For Intended Parents - Frequently Asked Questions
- How do you screen your surrogates?
- How do you match couples and surrogates?
- Why Texas?
- Why should we work with SSA?
- What is the advantage of working with SSA rather than an independent arrangement?
- How long does it take to be matched?
- What are our chances of success?
- Which doctor has the best statistics for success?
- What is our first step?
1. How do you screen your surrogates?
All SSA surrogates undergo an extensive multi-level screening based on both objective and subjective standards to meet our proprietary criteria developed over many years of experience. This includes a phone screening, application process, clinical interview, an MMPI-2* psychological assessment, civil/criminal background check on both the surrogate and her husband, if married, and (unlike almost all other agencies) a home visit by our home visit counselor. Surrogates are evaluated on factors such as emotional stability, life stability, available support systems and proper motivation.
2. How do you match couples and surrogates?
Based on your application, counseling session, and interview, your counselor will match you with a surrogate who has the same philosophies/values and compatible personality. Once matched you will meet with the surrogate in a mediated meeting at one of the SSA offices. At that time, all issues of the arrangement are discussed and the counselor makes sure that everyone is in agreement and that it is a good match. These meetings are usually held on Friday afternoons. To assure that no one feels pressured at the moment, the counselor asks everyone to go home, think about it over the weekend, and call back on Monday to decide whether to proceed with the arrangement. We then complete the background checks for the surrogate and her husband, if married, and provide a home visit and a report on the visit. Then the contract process begins.
3. Why Texas?
Texas is the best jurisdiction in the U.S. for couples interested in third party assisted reproduction. With the most progressive parentage legislation of any state, court-approved "gestational agreements" between intended parents and their gestational mothers (surrogates) are valid and enforceable in Texas. See Legal Process and Legal Aspects of Assisted Reproduction in Texas. Although you do not have to work with a surrogate from Texas, if you are not a Texas resident, we urge you to consider the benefits of choosing a Texas surrogate.
4. Why should we work with SSA?
Experienced Professionals. Established in 1993, we are the oldest and most experienced third party reproduction agency in Texas and the southwest, and we are among the oldest agencies in the nation. We have developed an outstanding reputation over many years and can provide references from top physicians in the field. Unlike many agencies, we have licensed mental health providers and attorneys on staff. When considering other agencies, please be aware of the credentials of the staff. Ask yourself if these are individuals that you would trust your money to in any other situation, and more importantly, your potential child. SSA offers you the comfort and security of knowing that professionals will be handling your arrangement. Members of our staff are leaders in the field of infertility, speaking and publishing at national forums and publications on infertility matters. We caution you against agencies without an established track record or without professional staff - many are here today and gone tomorrow. The health and safety of your future child is too important to trust to amateurs.
Convenience. We know that infertility is extremely stressful and time consuming. At SSA, we offer a unified program to simplify your life. No running around or being referred out to counselors or attorneys with multiple appointments and repeating your situation, also there are no problems with inter-office coordination. With the exception of medical, everything from counseling to legal can be handled in our offices and we take care of all the details of your arrangement.
Extensive Screening. All surrogates in the SSA program undergo an extensive multi-level screening based on both objective and subjective standards. Our proprietary screening process has been developed over more than a decade and gives us unique insight into surrogacy.
Protected Relationship. In an independent arrangement, you must raise all the issues directly with your surrogate. This can lead to tense times, hurt feelings, and a damaged relationship. In an SSA arrangement, you have the advantage of having a trained mediator who can discretely raise and resolve issues without damaging your relationship. Your counselor also acts as a neutral "sounding board" for both you and your surrogate to help avoid misunderstandings and lead to a more enjoyable arrangement for everyone.
Personalized Matching. Your counselor will attempt to match you with a surrogate based on personality and beliefs, to give you the most enjoyable experience possible in expanding your family.
Case Management. The committment and involvement of many agencies ends once they have matched you with a surrogate. SSA offers case management throughout your arrangement. We offer support group meetings for your surrogate. We contact the hospital in the last trimester of your pregnancy and discuss the details of your arrangement with the social worker of the hospital, so that when it is time for your baby(ies) to be born, all you have to worry about is making sure you have the right car seat(s).
Health Insurance. Depending on your health insurance plan, the portion of our fees relating to counseling may be reimbursable because they are provided by a licensed mental health professional.
Easy Access. Houston is the home of our corporate office, and offers non-stop or direct flights to more than 110 U.S. markets and to 40 foreign destinations. Our offices are conveniently located to both George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport. With a mild climate, Houston is one of 5 U.S. cities that offer world-class, year-round performing and visual arts, including symphony, opera, drama and ballet. Our offices are minutes from the Galleria Mall, renowned for its shopping experience. For our non-U.S. clients, with 78 foreign consulates Houston consistently ranks as one of the top 5 cities in the U.S. in the number of consular offices. For convenience, we also have offices located in Dallas and Atlanta, with immediate plans for future offices.
Making Happy Endings™. Our motto is "Making Happy Endings" and we strive for this in each and every arrangement. Due to our rigorous screening process, we have never had a surrogate change her mind or attempt to exercise any parental rights over a child.
5. What is the advantage of working with SSA rather than an independent arrangement?
Finding and screening a qualified surrogate on your own is time consuming. SSA handles all the details of your arrangement, including advertising, screening, background checks by an independent licensed private investigator and fact verification. In an independent arrangement, if your surrogate decides to work with another couple or changes her mind, you may be out thousands of dollars for fees paid to psychologists and attorneys. And you can repeat this process any number of times. With SSA, you have the comfort of knowing that if your surrogate changes her mind we will rematch you at no additional cost. It is also worth noting that many surrogates offering independent arrangements are doing so because they do not meet the criteria set by reputable agencies. And those that would otherwise qualify with an agency often ask for a significant premium over the industry standard compensation package. When you add up all the costs that you will incur in an independent arrangement and the time that you will spend, we believe you will conclude that SSA is the better choice. However, if you choose to work in an independent arrangement, SSA also offers legal and counseling services for independent arrangements.
6. How long does it take to be matched?
The length of time is difficult to predict because it will vary widely depending on the circumstances. Some couples are matched as quickly as 2-3 weeks. We have some surrogates waiting to be matched, but this does not mean that they are going to be the appropriate match for you. The matching process should not be rushed and we tell couples to be prepared for up to 6-8 months before a match is completed. Many agencies will tell you that they can match you immediately. That is because they are small agencies, and you are likely their only client and the surrogate is their only surrogate. It may also be that their criteria for acceptance are much lower than ours. An appropriate match is one of the most important aspects of a happy arrangement. Isn't the right match worth the wait?
7. What are our chances of success?
Since we have never had a surrogate change her mind and fight to keep the baby, SSA has a 100% success rate. We cannot quote pregnancy success rates because we do not provide medical treatment. The relevant success rates for you will depend on many factors. For example, the age of the eggs and the particular infertility issue are always important. An arrangement using donor eggs generally has a higher chance of success because the average donor is relatively young and has no history of infertility. However, statistics will vary from case to case and doctor to doctor. This is a question best discussed with your IVF physician.
8. Which doctor has the best statistics for success?
This is a difficult question to answer. Statistics will vary with each doctor according to his/her practice. Some doctors will work with all couples while others choose not to work with patients over a certain age or with certain medical conditions. This alone can skew statistics. It is best to work with a doctor with whom you feel comfortable and who is experienced with your particular infertility issues and third party reproduction. For surrogate arrangements, SSA will work with your referring doctor if he/she is willing to participate in a third party arrangement. If you are coming without a doctor referral, SSA can provide references to several IVF specialists with whom we have worked and have the utmost confidence.
9. Can we use the surrogate's insurance.
Insurance companies and their polices can vary widely. Many agencies do not look into the surrogate's insurance thoroughly and just make the reccommendation that you use her insurance if she has it. The problem with this approach is that many insurance policies have exclusions against surrogacy pregnancies. Or, they may have other language that could put your surrogate's medical care at risk. If this is the case, you could be at great financial risk, and/or your surrogate could be at risk of not receiving the best medical care. At SSA, we will assist you and your surrogate in deciding if her insurance is an "at risk" policy. If she is uninsured, or her policy will not cover, we recommend that you use the Lloyd's of London Policy. Although this does make your arrangement a little more costly up front, it may save you much financial and medical heartache down the road. We will assist you in getting that set up.
10. What is our first step?
Your first step depends on your situation. If surrogacy is your only option (for example, a hysterectomy), then your first step is a consultation with SSA. Your second step is either a consultation with your IVF physician or a meeting with the surrogate with whom you will be working, depending on your preference. If you are not sure that surrogacy is the appropriate choice for you medically, then you should first have a consultation with your doctor. SSA also provides counseling on an hourly basis for helping you work through your decision as to which option is best for you and your family and dealing with the emotional issues involved in infertility.
Because the MMPI-2 instrument is relevant to a range of contemporary applications, it is the most widely used and widely researched test of adult psychopathology. The MMPI-2 has proven to be an effective, efficient diagnostic tool for over 20 years. The test offers eight validity scales and 10 clinical scales. The test is based on 567 true/false questions. It takes approximately two hours to complete.
When completing the MMPI-2, surrogates must do so in our office, or under the supervision of a proctor. We have heard stories of agencies mailing out the MMPI, or allowing surrogates to complete it unsupervised. In this case, the test is not valid.