Agency vs. independent surrogacy journeys

This morning I noticed that in one of my comments, Scarred Bellybutton left me a link to a blog article* about independent surrogates vs. agency surrogates also asked about my thoughts on agencies.

I hated it. There's just no nice way to say it. The title is Surrogacy Agency Misconceptions: Why Some Surrogates "Go Independent." Though the title says "some surrogates," the text of the article is written in such a manner that it seems to apply to "all or most" surrogates who chose to work independently. It was skewed and cast independent surrogates in a negative light. A heavy implication given was that agency surrogates are of higher quality than independent surrogates, because independent surrogates 1.) are trying to cut corners around screening procedures, 2.) can ask for retainer fees (which in and of itself has an underlying connotation that indy surrogates are more motivated by money), and 3.) do not want to take the time to complete the lengthy application and profile packets that are required when seeking acceptance to an agency. I think that someone who didn't know any better could read article and be under the impression that independent = high chance of a bad journey and agency = high chance of a good journey.

Before I continue, here are some basic facts about the article writer – she is a GSx2 to two sets of twins (both independent matches, believe it or not), a former agency owner, is and outspoken supporter of infertility awareness and education, and her current blog, Surrogacy 101, provides extensive information about many intricate aspects of surrogacy arrangements.

I don't read her blog regularly but when I do, I have always been impressed with the information she provides prospective intended parents and surrogates. This morning, I was honestly quite shocked to read such a lopsided article, especially when it was presented as "objective" information.

I commented to her article, and to her credit she emailed shortly thereafter to say that I raised some valid points and to ask to use my comment as a standalone post on her blog. Also to her credit, I can somewhat understand the point that she was trying to make. There are some women who call themselves surrogates who choose not to work with agencies because they (the "surrogates") have a greater chance of taking advantage of unwitting prospective intended parents. However, this is a small fragment of the population of women who present themselves as surrogates. Also, the article did not provide a balanced view – there are also agencies out there that are run by inexperienced owners who seek to take advantage of intended parents. A small number agencies have been responsible for mishandling intended parents' funds. I know some couples who have lost thousands of dollars to irresponsible agencies. But – this is a small, minute fragment of surrogacy agencies. Most agencies, as well as most independent surrogates, are involved in surrogacy for all the right reasons and do not seek to cheat the intended parents they work with.

Here is my complete response posted to the article, which summarizes my personal view on the agency vs. independent journey question:

Hi Sharon. I'm a GS who has delivered one surro-child, but I've been
in a total of four independent surrogacy arrangements, to include the
one I am currently in.

While the reasons you've presented for not working with an agency
are valid for *some* independent surrogates, in my experience those
aren't all, or even the main reasons why those of us who go indy choose
to.

For me personally, there is a greater sense of control working
independently. I am free to navigate the course of my journey without a
third party providing me with a limited range of options. I don't have
to wait for someone to get back to me or determine when prospective
intended parents and I are "ready" to receive each other's contact
information. I like the fact that I can set my own pace.

Not all surrogates who work independently are trying to cut corners.
With all due respect, a heavy implication in your article is that
independent surrogates are of lower quality than agency surrogates
*and* that all agencies will guarantee working with a quality
surrogate. This is not necessarily true. I've seen many agency
arrangements, as well as indy arrangements not end well with both the
surrogates and IPs feeling a bit underwhelmed with the journey.

The bottom line is that whether working independently or with an
agency, both surrogates and intended parents need to follow their gut
instincts about the people they choose to work with. I've seen many
wonderful independent surrogacy arrangements, including each of my own.
There are many merits to working with an agency just as there are many
merits to working independently. The route that will be "of more
benefit" to a surrogate or intended parent is really a matter of
personality and individual fit, and I don't think going one route or
the other is more "right" than the other. What matters is what's
"right" for the individual.

I was also interested to hear what other surrogates and intended parents thought of the article. I posted a thread on SMO and included a poll to examine whether most independent surrogates really did end up with rotten journeys. I didn't believe this to be the case, but I didn't want to assume, either. If you're interested, the thread is here. Surrogates and intended parents who've had independent and agency arrangements chimed in. Many interesting views on the topic were shared, especially from those who started out on one track then switched gears and felt more comfortable on the other. It perfectly underlines what I stated above:

The route that will be "of more
benefit" to a surrogate or intended parent is really a matter of
personality and individual fit, and I don't think going one route or
the other is more "right" than the other. What matters is what's
"right" for the individual.

I welcome all questions and/or comments, so whether here on the blog or in email, ask away!

******

I previously explored the major pros and cons of agency and indy journeys here: Look before you leap.

*Special thanks to k77 of Scarred Bellybutton for bringing this article to my attention!

13 Comments

  1. Heather on October 15, 2008 at 2:43 am

    OMG thank you for posting this! I was just finishing my paperwork to join Surrogacy Consultants of Florida. Apparently this woman in the article owns that agency. After seeing this I will not be sending any of it in. These are not the kind of people I want to work with at all. I’ll be damned if I join forces with an agency who looks down their noses at women wanting to help people in anyway they can.



  2. Kate on October 15, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I just completed my first surrogacy journey by delivering a healthy baby girl for her parents two weeks ago. We had an independent arrangement which worked beautifully for us. I actually got denied by 2 agencies because of some of my beliefs. I would not reduce or terminate and I needed to find IPs who believed the same way. I realize I’m lucky, as not all arrangements work out so nicely.



  3. niobe on October 15, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Mmmm…we used an agency to set up our current surrogacy match, but are thinking of going independent for a second one. It’s a difficult choice, but I think it might be a little easier for those who (unlike me) trust their instincts and are good at evaluating whether they would be able to work with someone or whether they or their expectations are just too far apart.



  4. Sharon LaMothe on October 15, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Hello Moxie!
    Thank you for your comments on your blog and mine. I didn’t feel the need to post until I read that someone had paperwork from Surrogacy Consultants of Florida! I have no idea who that is but SCF hasn’t been taking new applications or clients since July of 2006! We have no website and the only reason the “doors” are still open is because we were completing the surrogacy journeys started before we decided to close our company. Our last surrogate will give birth to twins in Dec. of this year. My main work in the Third Party Reproduction field is Community Outreach and Education where my site, http://www.InfertilityAnswers.org has won the 2008 SMART ART nomination for best outreach program. (one of 4 this year!) People who visit my blog, Surrogacy 101 will find under the category of Surrogacy that I have more then this ‘biased opinion’ regarding Independent Surrogacy….
    Thank you again for your comments on my blog!
    Sharon LaMothe
    Infertility Answers, Inc.



  5. Elizabeth on October 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    We initially chose to go indy because of cost savings as far as not having to pay the agency retainer. The more we thought about it, though, the more we agreed that matching independently was more in line with our personalities. We had no problems doing the leg work on lining up attorneys, appointments, looking for our match, etc. We like having that control and have never regretted not paying for an agency’s “expertise” and coordination. It did help that we matched with a GC who had completed a previous journey.



  6. Heather on October 15, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Yep, my bad the one I am applying with is Little Blessings Surrogacy Consultants.



  7. My Reality on October 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    If I were going to consider the road of surrogacy personally, I would want a surrogate who was just like you. It wouldn’t matter where I found her, be it independently or through an agency. You are doing this for the right reasons, and you develop such a bond with your IP’s. I don’t think it matters how you find your surrogate and I think all of your IP’s are lucky to have crossed paths with you.



  8. Mary C :) on October 15, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I am a 2X GS who attempted surrogacy on my own through websites, etc. I thought since I was a paralegal I could handle it on my own. But, I quickly found out that I was going down a road that I knew nothing about. I for one appreciate the knowledge and support that comes from using an agency. When I filled out the application and read the questions that were incorporated in it, I realized then that there was a lot to surrogacy that I would have never been able to figure out on my own. Even now, after becoming a second time surrogate there are many times that I rely strongly on my agency’s (SCF) support and only a GOOD agency will provide that. A good agency like SCF will keep up with laws and procedures so that they can advise their clients – both intended parents and surrogates equally.
    I personally believe that if it wasn’t for my agency (SCF) I would have lost my mind a long time ago. But, just like everything many decisions involved in becoming a surrogate like choosing to use an agency, selective reduction, race or religion of intended parents is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer. Just do your research and make a decision that works for you.



  9. Jasvin on December 13, 2008 at 1:16 am

    How can I find one independent surrogate??



  10. Diana on January 15, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    I have been looking into doing this for years and I have found that alot of agencys have turned me down because I am adopted. I have had 3 children and all are very healthy and I dont understand why me being adopted has to factor into things when I am planing on being a gestational surrogate. I have looked into all forms of this and now I am going completely indy. Now all I am haveing trouble with is finding out where I can look for IP’s I dont have any problems with religon, same sex, single, or couples. I will be carring their child. I mean the same thing would be true if they carried the child themselves right. I just want to give someone the chance to have what I have in being a parent. If anyone has any advice they can give me it would be great. You can email me at diana_at_rens@yahoo.com
    Thank you



  11. Diana on January 15, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I am looking to become a surrogate you can find out more information from me at diana_at_rens@yahoo.com



  12. Maggie on July 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Hi,
    I just stumbled across the post and I want to state that some of us do not have any agencies willing to work with us. I am unfortunate enough to live in the state of New York, which grants me the great distinction of having any compensated surrogacy declared illegal. Therefore, most agencies don’t want me as a surrogate (understandably) so I must go independent.
    Thanks for looking out for all of us,
    Maggie



  13. wawa on September 10, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Hi, Niobe
    We looking for surrogate mother .
    How I get start?