Finding a Surrogate
A variety of ways exist for locating a surrogate or gestational carrier. Learning about each option will allow you to make the best choice for you and your assisted reproductive technology journey:
Friends and Family
- Some intended parents reach out to friends and relatives as one method of locating a surrogate. Usually this is done just by sharing openly the desire to find a surrogate including via social media or an annual holiday card. Often, if a friend or family member comes forward, the arrangement will be a compassionate or quasi-compassionate arrangement which means that the intended parents will benefit by not having to pay as much money to the surrogate. The intended parents also may avoid the cost of paying a hefty surrogacy program fee.
- There are advantages and disadvantages when choosing a friend or family member to be the surrogate. Because the surrogate is known, and the relationship is already friendly, many times the parties are reluctant to adhere to the usual safeguards and requirements especially the psychological clearances and counseling sessions. However, it is critical in these arrangements that the same protocols are followed to ensure a positive relationship and define the roles and expectations of all involved. Discussions with the fertility specialists, mental health professionals, and lawyers can illuminate sensitive topics, such as future contact with the child, pregnancy termination, and other issues that may arise during the arrangement.
- The internet is filled with online search sites, chat rooms, and advertisements from gestational carrier candidates who are individually marketing themselves to intended parents. Also, there are a growing number of websites where intended parents can post their profiles for consideration by prospective surrogates. This can be an effective way of locating a surrogate, as the internet significantly increases the number of potential candidates that intended parents may consider and expands the geographical scope of the search. Intended parents also can use social media, local and college newspapers, and other means to locate a surrogate on their own.
- The primary advantage to using the independent search route is that intended parents can avoid the cost of paying a surrogacy program to match them. However, careful scrutiny of any prospective candidates is paramount, and intended parents should utilize professionals to assist in the following: background checks, mental health screening, medical evaluation and clearance, group counseling, and health insurance review. Retaining separate, qualified attorneys for both the surrogate and the intended parents early in the process, and involving a fertility clinic, can ensure that all prerequisites and safeguards are met.
- Note that sometimes a surrogate will present a contract that she may have found on the internet or perhaps used in a previous arrangement; this should not be used in the new arrangement. Laws vary widely from state-to-state, and change rapidly in this area of law; attempting to use such a document will inevitably cause problems. It may also be a violation of copyright law.
Some attorneys run Surrogacy/Coordinating Programs (which are addressed below), some provide matching services within their law practice, and others assist with the independent search process by providing guidance and coordination to ensure all prerequisites and safeguards are met. It is important to research the attorney and make sure they are experienced in this area of law and know of and adhere to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommendations and guidelines. The Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) Fellows who practice assisted reproductive technology law are regularly trained and updated at our mandatory conferences in the latest legal and medical best practices. To find such an attorney near you, search our Attorney Directory.
Some fertility clinics offer surrogate matching services as part of their medical practices. It is best to work with those that are members of and adhere to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommendations and guidelines, as they will engage in all of the proper protocols for medical and mental health screening, group counseling, background checks, separate independent legal representation, and the other recommended prerequisites.
Surrogacy Programs (also called Coordinating Programs)
- Surrogacy/Coordinating Programs may sometimes refer to themselves as “surrogacy agencies,” but unlike licensed adoption agencies, there is no licensing system in place for surrogacy programs. In some states, surrogacy brokers or programs are even prohibited; therefore, it is important to be careful when selecting a surrogacy program.
- Some surrogacy programs are members of and follow the recommendations of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) which has the most up-to-date protocols for matching while others are not as familiar or do not comply with such standards. Some programs are very familiar with legal requirements while others are not familiar with the legal specifics from every state from which they recruit surrogates or carriers. This can lead to inaccurate or confusing information about how an arrangement actually will proceed. For example, a surrogate may be promised “compensation” or “lost wages” despite living in a state that does not allow for any payments to be so characterized. This also means that the one-size-fits-all “fee sheets” prepared by some programs may not adhere to the individual laws of all states involved in the arrangement. Moreover, intended parents may be promised that they can obtain a “pre-birth order,” when some states do not allow for legal parentage to be established until after a child is born.
- Surrogacy programs that are owned by or work closely with attorneys typically are more familiar with and adhere to all applicable laws. Before signing up with a program, intended parents and surrogates ideally should first consider speaking with an attorney, so that they understand the specific laws that could affect the arrangement.
- One advantage of working with a surrogacy program is that many will aggressively recruit surrogates so that there is a larger and more diverse pool of surrogates from which to choose. However, a disadvantage of using a surrogacy program is the cost charged for their recruitment and screening services. Before retaining any surrogacy program, it is important to thoroughly research the program in order to understand:
- Total fees and when they are due, and the refund policy, if any
- Exactly what services will be provided
- What type of screening has been done of the surrogate and by whom
- How long it might take to match with a surrogate
- What support the program provides to the intended parent(s) and the surrogate throughout the process and whether separate representatives within the program will be provided to each
No matter how you find a surrogate, it is important to find an experienced surrogacy attorney and find them early in the process. Find an attorney in our directory.