiate your contract. If you choose to work with an assisted reproduction attorney independently of an agency, you can feel confident knowing that your rights as a surrogate are protected.
- You may not need another surrogacy professional. Once you have located prospective intended parents, and if you feel comfortable navigating the process on your own, you may be able to complete the surrogacy process using only your attorney and the services of your fertility clinic. If at any point in the process you do need additional services, such as counseling and support, your attorney may be able to partner with a surrogacy agency or other professional to provide these services.
- You may need additional services that an attorney cannot provide. Your attorney will provide expert legal work, but they likely cannot help you find a match with intended parents, provide case management and coordination services, or offer counseling and support throughout the process. You will need to search for intended parents on your own and find additional professionals who can provide the services you need.
- You and the intended parents will need to coordinate the events of the surrogacy on your own. Because attorneys rarely provide case management services, you will not have an experienced professional to schedule each step of the process. Instead, you will need to work directly with the intended parents to locate a fertility clinic and coordinate all of the necessary medical procedures.
- It will be up to you to screen intended parents and contact them directly. Attorneys do not provide matching or screening services. As a surrogate, this means you will need to evaluate prospective intended parents on your own to determine whether they are safe to work with and ready to emotionally, legally and financially commit to surrogacy. In addition, you will not have a third party to contact intended parents on your behalf or mediate initial contact.
- Your attorney cannot provide 24/7 support and availability. Most attorneys who offer surrogacy services also practice other areas of law and often have many open cases at a time. This may make it difficult for your attorney to provide one-on-one support and assistance in emergency situations.
Finding an Attorney
Choosing the right attorney is essential to a successful independent surrogacy arrangement. The choice of an attorney should not be made lightly, and there are many factors to consider as you compare prospective surrogacy professionals.
Here are some questions you may want to ask prospective law firms as you decide which one is right for you:
- Do you specialize in surrogacy and assisted reproduction?
- How many surrogacy cases have you completed? How many surrogates have you represented?
- I live in (state). Can your firm still work with me?
- What other areas of law do you practice? How will you handle my case among your other pending cases, especially in time-sensitive situations?
- What should I do if I need help finding intended parents? Can you refer me to a professional that provides matching services?
- Will your fees be covered by the intended parents?
- What surrogacy services are performed by your law firm? Which services are outsourced?
Choosing a Surrogacy Professional
The choice of a surrogacy professional is a big decision. As you weigh the pros and cons of working with prospective surrogacy agencies and attorneys, consider these tips:
- Determine your priorities. Make a list of the most important qualities and services you are looking for in a surrogacy professional. Are you primarily concerned with sound legal counsel? Counseling and support services? The amount of experience the professional has with surrogacy? Look for the agencies and attorneys that share your top priorities.
- Ask about qualifications. How long has the professional been in business? How many successful surrogacies have they coordinated? How are they licensed and regulated? These are all important questions to consider as you evaluate different surrogacy professionals.
- Learn about services. For every surrogacy professional you are considering, make a list of the services they offer and the ones you will be responsible for obtaining on your own. Compare these lists to ensure you are getting the most out of your surrogacy experience.
- Talk through the process. How does the surrogacy process work with each professional? Ask them to walk you through their process, and make notes of any differences. Find out how long the process generally takes and how much control you will have through each step of the way.
- Request intended parent information. How does the professional describe their typical intended parent? What kinds of intended parents do they work with? What are the screening requirements intended parents must meet? See if you can view sample intended parent profiles, and learn more about the professional’s matching services, if they offer any. It is important to know that your professional can help you find the family that is right for you.
- Ask for references. Ask if the surrogacy professional can put you in contact with previous clients to gain additional perspective on the agency or attorney.
Whether you choose to work with an agency or attorney, it is up to you to determine which professional is the best fit for your individual needs and circumstances. Each type of professional has its advantages and disadvantages. However, both provide valuable services that will help you on your journey to become a surrogate.
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