Does Your Surrogacy Agency Conduct a Home Visit As Part of Its Screening Process?

Friend touching pregnant bellyOne thing to think about when selecting a surrogacy agency is whether, as part of its screening process, the agency pays a visit to the home of a potential surrogate, at a time when her family, and any others living there, are also present.  Some agencies do not conduct home visits as part of their screening process. In fact, some never have a physical meeting with their surrogates before matching them with Intended Parents, and interact with them and others in their lives by phone or Skype.  Some agencies do meet with their surrogates and her husband or partner face-to-face prior to matching them, but the meetings take place in the agency’s office rather than in the surrogates’ homes.  Unfortunately, some surrogacy agencies never speak with their surrogates as part of their screening process, and rely exclusively on applications that have been submitted online.

The purpose of a home visit is to reassure Intended Parents that the surrogate, who will be carrying their baby in her residence, lives in a home and in a neighbourhood that is clean, safe and stable.  The home visit also gives the surrogate’s family, who will experience the surrogacy together with her, a chance to ask questions, in person, of a professional with deep knowledge of the process.

It is true that the cost of a home visit will be reflected in the surrogacy agency’s fee, which is already very burdensome for most Intended Parents.  However, in my opinion some “shortcuts” are not worth taking.  Imagine flying to the state where your surrogate lives for your baby’s 20 week ultrasound, visiting her home for the very first time, and feeling uneasy about her living conditions, or even worse, distressed;  not a good feeling, and one that would cause even the most relaxed Intended Parents to feel anxious for the remainder of the pregnancy.

I am not suggesting that you forego working with an agency that does not include a home visit in its screening process.  There are many reputable agencies that have been around for close to two decades that do not.  However, I do recommend that if a home visit is not a routine aspect of the screening process at the agency you have decided to work with, you consider asking for one after you develop a strong interest in a surrogate they have proposed. If the surrogate does not live in the state in which the agency is located, you can reduce the cost associated with the home visit by asking the agency to retain a skilled and reputable social worker or psychologist who is licensed in that state and has substantial experience in third party reproduction to conduct the home visit.  This will eliminate the cost of flying the agency’s in-house staff member to the surrogate’s state, as well as the cost of one night’s hotel accommodation, if the surrogate lives on the other side of the country. If that is not possible, you may want to ask for photographs or a video of the surrogate’s home and community, as well as of her family and support system.  If none of these options are possible, I recommend that you confirm that the agency has spent a significant amount of time speaking with the surrogate and her support system via phone or Skype, and that they have conducted an extensive psycho/social evaluation.  I strongly discourage you from working with any agency that has not done so.

If the agency recommends that you, the Intended Parents, conduct the home visit, as some agencies have advised me they do, I suggest you decline.  You are not professionally trained to identify red flags and may also be too emotionally vulnerable to be objective.  That said, I am very strongly in favour of Intended Parents having an “in person” visit with their surrogate before the medical process begins, and think it is fine if that visit takes place in her home with her family members present. It is important for you to meet your surrogate face-to-face before she is carrying your baby, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that you value and respect the invaluable role she will be playing in the creation of your family.  However, I believe that the home visit to assess the safety and stability of a surrogate’s home and neighbourhood, should be handled by an objective, skilled professional and, in the best case scenario, that visit should occur before the surrogate is presented to you.

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