CryoStork® recently interviewed Andrea McAfee, Founder and Director of Hawaii Surrogacy Center, one of our valued business partners. We formed discussions around the evolving surrogacy industry, advice for those seeking to be surrogates, and her experience working with CryoStork®.
Tell our readers more about Hawaii Surrogacy Center and what you do. What do you enjoy most about working at Hawaii Surrogacy Center?
McAfee: I founded Hawaii Surrogacy Center in 2008 when there weren’t any surrogacy agencies in my home state of Hawaii. This provided local families the opportunity to be matched with a surrogate right here on our islands. We work with all the major clinics in Hawaii, as well as several clinical partners on the mainland, and support our clients throughout their entire surrogacy journey. In 2015, we started working with parents internationally, which has its share of complexities, but we have outstanding relationships with partners overseas and our agency guides Intended Parents from matching to bringing baby home. Our agency fees are considered some of the lowest in the industry, and those fees are highly inclusive – we pay for surrogate screening, including medical review and psychological evaluations, and we also pay for the attorneys to draft and review your contract. One of our core values is affordability and access to surrogacy services for all families.
I find it personally fulfilling to have built a program from the ground up and having a close relationship with the families that we serve. Our employees come from a variety of professional backgrounds (legal, social work, nursing), and many have even been surrogates themselves. I think that brings a special touch because they have deep compassion and personal understanding of this process. I love working with such a devoted group of women. Everyone on our team is passionate about our mission and helping others. Also, we can’t forget the arrival of cute babies that continuously bring a smile to our day!
How common is surrogacy and how has it evolved over the years?
McAfee: I have seen the industry grow being in this line of work for 13 years now. Surrogacy has become much more common and people are talking about it more openly. When we first started, we were managing about only a handful of families per year. To date, we are supporting nearly 100 families per year, so there has been significant growth. The legal and B2B environment has also evolved. We have outstanding industry partners who have refined their processes and are working hard to meet their clients’ needs. We are also seeing more workplace benefits directed to family formation becoming available. Very often people don’t even know they have fertility benefits. One of the services that we offer to everyone in our program, free of charge, is called SeedCoach. They are financial advisors that help families budget for their surrogacy journey and identify ways to bridge any funding gaps – through workplace benefits, grants, scholarships, etc. We have also seen some great insurance products being designed specifically for surrogacy work, and they’re affordable and can help shift the risk of unknown, variable costs to fixed costs for Intended Parents (things like bedrest insurance and hospital indemnity policies).
Can you provide some advice for individuals interested in becoming a surrogate? How long does it usually take to get matched?
McAfee: I strongly suggest that surrogates research different agencies and think about cultural fit, not just compensation packages. There are a lot of agencies out there nowadays and the barriers to entry are relatively low. Anyone can really put up a website and say they’re a surrogacy agency. You want to work with an agency that is experienced, comes recommended from clinics and attorneys that work in the field, and fits well with your values and expectations of the matching process.
Because we have a large list of Intended Parents waiting for a match, surrogates who complete our screening process will be matched immediately. It’s important to know that your agency is factoring in values, personality traits, communication styles and other personal preferences that you have. It is also important for your agency to help you navigate those tough, but crucial conversations with potential Intended Parents like selective reduction, abortion, and birth defects.
The demand for surrogates far outweighs the supply, so as a surrogate, getting matched with a parent is fairly quick, but only after we have screened you. At Hawaii Surrogacy Center, we do a lot of the screening work and evaluation up front. That screening process can take a couple of months, especially when we are waiting for medical records. It’s really important that we fully screen you as a surrogate, as we want to create an accurate profile of you and make sure you can safely and successfully complete a surrogacy journey.
What prompted your organization to choose CryoStork® to provide the services you need as opposed to other transportation & logistic providers?
McAfee: To be frank, CryoStork® has always just been “the one.” We’ve been working with you guys for a while now and your services are essential as we grow our program. With our expansion into the Pacific Northwest and international clientele, we are moving embryos across the world. I feel very comfortable knowing that CryoStork® has a secure, reliable global supply chain and we happily recommend your transport services to our clients.
Describe your experience working with CryoStork®.
McAfee: It is always a pleasant experience working with CryoStork®. The 24/7/365 customer service team is incredibly responsive and provides quick turnaround time with quotes requested. It is also a relief that CryoStork® handles all the paperwork, logistic coordination, and acts as a liaison between clinics. It really takes the burden off of Intended Parents and makes our job much easier. My team appreciates the transparency in communication with constant email notifications and updates that are provided because we can easily reassure our clients. I also wanted to mention CryoStork’s tracking capabilities in Cryoportal® and Live View™ that provide ease to parents about the safety of their precious cargo. Although clients have the final say in which providers they decide to use, when moving their embryos across clinics, we always recommend CryoStork® whenever we can.