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Frequent Questions: Agencies

General Information on Embryo Adoption

  1. Why does our agency need to know about embryo donation and adoption? Embryo adoption was first introduced in 1997 by Nightlight Christian Adoptions when they established the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. Since that time more agencies have chosen to establish embryo adoption programs.

    Your clients view your agency as a trusted source of information regarding their adoption options. Embryo adoption may be the right adoption choice for your client. Embryo adoption may help to fulfill many of the lingering dreams of pregnancy and giving birth which your clients may have experienced during a difficult infertility journey.

    Its easy to educate yourself, your staff and your clients about embryo adoption. There are many tools available on this website: videos, webinars, Power Point presentations, marketing collateral and a comprehensive set of FAQs.

    The opportunity to learn is free, and as a professional you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your agency is providing clients with information regarding all options available to them.

    If your client chooses embryo adoption, there are several programs they can work with and your agency can still complete the clients' adoption home study.

  2. How many embryo adoption programs exist? Currently the Awareness Center has a list of eight active embryo adoption agencies around the country.

    The Center has been working with agencies and clinics around the United States over the past two years, encouraging the establishment of new programs. Since that time two new programs have formed and many more are in the process of being established.

  3. How many embryo donations/ adoptions occur nationwide each year? There are no national statistics regarding the number of embryo donations/adoptions that occur each year. Each program can vary widely with some programs performing as few as 1 adoption or donation per year, while others may complete as many as 50 placements a year.

    There are over 500,000 embryos in frozen storage. The majority of those are being held for future use by the folks who created them. However, a significant number of them are also being donated each year to other couples. The work of the Awareness Center is to educate both potential donors and potential adopters about the success of embryo donation and adoption and the great satisfaction and joy it can bring to both families.

  4. When should we educate our clients about embryo adoption? We suggest that you begin to educate your potential clients about embryo adoption as an adoption option at the same time you are educating them about domestic, international or foster adoption. Many agencies host informational meetings on a regular basis. Some initially meet with clients one-on-one. The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center has created videos, webinars, marketing brochures and Power Point presentations to help you in this education process.

  5. What average time commitment should an agency or attorney expect to invest with each placement? A typical time investment can range from 100 to 200 hours per family choosing to adopt or place embryos in adoption or donation program. The time spent can be broken down into the following types of activities:

    • processing the application

    • counseling and matching the families

    • preparing the documents for transfer of legal ownership

    • coordinating the medical documentations

    • facilitating shipment of the embryo

    This list is by no means exhaustive and the time required to place embryos may vary greatly depending on the needs and desires of each individual family.

  6. Are there any tax implications of embryo donation and adoption? There is some support for the application of the adoption tax credit to embryo adoption. Some families have applied for the tax credit with regard to the fees paid to their agency for the adoptive home assessment, educational component, and other adoption agency or attorney expenses directly relating to the adoption of the embryos. These may be families who have participated in an embryo adoption program and who have given birth to a child as a result.

    This information is not intended to be a complete or comprehensive statement of the law in this area. It should therefore, in no way, shape, or manner, be construed or interpreted as providing legal advice. You are advised to conduct your own independent research as to the applicability of the adoption tax credit to embryo adoption or to seek the advice of a tax professional, Certified Public Accountant, or financial adviser.

  7. What ways can we be involved in embryo adoption without starting a program? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center has created a matrix defining four levels of involvement in embryo donation and adoption for agencies. Each of these levels has a corresponding webinar which can be found on the Webinar Archive page of this website.

    The easiest way agencies can participate is through self-education followed by client education. Potential clients see your agency as a trusted source of information regarding all things adoption. Adding embryo adoption to your list of adoption options simply increases your value as a reliable information provider.

    If you have a client who chooses to pursue an embryo adoption through another agency, your agency may still perform the home study for the family. Some embryo adoption agencies will partner with non-embryo adoption agencies. By providing embryo adoption home studies to clients, you are preparing, training and educating families for their life ahead as a parent of a child who has joined their family in very unique, but special circumstances. A list of existing embryo adoption agencies is available to help you explore options for partnerships.

Processes Associated with Embryo Adoption

  1. How much do agencies charge for an embryo adoption?

    Agency Fee*
    *Additional travel expenses may be incurred for centralized programs.
    $2,500-$10,000 May or may not include legal fees, embryo shipping, matching services,
    counseling, additional medical screening
    Home Study/FamilyAssessment $1,000-$2,500 Costs vary by state
    Clinic Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) $2,500-$5,000 Costs vary by clinic
    TOTAL $6,000-$17,500 Generally less expensive than domestic or international adoption

  2. How many months does it take to complete an embryo adoption? After clients have submitted their application to an embryo adoption agency they will need to complete a home study (unless they have completed one within the previous 12 months). After the home study is completed it will take an average of six months to match an adoptive family with a donor family. The length of time will vary based on many factors including: the clients age, the requirements they specify on their application for a donor family and the 'quality' of the embryos the family requires. After the families are matched the next step is the frozen embryo transfer at the clinic. If one of the transferred embryos implants in the womb and a healthy pregnancy is established, a baby will be born nine months later!

  3. What roles may an agency or attorney fulfill in the embryo adoption/donation process?
    • Phase One:The process starts with an initial inquiry from a family either desiring to place their embryos for adoption or to adopt embryos.

    Agency/ Attorney Roles: Staff should be in place who can answer the resulting questions and prepare and mail program information packets and applications. When applications are received, they should be reviewed and approved by an assigned adoption social worker who reads the home assessment (in the case of an adoptive family), interviews the client to discuss matching criteria and address and resolve any issues concerning the placement or adoption of the embryos prior to the family being approved for participation in the program.

    • Phase Two: Both the donating and adopting families establish their criteria for a successful match which will lead to an embryo placement and adoption. A matching process initiates.

    Agency/ Attorney Roles: Once a successful match has been made, each set of parents drafts and signs contracts; embryos are shipped to the adopting family's clinic, and the adopting family is then able to schedule their frozen embryo transfer (FET). Depending on the form and frequency of any on-going contact between the families, an agency or attorney may need to continue to act as intermediary for such contact. There is also the possibility that additional matches and contracts will need to be performed if an adopting family does not use all of the donating family's embryos.

  4. What legal documents are used to transfer the embryos from the donating parents to the adoptive parents? Necessary legal documents include:

    • A document relinquishing the genetic parents' rights and responsibilities to the embryos and any child or children born from those embryos

    • A document allowing the recipients to assume all parental rights and responsibilities for the embryos and any child or children born from them.

  5. Why should an adoptive home assessment or homestudy be performed when embryo donation/adoption is generally not recognized as a true adoption proceeding in the United States? The importance of the home study lies in its purpose to help couples have not only healthy children, but healthy families.

    An adoptive home study for the recipient couple ensures that the safeguards currently in place for traditional adoption also protect the child, the placing parents and the receiving parents in an embryo adoption situation.

    Despite the fact that the adoptive mother gives physical birth to a child from an embryo donation, that child is still an adopted child; he or she shares no genetic relation to the adoptive mother or father. When children are born into a family to whom they are not genetically related, they will have the same types of questions as those of children adopted through traditional means. The home study process is 20% screening and 80% education. It provides the adoptive family with an opportunity, to learn about and anticipate these types of issues and questions. The home study also educates the parents in the best way to address and answer these questions with sensitivity to the needs of the child.

    Since the home study process provides the donating parents with assurance about their embryos' prospective parents, they are also benefited. This assurance includes:

    • the adopting family has been evaluated for any health issues that may affect their ability to care for and raise a child,

    • has been screened for any criminal and child abuse issues,

    • has been educated concerning the potential issues of parenting a non-genetically related child

  6. Why is it important to provide counseling to adopters? There are emotional impacts on both the individual and the couple; personal, financial, sexual, and spiritual concerns that adopters commonly feel with the process of Embryo Adoption. Keeping in mind that the hoped-for end result of the adoption is the birth of a child, coming to conclusions regarding how your clients will educate that child about their origins is also important. Providing in-depth counseling focusing on the psychological impacts of infertility is a good first step. Many adoptive couples who choose embryo adoption have already been faced with infertility. Even for families who havent experienced infertility, choosing to parent through embryo donation involves a leap of faith that they will be able to handle and assimilate with grace the multiple uncertainties they might encounter.

  7. At what point is an embryo adoption considered to be finalized? Although there is little or no precedence on this issue, the language of the written agreement effecting the transfer of ownership in the embryos may specify that the adoption is deemed to have occurred at the point of thawing and implantation of the embryos into the adoptive mother's womb.

Embryo Adoption Home Studies

  1. Should we encourage open or closed embryo adoption? There are several advantages to encouraging open adoptions between donor and adoptive families. Among them is the ready exchange of information, including information on medical conditions.

    Open adoptions can also ease the process of explaining a childs genetic history to them. Adult adoptees and adults conceived from donor insemination have explained why honesty is important for an understanding of who they are, where they came from and for knowledge of their own medical history. Children given life through embryo adoption have the same right-to-know as any other adoptee so they can understand biological roots and have a medical history. For these reasons and many other sociological and psychological reasons, we strongly suggest encouraging open embryo adoptions.

  2. What changes does our agency need to make to our current home study process to support embryo adoption? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center offers a webinar to help agencies understand how to modify their existing domestic adoption home study process to support embryo adoption. This webinar, Home Study for the Embryo Adoption: A Detailed Exploration, is available in the Webinar Archive section of this website.

  3. How is an embryo adoption home study different than a traditional home study? Embryo Adoption home studies are similar to traditional domestic home studies with some modifications. The main purpose of an embryo adoption home study, following in the steps of a domestic home study, is to provide education and training for adopting families. Potential topics to address during the home study process include:
    • Understanding of infertility issues

    • Understanding of donor egg and/or sperm issues

    • Exploration of reasons for choosing embryo adoption

    • Discussion of grief and loss issues through exploring the couples infertility journey
    • Discussion of the loss of a mutually genetic child

    • Discussion of the joys (and challenges!) of being able to experience pregnancy and gestational bonding

    • Addressing the couples control of pre-natal environment

    • Specifying preferences regarding donor

    • Discussion of the potential for genetic siblings and how the adopting couple will address this unique dynamic with their adopted child

    • Addressing the couples feelings about giving birth to an adopted child

    • Discussion of how the couple may have remaining embryos for future family building

    • Addressing the fact that no finalization process is required by law* but is recommended as best practice

    • Covering the potential for a multiple birth pregnancy

    • Preparing the clients for the possibility that donated embryos may not survive thawing, the embryo transfer may not result in pregnancy or that a pregnancy may not be carried to term

    • Addressing the fact that a couple may complete family building and have remaining embryos

    • Guiding adopting couple in determining their preferences for donor/embryos based on genetics and family background

    • Working through the application process with the client and assisting them in presenting themselves with integrity, remembering that the donor family has also experienced infertility

    • Exploration of contact with the donor family, including reasons for establishing and maintaining contact, exploring resistance, level and type of contact and building positive relationships with the donor family

    • Addressing the couples plans for sharing about the adoption with the adopted child and their extended family

Starting an Embryo Adoption Program

  1. What are some things we should consider before starting a new embryo adoption program? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center has identified four levels of involvement that agencies can consider regarding embryo adoption.

    Should your agency have an interest in starting a new program here are some items to consider:

    1. Do you have current personnel to manage a new program or will you need to add staff?

    2. You may want to work with an experienced provider first, perhaps providing the home study for the adoption initially, and learning more through your participation with the experienced provider.

    3. You may want to hire a expert who can provide insight and guidance in the establishment of a program.

    4. What geography would you like to cover?

    5. What types of marketing will be required to build an in-house program?

    6. Where/how will you acquire donated embryos?

    7. Partnering with an attorney who either has experience or is willing to learn about the legal aspects in your state(s).

  2. What does our agency need to do to start an embryo adoption program? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center offers a webinar to help agencies understand the steps involved with establishing an embryo adoption program within your agency. This webinar, Establishing an Embryo Adoption Program, is available in the Webinar Archive section of this website.

    Rather than beginning your embryo adoption program on a national scale, the Awareness Center recommends beginning at a geographically local level. Establishing a relationship with a local fertility clinic(s) is a good method for finding a source for potential embryo donors and for potential adoption clients.

    Consultants with embryo adoption experience are available to assist your agency in the process of developing your own program. Please call the Awareness Center for more information.

  3. If we wanted to start a program, what is the typical fee schedule? As in any adoption program, the fees charged will vary depending on the type of organization offering the service, the geographical area being serviced, and the motivations of the program founders. Typically, the fees for embryo adoption are less than those for a traditional adoption.

  4. What are advantages to partnering with clinics? When an agency chooses to partner with a fertility clinic the benefits positively impact both the adoption agencys clients and the agencys business.

    For clients, a partnership with a fertility clinic means an established potential source of donor embryos. Fertility clinics appreciate controlling the creating, freezing, thawing and transfer of embryos within that clinic. They feel that it gives their patients (your clients) a better opportunity for pregnancy success. For an agency, this means that a clinic partnership may provide a new source of revenue by opening opportunities for donor and adopter counseling, home studies and program fees.

    In an agency-clinic partnership each entity provides their expert services. The clinic focuses on the medical aspects of embryo adoption. The agency provides the social, psychological and legal aspects of the adoption process, taking that burden from the clinic. This eliminates future adoption-oriented liabilities to the clinic. They are not liabilities to the adoption agency, because the tasks are already a part of the adoption process.

  5. If we are not ready to start an embryo adoption program, how can our agency still be involved in embryo adoption? The greatest way any agency can participate in embryo adoption is simply to let clients know it is a viable alternative. We believe that an agency who includes information about embryo adoption in the education of their clients presents themselves truly as 'the expert' in adoption alternatives to their client.

    Embryo adoption is certainly not the right choice for everyone, but NOT knowing the choice is available can be detrimental as well. Many folks who have now successfully added embryo adopted children to their family, previously added children through domestic or international adoption. They learned about embryo adoption in their pursuit of additional children to build their family.

    The reason the Awareness Center works diligently to educate adoption agencies and clinics is because they are the gateways to the potential adopter and donor of embryos. It is our hope that both agencies and clinics will join us in raising awareness regarding embryo donation and adoption.

Legal Concerns

  1. Is there legal precedence for the adoption or donation of frozen embryos? Currently there are no laws in the United States governing embryo adoption. The term adoption is used because the recipient of the donated embryos is hoping the outcome will be the birth of a child to be a part of their family - a child that is not genetically related to them - generally viewed as an adoption of a child.

    The process is simply occurring earlier in the biologically development of the child.

  2. What legal role does the agency play in Embryo Adoption? The legal role of an agency in the embryo donation and adoption process involves adoption agreements and relinquishment forms, which are legal contracts between the donor and recipient couples. These documents formalize the genetic parents relinquishment of their parental rights prior to the embryos being owned by and transferred into the adopting mother.

    In the United States embryos are legally property and not people. As such, the exchange of embryos from the donor to the adopter is governed by contract law. Embryo adoption agencies also incorporate the language of adoption law into the contracts since the hoped for end result is the birth of a human being.

    In two states (GA and LA) embryos have a special legal status. In Georgia embryo adopting families are invited by legislation to finalize their embryo adoption in court. In Louisiana embryos are legally defined as juridical persons, giving the embryo more value than simply a piece of property.

  3. What are the most significant legal issues associated with embryo adoption? The most significant legal issue associated with embryo donation and adoption relate to 1.) the unsettled nature of embryo adoption law, and 2.) the contractual agreements used to legally bind donor and recipient couples.

    First, both the donor and recipient couples should acknowledge that the law of embryo donation and adoption is unsettled. There are no federal or state laws specifically governing the adoption of embryos although some states do have laws generally related to embryo donation and or assisted reproductive technology.

    Second, the embryo donation and adoption process involves adoption and agreement and relinquishment forms, which are legal contracts between the donor and recipient couples. These forms formalize the genetic parental relinquishment of their parental rights prior to the embryo being transferred to the receiving mother. Once transferred, the embryos belong to the adopting parents. Parties involved should also note that embryos have a special legal status that is yet to be clearly defined. While many courts are reluctant to classify embryos as property, they also do not characterize them as human beings. As a result, embryo adoption programs may differ in how they define embryos in their legal agreements. Some may refer to embryo donation as a transfer of property while others may incorporate traditional adoption language into their legal documents.

  4. Which states currently have laws that affect embryo adoption or donation? A list of laws by state and journal articles addressing the issues of embryo donation and adoption are available at

  5. If a state's laws are silent on the issue of embryo adoption, are there any steps that can be taken to protect the recipient family's parental rights? Most states recognize the birth parents as the legal parents. In embryo donation and adoption, the recipient couple's names are entered on the birth certificate and a court of law would most likely recognize them as the legal parents.

    Some families have opted to seek an order of parentage from the court while the adoptive mother is pregnant with the child to settle the issue prior to the child's birth. Other will finalize the adoption in the court after the birth of the child.

    The State of Georgia passed legislation in May 2009 allowing parents that adopted children as embryos to have the legal right to finalize the adoption in the court if they desire to do so.

  6. Is there a risk of commercialization of life through the adoption of embryos? There is always the risk of abuse in any process. Therefore, it is imperative that embryos be treated with the respect they deserve and, in order to discourage program participation based on profit incentives, that fees remain low. Embryo adoption programs must be operated with ethical and professional integrity.

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