By Carmela Cancino

One of the first questions that a potential surrogate must answer is whether or not she will be working with an agency to find her match. I started my surrogacy journey with an agency that, in my opinion, threw up too many red flags and tried to take advantage of me. After making an extremely hard decision, I decided to walk away from my match and my agency, having learned a hard lesson. An agency can be your best friend, but only if you pick the right one.

Incidentally, I ended up going “indy” or searching for and matching on my own for my surrogacy. I was fortunate enough to meet a sweet couple and our journey went about as smoothly as one could. That’s not to say that all independent journeys are so. Agency or not, if the right steps are not taken and the time to get to really know one another and talk through important issues isn’t spent, things can still go awry. However, there are some advantages to having a good agency on your side.

For any person considering surrogacy, I would recommend several hours of research and the asking of many questions. Your contact at an agency can help guide you and walk you through these steps and take you through different scenarios that you may not have thought about on your own. It’s my opinion that you should always, always, always have psychological and background checks for all parties (potential surrogates and intended parents or “IPs”) and some of those questions will be discussed in the screenings. However, an agency can help pinpoint specific areas which will make or break a good match. Concrete things like compensation amounts, home or hospital birth and termination are significant items for discussion. These issues are not always so easy to discuss and either party may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed for bringing them up. It is imperative that they be discussed and that everyone is on the same page and the agency representative can help bring those items to the table so that both parties feel comfortable about discussing them.

Agencies also assist with the matching process and can help fine tune your search. I’ve searched through ad after ad and spent time responding and then feeling badly when I didn’t feel like it was a match. I’ve also spent days emailing with someone only to have them drop off the face of the Earth. It can be a bit frustrating when you are so eager to help someone only to get discouraged before you ever really get started. Usually agencies have a pool of would-be surrogates and IPs that are serious and waiting to get started. There are never any guarantees that nothing will go wrong, but I feel like the risk is greatly diminished with the use of an agency as the screening process seems to weed out some less than desirable candidates (on both sides).

Lastly, an agency can be your go-to source for the questions that pop up at 2AM (although I usually write them down and wait to call or email in the morning) and a great support system. There were many times during my journey where I didn’t know how to proceed and if I should “worry” the parents with things. Having someone to bounce those things off of would’ve been a wonderful resource (although I was fortunate enough to have a group of surrogates that knew almost all the answers to any of my questions)!

In short, an agency can prove to be a valuable asset that can streamline and help fortify the foundation for a good journey.