Hi Marina, I'm assuming you are an Intended Mother? As a former Intended Mother and now a surrogacy/egg donor agency co-owner for 17 years, i will tell you the questions that i think are important for an IP to ask when interviewing agencies:
- What is the overall cost of the surrogacy journey? (in general, you should hear the same answer from every agency ... because pretty much all of the factors that go into a surrogacy are relatively standard fees - the surrogate's fees, legal fees, health insurance costs, escrow fee, psych eval, IVF costs, egg donor costs (if needed), agency fee. The main difference will likely be the agency fee.. but in this area, you really get what you pay for. It doesn't mean you have to go with the highest charging agency, but my guess is the lowest charging agency doesn't have much experience or is just a matching service. Sure, fees will vary state to state for surrogates, legal and health insurance and overall you need to assume about a $30,000 range from high to low because you don't know how the pregnancy will go or how many tries it will take to get pregnant, but the 'fees' themselves are pretty standard across the board.
- How long will it take me to match? Make sure you are real specific about this.. and have this in your contract (if it is important to you). For instance, there are some agencies that match pretty quickly (like us - we tell IPs anywhere from 2 - 6 months generally and a lot of this is based on which RE they are using and how long it takes them to review a potential surrogate's medical records). Other agencies will be honest and tell you that it takes them 9-12 months or longer.. and i think that's great that they are being honest (and typically they charge less or get in lower cost surrogates). But i can't tell you how many upset IPs we get who have already signed with one agency and were told that they would be matched within 6 months, time comes and passes and nothing is happening, they sign with us (yes, paying 2 agency fees) and we match them immediately and they are on their way.
- Who holds YOUR money?? I think this is critical. While i know that some agencies will hold escrow for you.. this makes me, as a former IP, very uncomfortable. I think it is very important to have an OUTSIDE escrow company hold your money. We have IPs pay us our agency fee directly, they pay their atty directly, clinic directly. We oversee all payments out of escrow but we notify IPs everytime a payment is made and what it is for. So, in addition, HOW DO I KNOW HOW MY MONEY IS BEING SPENT?
- Where do your surrogates come from? How do you find them? Most of our surrogates are from referrals from other surrogates... i think this says a lot about us as an agency.
- Does the agency encourage that you buy gifts for your surrogate? This really bugs me. Having gone through this myself and now obviously being part of more than 1000 journeys, the surrogates we work for are not in this for 'gifts'. However, many agencies will tell you to buy, buy, buy! If you're getting that message, something is wrong. The journey is one you take together, i know for a fact that it is more meaningful for a surrogate to receive a handwritten letter or email telling them how grateful you are, and how much this is changing your life, etc.
- Have the agency tell you THE BAD THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED and how they have dealt with them.. It's easy to have a picture perfect surrogacy and we all hope for that. But when you really need an agency is for any bumps in the road, whether small or large... from miscommunication to a miscarriage, etc. You want an agency that will be there when it counts!! This is very critical!!
- And finally, you want an agency that is transparent, communicative, that will be there when you need them.
i hope this helps!!! Lauri de Brito, Agency for Surrogacy Solutions, Inc.