Who can become a parent through US surrogacy?
A broad range of people can become parents through US surrogacy, regardless of family type. US law focuses on who intends to be a parent, rather than on gender, relationship/ marital status, sexual orientation or whether the parents are conceiving with the help of donated eggs or sperm (or both). This enables legal parenthood to go to the intended parent/s from the outset in most cases. However, the law on parenthood does vary from state to state, so for those in exceptional situations getting early advice from a US attorney about which states are more or less feasible is sensible.
Screening for intended parents varies according to the clinic and agency (for example in relation to maximum age), but generally checks are light touch and designed to ensure that the intended parents are safe to work with a surrogate, as well as financially and emotionally ready to engage in the surrogacy process.
Background checks and criminal records
Government agency background checks will normally be carried out. For parents living in the UK this will typically mean obtaining a DBS criminal record check; those living overseas will need equivalent police checks.
Most US surrogacy agencies (and fertility clinics) will not work with intended parents who have past criminal convictions, especially if these involve offences in relation to children. Criminal convictions can also cause difficulties in respect of US immigration so may prevent intended parents travelling to the US for fertility treatment or the birth of their child.
A psychological assessment helps to ensure that intended parents are prepared to manage the challenges and emotions of a surrogacy journey. Some agencies and fertility clinics have a mental health professional as part of their team while others work with independent professionals to undertake a light touch assessment or offer it as an option.
During any assessment or consultation, intended parents will be asked to consider how they might cope with a loss or failed transfer, how they will communicate with and support their surrogate, how they will support one another, how they will share their plans with friends, family members and work colleagues, and in the longer term how they will talk to their child about having been born with the help of a surrogate (and egg or sperm donor if there was one). The main aim is to ensure that intended parents are fully educated on what to expect throughout their journey and beyond. If there are concerns about the intended parents that could impact on their surrogacy journey, additional steps may be required before they can proceed, such as additional counselling sessions or a formal clearance letter from a therapist.
Exploring preferences and expectations
Intended parents’ preferences and expectations are also carefully explored by the US surrogacy agency as part of the initial stages. Parents typically complete an initial application form with detailed information about them, their family and their reasons for choosing surrogacy, and this will be discussed with them. Discussions will typically include:
- Embryo creation – have embryos already been created, and if not will they be created using the intended parents’ gametes or with the help of an egg and/or sperm donor?
- Relationship with the surrogate – what hopes and expectations do the intended parents have for contact with their surrogate during their surrogacy journey and after delivery?
- Support – what emotional and physical support do the intended parents expect to have (from their agency and others) throughout their surrogacy journey?
- Surrogate preferences – what are the intended parents looking for in a surrogate, including location, personality, communication style and so on?
Getting to know the intended parents helps the agency ascertain their expectations and requirements and serves as a starting point to planning the intended parents’ surrogacy journey, as well as to create a profile document which will eventually be shared with potential surrogates.
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Surrogate screening and motivations in the USA
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