By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

Picture this: You want to become a surrogate. You do some research on the Internet for an agency. You’ve briefly spoken with the agency and set up a meeting. To your surprise, the meeting is at someone’s house in the basement office. Now ask yourself, is this really the type of “professional” agency you want to work with?

I have been in the surrogacy business for more than seven years and have seen some 40 babies born. This “basement agency” is a story I’ve heard many times and is one of the potential red flags that can be raised in your search.

If you know what to look for, you’ll easily spot the wrong ones and your choice will become easier. Here are a few key questions to guide you on your way.

  1. How long has the agency been in business? Are you willing to trust your surrogacy journey to a new operation with little or no track record of success? Make sure the agency has been around long enough to understand the nature of the business.
  2. Where is the agency located? Some agencies are one-person shops that work out of their homes. This is a very personal, important decision you are making. Do you really want to be meeting in someone’s basement? Or at the corner Starbucks? You’ll want to see an office or a neutral zone where you and the intended parents can meet.
  3. Are references available? Talk to the agency’s current and past surrogates and intended parents to learn about their experience, and if there were problems, how they were handled. Also talk to fertility clinics about their experiences with the agency.
  4. What are the agency’s statistics? Find out how many babies have been born from the agency’s matches, how many matches it has done, and how many current matches it has.
  5. Does the agency have staff to support current matches? The agency has to be there for you when you need it and not let you go any part of it alone. Also find out if trained professionals are on staff. Do they have backgrounds in infertility? Also, make sure the agency’s psych and legal referrals are well versed in this area. You do not want to be working with a real estate attorney, but rather someone who specializes in reproductive law.
  6. What is the interview process like? Make sure the agency interviews you as much as you interview them. The entire process should be explained, from medical procedures to psychological exams to what to do after the baby is born. Agencies will want to review your health records and social history. Be aware that there are times the surrogacy may be delayed, due to divorce or a death for example. A good agency will take notice of this and ask you to take some time before making a commitment.

Five years down the road, the physical aspects of surrogacy – the morning sickness and labor pains – will have faded. But the emotional consequences, the joy of giving someone a baby, can be long-lasting if you are prepared. The right agency is a key part of that process.