Ralph M. Tsong
How to Find the Right Agency as an Intended Parent
Updated: May 8
If you are venturing into surrogacy, one of the first steps is to find the right agency as an intended parent for a smooth process. Agencies play an important role in the surrogacy process. First, they can help you find the right professionals, such as the right clinic, attorney, insurance broker, and psychotherapist. Second, they find a surrogate for you and facilitate the match process by providing the match terms and coming to a handshake agreement prior to legal contracts. After legal contracts are signed, they will monitor the journey and help iron out issues that may arise during the surrogacy process. They offer a first point of contact and information for you to navigate a complex and unfamiliar practice. With the agency’s knowledge and experience, you, as an intended parentare able to maintain your regular lifestyle while preparing for the arrival of your child.
In this article, we discuss tips on choosing the right agency for you.
1. WARNING SIGNS
As attorneys for many intended parents, we are often asked what are the red flags about agencies. One would be lack of a corporate structure or identity. When you receive an agency agreement, the agency name is listed, and it should identify is a corporation or limited liability company. Corporations and limited liability companies are registered to do business in a state. If they are not registered under the secretary of state of their state under the name of the company, then must be registered as a fictitious business name in the county. If neither shows up, then that’s reason for concern. If there is a dispute with the company down the line, you need to know who you have contracted with.
Another warning sign is if the agency does not allow you to choose your own ART attorney. The choice of your own attorney is important. Your own attorney is independent and represents you, he or she should not be receiving a separate payment from the agency or otherwise serving as an attorney for the agency, as this is a potential conflict of interest. Some agencies will allow you to choose your attorney but include a prepayment for their own attorney in your agency fees. This is effectively the same thing as not giving you a choice because it makes you pay a second time for outside counsel. If you don’t have an attorney, the agency should provide multiple names for potential attorneys and you should be able to research and determine their qualifications or bring your own lawyer who is qualified to draft the contract.
A third red flag is if the agency themselves that hold the funds for the journey. In California, escrow is required to be held by a third party other than the agency. Other states may not have this requirement, however, in the event of a dispute between you and the surrogate, problems may arise when the agency, who is your agent, is holding escrow. There have also been cases in which an agency is not holding escrow properly and then disappears or collapses, leaving multiple families in the lurch. While lawyers can be subject to discipline, and escrow companies have bonds that can protect in the event of losses, agencies do not have these protections.
2. AGENCY QUALIFICATIONS
With the red flags out of the way, you now need to distinguish between qualified agencies. When you are interviewing an agency, you will want to know about history and experience, matching time, agency fee and the structure of fee (including rematches and refunds), duration of the agency service agreement and the price for extending that time, and references.
After your interview, you will want to review the agency agreement. You can ask your lawyer to review it with you. The lawyer can comment on their knowledge and experience with the agency.
The agency should provide references of intended parents, former surrogates, professionals in the industry. It is also important to make sure your agency has a track record of successful journeys. Note that there will always be newer agencies which may still be trustworthy, at a minimum these agencies should be run by people with experience working at an agency or having been through multiple journeys.
3. DOES SIZE MATTER?
Surrogacy agencies range from a single person to large companies with multiple locations. While a larger size agency might be more established and have a lot of resources, a small agency can have benefits too such as fewer intended parents competing for surrogates.
You will want to find out about the recruitment and screening processes of the agencies. Usually, the best agencies take into account factors such as your personality, expectations for the journey, and the level of communication desired.
It is also essential that an agency’s staff have good experience and a rapport with you because they will be the one who manage your case and should be looking out for your best interests. Be sure to review what services the agency offers; some surrogacy agencies offer limited services after the match, which means they might facilitate the matchmaking between surrogates and intended parents, but will charge extra or won’t normally assist with the appointments of the surrogate.
4. THE OPINIONS OF THIRD PARTIES
Be careful of agencies whose packages seem too good to be true. Third parties such as lawyers, doctors, and former intended parents can be extremely helpful to get a first-hand account of the agency. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak with someone who has worked with the agency before. At the very least, an agency should provide you with the opportunity to read or watch testimonials from past intended parents and surrogates. A positive indication for an agency is that they are in professional industry groups like SEEDS, ASRM, Resolve, and Men Having Babies. You can go one further and contact the organization to see if they are an active member, or just paying dues for the membership affiliation.
At the end of the day, you should research multiple agencies online, talk with trusted professionals, and interview potential agencies to find the best fit. The final decision of your agency is just the start of a long journey towards parenthood.
Contact us a surrogacy lawyer now for more information.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon without additional research or consulting an attorney. This article is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with the reader.