Agency Adoption, Private Match, Donation Program

There are currently three different paths to build one’s family via embryo adoption: agency adoption, a private match, or a clinic’s donation program. While the result is the same, each route varies quite a bit in terms of openness with donors, fees, and steps in the process.

To date, there are three main facilities that offer agency-type embryo adoption services:  Nightlight’s Snowflake Program, the Embryo Adoption Services of Cedar Park, and the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC). For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to look at some common points.

Agency Adoption Paths

agency adoption paths
Agencies adoptions require a home study from adoptive families

All three require a home study from adoptive families. The first two facilities write up contracts that carefully outline the relinquishment of the genetic parents’ rights. As NEDC retains rights to the embryos, not the genetic parents, its contracts are different in nature than the former two establishments.

All three provide matching services; open, semi-open, or closed adoption; the complete batch of embryos; and biographical information on the genetic family.

Snowflakes and Cedar Park offer extensive information on the placing family. NEDC offers varying amounts of information given the different levels of openness – a closed match sometimes means a more limited amount of information available on the donors. Snowflakes and Cedar Park offer counseling services to both the donating and adopting parties, if desired. Both Snowflakes and Cedar Park oversee the physical transportation of the embryos from wherever they are housed to the adoptive family’s transferring clinic. NEDC is a clinic and already houses the embryos.

This route tends to be the most expensive due to the involved role the agency plays in the whole process. Additional costs consist of the home study though Cedar Park offers one in-house for an additional cost, medication, and the embryo transfer, except for NEDC which performs the transfer on site.

Private Match Paths

private match paths
Many adoptive families are turning to matching forums.

There are two ways to pursue a private match:  through “word of mouth” or through a matching forum. With the advent of social media and chat groups, finding embryos through “word of mouth” is not an impossible scenario. However, many adoptive families are turning to one of the two “matching forums” in existence: Miracles Waiting and the National Registry for Adoption (NRFA.) Miracles Waiting is essentially a classified advertisement service for donating/adopting couples to find each other. One pays a flat $150 fee to join, and then one can obtain full access to the listings. Embryos may not be bought or sold, as that is illegal, but otherwise, there are no regulations or requirements of donors or recipients.

NRFA is a relatively new forum for finding a match. Their online matching service began in 2014. The price for membership varies, based on the number of months purchased. This is less like a classified advertisement service and more like a personal look at placing/waiting families’ life books. Home studies are usually not required, though some placing parents may show preference to those adoptive families who have a current home study. Typically, a private match results in some sort of openness between the placing and adopting families.

While a private match appears much less expensive than an agency match, there are a few other costs to include: transporting the embryos to the transferring clinic, legal fees, and all the fees associated with the embryo transfer itself.

Donation Program Paths

Agencies adoptions require a home study from adoptive families

Some clinics have their own in-house embryo donation programs. The clinic may or may not have full rights to these embryos. If the clinic has full rights, then the paperwork is just between the clinic and recipients. However, if the genetic parents retain rights, then legal paperwork must include them. Clinics do not require home studies. Some clinics do, however, require counseling services for all patients using “donated material” (embryos included.) Typically, clinics offer only anonymous donation programs. The adoptive parents have access to whatever details the genetic parents provided which could range from full life history with pictures, to just minimal characteristics.

Many clinics offer enough embryos for a single transfer only. The receiving couple typically does not receive the whole batch of embryos. It is rare, but not unheard of, to find a clinic that allows recipients to reserve a whole embryo set. Some clinics charge just the standard embryo transfer fees. Some clinics have additional fees for using embryos from their donation program. If a clinic has waiting embryos, there can sometimes be no wait whatsoever for a match. Many clinics have long wait-lists for embryos though.

Overall, a clinic donation program is usually the least expensive route, but with the greatest limitations.

For more information about embryo adoption, visit the Embryo Awareness Adoption Center.

Our guest blogger is Andrea Alexander.