Guest post by Eran Amir - CEO and Founder, GoStork
Surrogacy is a wonderful process that allows many intended parents to achieve their dream of parenthood. While the journey is often quite an amazing experience, it is also lengthy, requires substantial financial and emotional commitment, and involves considerable coordination efforts.
This is where surrogacy agencies come in. A qualified surrogacy agency has the technical expertise to help you navigate the process, supporting you every step of the way. They also ensure that everything is carried out safely and legally, both for you as an intended parent and for the surrogate.
It helps to clarify that, in a traditional surrogacy arrangement, the surrogate also donates her eggs. A gestational carrier, on the other hand, is not genetically related to the baby. The majority of surrogacy agencies only work with gestational carrier arrangements.
And now, here are your surrogacy agency questions answered!
What do surrogacy agencies do?
A surrogacy agency provides a broad range of services for both intended parents and prospective surrogates. 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 little bundle of joy.
Services offered by surrogacy agencies vary from agency to agency. Some are a one-stop-shop for everything surrogacy-related while others offer partial services. If you choose the latter, you will need to work with other surrogacy professionals in tandem. When choosing a surrogacy agency, it’s important that you’re aware of what the agency offers and which elements of the process you’ll have to take care of yourself. Doing your research in advance will help ensure that the level of service offered will meet your needs.
Generally, though, surrogacy agencies:
Analyze applications to ensure the seriousness and commitment of both the surrogates and the intended parents
Match and carry out one-on-one consultations – ie. they support both intended parents and surrogates 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
Screen all parties for physical, psychological and emotional readiness for the process.
Provide support services, including counseling, as a continuous support system throughout the journey.
There are two main types of surrogacy agencies: full service and partial service. Let’s look at the differences between them.
What’s the difference between a full-service surrogacy agency and a partial service surrogacy agency?
Full-service surrogacy agencies greatly simplify the surrogacy process. They handle all aspects of the journey related to matching, screening, coordination and support as outlined above, plus many other important details including:
Providing a case manager to ensure a healthy relationship between the gestational carrier and intended parents
Managing egg donation – (either through an in-house program or third parties) to allow for a more seamless journey
Coordinating between all parties in the surrogacy process, including clinics, attorneys, financial staff, and social workers, among others.
Preparing for and coordinating the trip home post-delivery, including applying for a passport if required
Offering guidance post-birth to ensure the well-being of the baby, the new parent(s) and the gestational carrier
Basically, a full-service agency serves as your case manager throughout the entire surrogacy process.
On the other hand, partial-service surrogacy agencies assist intended parents to an extent but do not provide all of the services needed to complete the process.
To start, they usually provide everything required for intended parents and surrogates to find their match. Aside from that; for all the other services that they may not have in-house, many agencies offer referrals to other trusted professionals. Common referrals include legal teams and mental health professionals.
Partial service agencies are a good fit for intended parents who already know a great surrogacy attorney, for instance, or who have their own trusted professionals when it comes to receiving emotional support throughout their journey.
Finally, some intended parents prefer to do everything on their own and at their own pace. This is called independent surrogacy.
What is independent surrogacy?
While this article covers everything you need to know about agencies, we should also mention that some intended parents do opt to not use one at all – so it makes sense to cover what that choice looks like. Also known as private surrogacy, independent surrogacy is when intended parents and a gestational carrier undertake the whole process on their own, without the help of an agency.
This kind of surrogacy is more common among intended parents who already know their gestational carrier. With this major piece covered, they hire a surrogacy attorney and any other surrogacy professionals on a need-basis.
There are plenty of amazing stories (and even more cute babies!) as a result of independent surrogacy. That said, there are also risks related to taking the private surrogacy route.
Surrogacy in itself can be quite a complicated process. Without the necessary support, what should be a beautiful time for all could become more difficult. Apart from this, surrogacy agencies are experts in the field, ready to assist every step of the way. An agency should significantly lower stress levels as it tackles all the technical aspects of the process, as well as offers support: when the going gets tough, you can always rely on experienced staff to see you through.
Is there a licensing regimen for surrogacy agencies?
There is no licensing regimen for surrogacy agencies (yet). This is mainly because surrogacy and assisted reproduction in general are still new and the legal framework is continuously evolving. Without predefined standards, it may be difficult to pinpoint if an agency will really meet your needs.
However, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has standards Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) professionals should comply with. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), too, has published recommendations for OBGYNs to follow in surrogacy cases. Psychological counselors employed by the surrogacy agency should be licensed and certified. So, while there’s no licensing regimen for agencies, there are regulations that professionals working within the agency have to comply with.
Which other factors should I consider in my search for a surrogacy agency?
There are elements you can cross check to ensure an agency is serious about the service it offers. How long the company has been in business is an indication of its commitment and success record. Checking prior clients’ ratings and reviews will give you a good indication of quality of services and if patients feel well taken care of. Finally, full cost disclosure upfront is another element that adds to the agency’s professionalism.
Another less specific but still very important factor to consider is generally how comfortable you feel with agency staff. You will be working with them for many months ahead on a journey that comes with ups and downs - it helps to know they’ll be able to meet your needs. Have a set of questions ready to ask at your first appointment: their answers will give you an indication if the agency is a good fit for you. The GoStork article, How to Choose a Surrogacy Agency can help you out as you prepare for your first consultation.
In the end, deciding which agency is best for you will depend on the information you gather from research and interviews. I’ve been through the surrogacy journey myself and am so grateful for my daughter Ariel – who just turned two! That said, after experiencing how difficult and time consuming the research and decision-making process was, I decided to create GoStork, the only place where intended parents can find, compare and connect directly with top surrogacy agencies across the US. We’re proud to have Patriot Conceptions as one of our amazing partner providers!
Whether or not to enlist the services of a surrogacy agency is, ultimately, a personal decision. That said, we believe that support during the surrogacy journey is important. A surrogacy agency provides you with a trusted go-to team to assist you every step of the way - legally, medically, and even emotionally. As a fellow intended parent, I wish you the best of luck as you start your journey!
About Eran Amir
With more than 20 years of experience in technology and management, Eran Amir has worked as a software development executive and product management executive for companies in Israel and the Greater New York Area. He also served as a major in the Israeli Defense Forces for five years, which refined and enhanced his leadership, strategy, and communication skills.
The development of GoStork combines his talents in technology and management with a personal mission. After undergoing a long, difficult, and costly process to expand his own family via surrogacy, 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, Ariel, as its co-founder.