Find the Best Surrogacy Agency
IVF clinics and surrogacy agencies work closely together, and often have exclusive relationships. That said, it is usually easier to find your agency first, and then narrow the search based on the clinic he recommends. Agents’ business depends on their being visible through Google and across the Web. They often can be found through online advertising (even though advertising for surrogacy services is prohibited in many countries).
To find available agencies, you should begin your search online. However do not judge an agent’s abilities or reliability based solely on their web presence. The Internet has become a popular marketing tool for many businesses… but often the agencies most skilled in online marketing are the same ones whose first goal is different from your own. Use Google to make your “long list” of agents, and then trim that list with research in forums, social communities, and personal contacts. Do not assume the largest agencies will represent you the best.
Not all agencies are equal. Once you have a short list of agencies, you should do some quick research to select the one that is reliable, well respected, and “feels right” to you personally. Check out the online forums and see what other Intended Parents have said. Find out about the clinic that they work with, and how respected it is. Ask to speak with former clients.
Finally, have a face-to-face chat with the agent so you can get a feeling of how it will be to work together. Remember, surrogacy is a long and very personal procedure, and you want to work with someone you can be comfortable with and who will understand your personal situation. Find an agent who you feel confident is most interested in your success, and less in developing business for their partner clinic.
Some Red Flags about Surrogacy Agencies
Your surrogacy agent will be critical to your successful program. He not only helps you navigate the medical and legal challenges, but he will represent your concerns and desires to the clinic and other service providers. He needs to take time to understand you and your personal situation. It’s always smart to consider your options — as you look around, here are some questions to keep in mind…
Do they represent you, or the clinic?
Is the agency owned by a clinic or financially tied to a clinic? Agencies that are partly owned by a clinic often are more focused on the clinic’s needs than what works best for you. Although your agency must have relationships with an excellent clinics worldwide, they should be completely independent. Their focus is not making money for the doctors, but making sure your procedure is straightforward and successful.
Do they freely share important information?
Does “your agent” hold back important information until after you pay? There’s a lot of information you need to make a decision…. Some agencies won’t give you a straight answer on the important information you need unless you pay them upfront. This is a bad sign. A good agent believes that the more information you have, the more likely you are to have trust and confidence in your relationship. For example, the SENSIBLE Surrogacy Agency provides 100% consulting for you without any payment needed, for as long as you need to make your decision.
Are they Ethical?
Will the agency and their selected partners treat your surrogate well? Do they arrange housing, nursing oversight, and a 24/7 emergency medical care? Some services cut corners and expenses by sending their surrogate home to live during the pregnancy. That may be fine in the United States, but foreign surrogates often live far away from the city and have little access to the medical care, and no way to reach clinic appointments other than long rides on public buses. Plus most have small children of their own — so living at home may not be the best option (especially toward the end of the pregnancy).
Is this just a ‘job’?
Does the agency really understand your point of view and what’s important to you and your partner? Be cautious of “client managers” who are hired by clinics — they may not fully understand your concerns or desires. IVF and Surrogacy is a very personal and private matter. It’s important that the person who represents you is 100% on your side, understands your personal situation, has experience with the legal and personal obstacles you will face, and knows how important this unique opportunity is to your new family.
Please keep these points in mind when you shop around…
Do you Really Need a Surrogacy Agency?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to save money by managing your surrogacy procedure yourself and working directly with a local clinic. This is called an Independent Surrogacy journey. Many couples pursue this route, often with some success. That said, there are benefits of working with an experienced agent, especially for couples who do not have expert knowledge of assisted reproduction or immigration issues.
Benefits of a Surrogacy Agency
The obvious advantage of working with an agent is their knowledge and experience. Assisted reproduction is a dynamic medical field and there are a multitude of new techniques and options available. From PGD-Microarray techniques to DNA Fragmentation Analysis, you may not even know of the alternatives available to you to improve your chances of success. A good agent will be able to answer all your questions regarding new medical advances, and suggest alternatives that you are not aware of. If you decide not to work with an agent, you should be under the advisement of a local fertility specialist on the possible ART options to improve your probability of success.
The most tangible benefit of a surrogacy agent is that they recruit and compensate the Surrogate herself. Finding a surrogate is a far more daunting challenge than most couples realize, and agencies typically have an experienced recruiter who handles this task exclusively. If you have found a surrogate on your own, then you are likely in a better position to handle an Independent surrogacy journey. If not, you can look forward to months (or more) of a difficult search online.
A less obvious, but important advantage of your agent will be his relationships with different vendors and medical professionals. For example your egg donor is critical to your success, but if you simply choose a donor from an online catalog, you are inviting heartbreak. A good agent has personal relationships with multiple donation agencies, and can work with them personally to sift through the hundreds of profiles to find the short list of high-value donors.
A third benefit, most Surrogacy Clinics are designed and managed to work primarily with agents. They are busy places where 90% of clients are provided by agents. As such, 90% of the clinic’s resources are directed toward those agents and the clients they bring. Without someone “on the inside” to represent you, you may find it frustrating to wait for basic updates, information and medical procedures from your clinic. If you consider not using an agent, you should check online forums for the ease and general experience of other parents in dealing with your selected clinic.
Some argue that clinics have an inherent conflict of interest because they recommend procedures for which they get paid. Its not that they’re dishonest, but clinics follow standard protocols designed to suit a “typical” patient as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. Depending on the clinic, you could easily be asked to pay for expensive and unnecessary procedures. Many times clinics may overlook options that can increase your chance of success, but are outside their normal protocols.
In most countries it is likely well worth the additional cost to have an expert on your side. Whether this is a local lawyer, an agent, or a consulting physician in the country where you will have your surrogacy procedure depends on the time and energy you have to invest, as well as your personal preference.
Working with your Surrogacy Agency
Before you sign any contracts or pay any fees, your agency should walk you through the entire process, from the very first contact with the clinic to the completion of legal procedures in your home country. This conversation is part of the consulting process, but should be in advance of signing your contract. After all, the information provided in this part of the surrogacy process is crucial to making an informed decision on who will be represent you.
Your agent should be able to provide you the following, even before you sign a contract or make a payment:
- Your surrogacy agent should provide a detailed budget, including not just the clinic fees but also all likely costs you will encounter – optional or non-standard clinic procedures, emergency medical costs, travel-related costs, etc.
- Your surrogacy agent should put together a rough timeframe for the entire process depending on the specific options you choose and your preferred travel date to Thailand. This schedule may not be your final timeline (as you still have many decisions to make) but based on your desired travel date you should know approximately when major milestones will occur, and when major payments must be made.
- Your agent should be able to introduce you to critical service providers, including egg donor agencies, legal resources, medical couriers, counselors, and more. Your agent should also be able to help you find less-common services, including nanny or child care services, chauffeurs, rental apartments, and the things you need to make your travel comfortable and convenient.
- Your surrogacy agent should be able to introduce you to previous clients, or at least point you to reliable testimonials from clients who have gone through a similar journey.
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