Do it by the book

We know what it’s like to want a child so badly you’d do just about anything to have one. But when it comes to adoption or surrogacy, you absolutely must follow all the rules. The laws involving adoption and surrogacy vary by state — and with surrogacy, in some states, there simply aren’t any laws on the books. We cannot recommend more strongly that you work with a qualified attorney to ensure you are following the law at each step in the process.

Unfortunately, there are unethical people out there. A recent case currently receiving a lot of media coverage centers on Theresa Erickson, a nationally recognized surrogacy attorney, who pleaded guilty to being involved in a baby-selling ring.  According to news reports, Erickson and two accomplices recruited women to travel to the Ukraine to be implanted with embryos created from the sperm and egg of donors. Erickson and her partners would then tell prospective parents that a child had become available because another, fictitious couple had backed out of an adoption. They charged the adoptive parents, who had no idea they were being misled, more than $100,000, and paid the surrogates up to $45,000.

Erickson could receive up to 5 years in jail and be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Fortunately, the innocent adoptive parents who were victims of this fraud will not have their parental rights terminated.

As an attorney, Theresa Erickson obviously knew that what she was doing was wrong. But sometimes, things aren’t quite so clear.

When we were going through the adoption process, we were contacted by a woman whose friend was pregnant. They would allow us to adopt the baby if we paid for the birth mother’s college tuition, along with some other financial arrangements. They did not want to use lawyers or an agency. When you have a situation presented to you in that way, you might think, “Well, if we save on lawyer’s fees and agency fees, it’s okay to put that money towards to her college instead. We’re helping her, and she’s helping us.” It’s easy to rationalize. If we weren’t lawyers ourselves, we may not have initially realized this is illegal — but it equates to buying a child. If we had agreed, it could have resulted not only in our losing that child later, but also in criminal charges.

Play it safe, and use a qualified adoption attorney or surrogacy attorney as you go through the process of getting to baby.

Different paths to adoption

Most couples who struggle to have a child undergo fertility treatments, which are often successful. In those cases where they fail, however, many hopeful parents turn to adoption.

With an open adoption through an agency, or with the help of an adoption facilitator or attorney, the first step is matching with a birth mother. An open adoption means you might have the chance to experience her pregnancy with her, going to doctor’s appointments, seeing the sonograms and being in the delivery room when the child is born. It also means the birth mother may be a part of the child’s life, even after the adoption.

However, there is always a risk with adoption that the birth mother will change her mind and decide to keep the baby. Regardless of any contracts or agreements you have in place, many state laws protect the biological mother, leaving the intended parents heartbroken and without a child. Although this worst-case scenario is possible, and does happen, most adoptions go through as planned.

Another path to adopting a child is to work with a foster agency. There are many, many children in the foster care system without parents who are able to care for them. These are kids of all ages, and all races, and each is in need of a loving home. Not all foster children are available for adoption, however. Some are in the system because their parents have temporarily lost custody. Once the situation leading to that loss of parental rights has been resolved, the parents often regain custody. However, most foster agencies are happy to work with intended parents seeking children who are available for adoption.

Many couples also adopt children from another country through an agency that offers international adoptions. The agency handles the paperwork and legal issues, which can be quite complicated, to give you the best odds at a successful adoption.

No matter how you go about adopting, both child and the adoptive parents are getting a precious gift: the chance at a better, more fulfilling life as part of a loving family.

Celebrities and Surrogacy

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Madonna. Rosie O’Donnell. Bette Davis. For years, celebrities who choose to adopt children have had plenty of ink. Although it’s a less publicized option, there are also many examples of celebrities who have sought surrogates in their journeys toward parenthood.

After struggling with infertility, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick went through surrogacy to have their twin girls in 2009. Kelsey Grammar, the guy who played Frasier? He’s been through it three times. Ricky Martin’s done it, too, as has Sir Elton John, who had a son with his partner on Christmas Day 2010 through a surrogate.

Because surrogacy seems to attract parents of means, it’s perceived by many potential parents as a prohibitively expensive process. That perception isn’t quite accurate — fertility treatments and adoption, depending on how you choose to approach them, can be more expensive than surrogacy. You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in surrogacy costs to create your family — it’s all about considering your options and figuring out what works for you, emotionally and financially.

If you’re on the fence about surrogacy, visit to review some ads by potential surrogates and by hopeful parents. It’ll help you figure out what the process can be like.

Are you ready for surrogacy?

Are you ready for surrogacy?

If you’re considering pursuing parenthood through surrogacy, open communication and education are just as important as they are with other parenting options, like adoption and fertility treatments. Consider a couple questions.

Are you jealous by nature?

If you are, it doesn’t mean you can’t use a surrogate, but it might be better for you to change your approach. Options exist for you to seek a surrogate from another state, or through a surrogacy agency that limits your contact. If communication between your partner and your surrogate is going to be an issue, or if you will feel jealous that the surrogate is able to become pregnant, or even pregnant with twins or multiples, while you’re not, it’s best to realize the risk from the outset to prevent issues from springing up at an inopportune time.

How involved do you want to be?

Do you want to be present for every doctor’s appointment, or are you comfortable with a hands-off approach? Think it through. You don’t want to end up with regrets.

If you’re comfortable winging it, you might be able to approach the process without using an agency, thereby reducing your surrogacy costs. Attorneys and psychologists will still need to be involved in your surrogacy support, but agencies are much more expensive. If you’re a person who doesn’t need hand-holding, going at it alone might be best.