Frequently Asked Questions for Intended Parents

General FAQs

How long does the process take?

How long does the process take?

Typically, the process takes 12 to 15 months. The first 3 months include the medical clearance and preparing for the embryo transfer. The pregnancy is 9 months and then add a couple of months of recovery.

Do you work with out-of-state and international Intended Parents?

Do you work with out-of-state and international Intended Parents?

Yes. BFI works with couples throughout the United States and globally.

Where are you located?

Where are you located?

Our main office is located in Lake Forest, CA. We also have an office in Madrid, Spain. In addition, we have staff members who live throughout Southern California.

Why is the psychological screening necessary?

Why is the psychological screening necessary?

The psychological screening gives us a lot of information about you in a short amount of time. The test results indicate your strengths and weaknesses and what your tendencies are. This helps us to determine how best to support you during the process and also aids us in finding the right match for you.

Does BFI help same-sex couples?

Does BFI help same-sex couples?

Yes, we helped our first gay couple in 1994.
We believe that every Couple wanting to experience parenthood deserve that opportunity.

Am I able to reach someone 24/7?

Am I able to reach someone 24/7?

A member of BFI’s staff is always available, literally. We anticipate the midnight calls as we know that this is a common time for the onset of labor or when there is a medical emergency. When you have to go to the hospital, we go too!

Why should I choose BFI over other agencies?

Why should I choose BFI over other agencies?

BFI is one of the pioneers in the industry having started in 1991. We have witnessed the changes in technology and the law. We have formed long-term relationships with leaders in fertility care and reproductive law to ensure everyone’s rights are honored and protected.

Why should I work with BFI instead of going independent?

Why should I work with BFI instead of going independent?

Truthfully, the horror stories typically stem from either the independent arrangement or from a poorly managed agency. The key to success is to ensure you surround yourself with qualified professionals. These professionals take care of everything from ensuring your chosen Surrogate Mother are appropriate, medically, psychologically and legally speaking, to ensuring all of the funds involved are safe and will be used to pay all of your case expenses through to the end of your journey.

How long has BFI been in business?

How long has BFI been in business?

Carol Weathers, Director of Building Families, Inc., began her first surrogacy case in November 1991.

What is gestational surrogacy?

What is gestational surrogacy?

Gestational Surrogacy is when the pregnant woman has absolutely no genetic link to the baby (babies) she is carrying. The intended mother or egg donor provides the egg and the intended father or sperm donor provides the sperm. The gestational surrogate is strictly the carrier and, again, has no biological connection to the child.

What is the motivation of the Surrogate Mothers to help us?

What is the motivation of the Surrogate Mothers to help us?

The Surrogate Mother takes pleasure in giving the greatest gift of her life… a child who will be forever cherished and loved. They truly just want to help you. The money is always secondary for Surrogate Mothers in our Program.

How do we ensure that the relationship between us and our Surrogate Mother goes well?

How do we ensure that the relationship between us and our Surrogate Mother goes well?

Respect. That is the basis to most successful relationships. Rely on BFI to help you navigate through all the waters but especially the choppy ones. Never discuss money, eating habits or anything that can be viewed as confrontational. There are professionals in place to address any concerns you have. This preserves your relationship and allows you both to enjoy the journey!

How much contact should we have with our Surrogate Mother after the birth of our child?

How much contact should we have with our Surrogate Mother after the birth of our child?

The contact with your Surrogate Mother after delivery typically depends on the relationship you have developed along the way. At minimum, you should send her pictures with updates periodically. Although you are not required to do this, it is greatly appreciated by the Surrogate Mother and her Family.

Do we get more “personal” service with a “small” program like BFI?

Do we get more “personal” service with a “small” program like BFI?

Many larger agencies indicate that smaller is not better because there are less people available to answer questions or to manage their case. Having direct access to the Program Director, Carol Weathers, is the biggest draw to Building Families for Couples and Surrogate Moms, alike. BFI purposely limits the amount of cases taken on per year. This is the only way to ensure Carol’s personal involvement and attention to every case.

Here are some things to consider when preparing for your meeting with the psychologist.

Here are some things to consider when preparing for your meeting with the psychologist.

Why have you chosen to pursue surrogate parenting? Have you told anyone of your plans to work with a surrogate, and if so what were their reactions? Do you need help in explaining surrogacy to a family member or friend? What qualities do you want your surrogate to have? What type of contact do you want to have with your surrogate during the pregnancy and after birth? Will you request your surrogate undergoes an amniocentesis, and if so what will you do with the results? Will you elect to terminate a pregnancy if there is a diagnosis for Downs syndrome, or only for something more severe? Will you choose selective reduction in the case of a triplet pregnancy? What changes will occur in your life after you have a child? What do you plan to tell your child about his/her unique origins? How has the struggle of infertility affected your marriage/relationship? How would you describe yourselves to a potential surrogate mother? How can we help make this a good experience for you?

Where is the consultation performed? Do we have to come to California to your offices?

Where is the consultation performed? Do we have to come to California to your offices?

If you are not local to California, your first meeting with Carol can be done via videoconferencing. Twice a year, Carol travels to Europe and meets with Couples in person there as well.

How are financial issues handled?

How are financial issues handled?

At BFI, we want to be sure you can relax and focus on having a stress-free journey. One way to do that is to ensure that there are always substantial funds in the trust account to pay all of your expenses. The trust is held by a bonded and licensed entity which eliminates the risk of those funds being stolen and it also ensures that the financial obligations are met.

How do we get started?

How do we get started?

Click on the icon that reads “We’re ready to start our Family” and Carol Weathers will contact you to discuss your needs.

Legal FAQs

If I’m Interested in being a Surrogate Mother or Intended Parent, what should I look for?

If I’m Interested in being an SM or IP, what should I look for?

That is an interesting and well founded question. What you really need to think about is what your objective is. Your objective if you’re the couple, is to have a child bouncing on your knee at Christmas time. If your objective is to be a surrogate, it’s to provide a gift to someone that they cannot otherwise provide themselves. In the process of doing that, if you don’t go about it the right way, it is an area rocked with traps. What you need to be using if you’re going to do it, first of all you need to have people who have their heads together as far as what they’re going to do and how they are going to do it. The way you get that is dealing with the Psychologist in the process to make sure they are dealing with a surrogate that understand what her responsibilities and obligations are. A couple who understands what their objective is and what entails to get there. You also need to be dealing with a well done, experienced, knowledgeable agency. Trying to do this on your own is rot with conflicts of interest and rot with pitfalls for the steaks. If you’re dealing with a good agency, they can make sure all these things come to play. In the process of doing it, you also need to deal with an experienced lawyer in the area of reproductive law. A lot of lawyers go out and buy a contract and say, I know how to do surrogacy, but if you really aren’t involved in it and don’t understand the conflicts associated with it, don’t understand where the law has been and where it’s going, you can’t adequately service your clients. In the process of doing it, also, you want to make sure you have lawyers on both sides of the party so that the surrogate is well informed as well as the intended parents. In essence what you must have is experienced, well knowledgeable professionals to effect this process for your enjoyment and benefit.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

How Important is a Contract, Really?

How Important is a Contract, Really?

A contract is really important, not only from the standpoint of having everybody understand what their rights, their responsibilities, and their obligations are. It’s also important that it’s a well written contract to give you some idea of what the whole situation is about. A well written contract, like ours, is basically a road map in the whole surrogacy process. It gives you an idea of how you’re going to get from point A to point B, what is your responsibility in the process, not only for the surrogate but also the intended couple, the lawyers involved in the process, as well as the agency who is bringing it all about. A well written contract informed of all the things as it relates to surrogacy laws is an extremely important thing and quite honestly you would not want to engage into a surrogacy relationship without one.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Can you give us a legal overview of how Surrogacy has changed in California over the years?

Can you give us a legal overview of how Surrogacy has changed in California over the years?

Over the last 15 years, since Buzzanca v. Buzzanca, Surrogacy law specifically as it relates to the right, responsibilities and obligations of parties really hasn’t changed at all. The courts keep going back to those decisions to ascertain what the responsibilities and obligations of parties are and in fact, it is so clear that there really haven’t been many cases that deal with those issues. The only thing that’s really changed is how we perfect and complete the transaction. It used to be that we would file our various cases and subsequent judgements in courts that were familiar and very understanding of Surrogacy practice. However, there has been a slight change recently that we now must file our cases in the area and district in which the surrogate resides. While it is a different way of doing things, it makes things a little more complicated for the lawyers in that we have to file our cases in sometimes remote locations, drive there and instruct the local staff on how to handle a surrogacy matter, but the absolute rights of the parties have not changed, only the effect by which we carry it out.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Do Egg/Sperm Donors have any Legal Rights?

Do Egg/Sperm Donors have any Legal Rights?

Once a donation is made, it’s made. An egg donor or sperm donor has no legal rights to the material they have donated, that embodied in the Sperm Donor Act and continues to be the law in the state of California.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

If a Donor is used, and the Intended Parent’s marriage ends, does the biological parent have more rights than the other parent?

If a Donor is used, and the Intended Parent’s marriage ends, does the biological parent have more rights than the other parent?

No. For example, if the husband’s sperm is used and they use an egg donor, they end up with a judgement ascertaining that he and she are the both the legal parents. Neither one of them has a superior right than the other, even though the husband is the biological father. They have equal rights under the law.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

We have heard how some Couple’s funds were stolen by Surrogacy Agencies. How do I ensure that my money is safe?

We have heard how some Couple’s funds were stolen by Surrogacy Agencies. How do I ensure that my money is safe?

In California, lawyers are licensed by the state bar. We are required to keep accurate and good accounting of all funds held in our trust account. That cannot be said of surrogacy agencies, they are not licensed and therefore, if there is someone in an agency who is dishonest, your funds could definitely be in jeopardy. Where as if you are dealing with a lawyer and a lawyers trust account, believe me, his license is more important, that’s his livelihood and therefore, you can feel confident that your funds are safe.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Why Should the Surrogate Mother and Intended Parents have Separate Legal Representation?

Why Should the Surrogate Mother and Intended Parents have Separate Legal Representation?

In law, we are always concerned about conflicts of interest or avoiding the mere appearance of conflict
of interest. In the area of drafting an agreement where both parties are involved in the process of
creating a real life, we want to make sure that everybody is fully and totally informed of their rights,
their responsibilities and the obligations to bring about that objective. In the process we need to make
sure that each has had independent legal counsel to make sure they are aware of those obligations,
those right and those responsibilities.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Why Should I do my Surrogacy in California?

Why Should I do my Surrogacy in California?

California is the best state in the Country, in fact the best location in the world to do surrogacy. The
reason being is that we have has several cases that have come down over the last 15 or 20 years which
define surrogacy, define the responsibilities of the parties and also to find what the objectives are of the
parties trying to accomplish in a surrogacy proceeding. Besides the contractual setting and legal settings,
we also have judges, clerks and vital statistic clerks who are familiar with the process and therefore the
whole situation runs much more smoothly when in fact it’s accomplished in California.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Can the Surrogate Mother keep my Baby?

Can the Surrogate Mother keep my Baby?

No, not in California under California law provided the couple do two things in the process of hiring a
surrogate to have their child. Number one, they must sign the agreement drafted by an attorney who’s
expert in the area of surrogacy law. Number two, they must make sure they do not utilize the eggs of
the surrogate in the process. If they do these two things, they can be assured under California law that
the surrogate cannot take their baby.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Psychological FAQs

Why do you Evaluate Couples? Can you tell who can be Good Parents?

Why do you Evaluate Couples? Can you tell who can be Good Parents?

I get asked that question frequently and there is absolutely no measure to actually evaluate who can be a good parent or not. And that is not why I am performing the psychological evaluation. There is data to indicate, however, and research, we know this in psychology, that previous behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. So if I knew the history of their parenting, then I might be able to say this is what they are going to be like. But that is not what we do. The reason I evaluate our couples is because they are entering a roller coaster ride that could be exhilarating at times, and at times it might feel like that low point, and scary. The journey is not always perfect. I always say it’s not a perfect science, so we want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence and that our couple is stable, emotionally, to start the journey with Building Families.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

What is Discussed in the Surrogate Support Group Meetings?

What is Discussed in the Surrogate Support Group Meetings?

Well, we have our meetings, they are mandated once a month for the surrogates, and they all have to show up. Because it is important for them to have a vehicle where they can discuss, not only the surrogacy itself and what is going on with them in the surrogacy. I make sure that every single surrogate gets a turn to talk about her surrogacy every month because it’s important for us to understand where they are in the process, it’s important for us to understand where they are in their life. While we focus on the surrogacy, there is real life that happens, and they may be having issues with their child, for example, or other incidents in their lives and we want them to have a place that is safe, that they can come to and talk to us about it. So we may discuss a number of different areas and topics, in addition to their surrogacy and how they’re doing and how their couple is doing. Sometimes it’s a completely joyful group, for example, if we’ve had a birth story. If someone successfully delivered a baby for a couple, and that is ultimately very, very joyful. And other times we are dealing with things like it make take another transfer to conceive for a couple.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

What are the Possible Recommendations of the Psychological Evaluation?

What are the Possible Recommendations of the Psychological Evaluation?

There are a number of different possibilities after a couple has undergone a psychological evaluation with me. One of them is that, most of the time what we see is that they are “cleared” psychologically. There is no real “pass/fail”, if you would, in the psychological evaluation. Although, I think that most of our couples come into the psych. eval feeling like I am going to “fail” them or that is what I am there for, and I really am not.

I am there to protect them, and to protect the surrogate, and the agency, and everybody involved with the process. So I would not typically reject people right out unless there were some major flags both in the clinical component as well as the psychological test that says to me, “this is not going to work well for this couple”. However, most of the time they are “cleared” psychologically. Other times, they may have to wait several months, maybe 3 months, maybe 6 months, and come for a re-evaluation to start the program.

Sometimes couples will score on the test in a way that, after my clinical component with them, I feel that they have misunderstood the questions, so I may actually go back and call them to go through items, if you would, to see if they actually meant what they endorsed. Sometimes they misunderstand the question, so that is testing the limits, if you would, and in that case it would clarify for me, “yes they are ok to start the program” or “they need to wait longer”, either way.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

What are the Benefits to Evaluating the Intended Parents?

What are the Benefits to Evaluating the Intended Parents?

Frequently I say it is really critical that we actually do no harm to anyone, especially our couples. They have suffered through many things. Some of them have had tremendous losses. They have lost a baby, in the third trimester that is tragic in itself. Having not dealt with that, they are really not prepared to go forward.

We want to make sure they have dealt with it fully and that they are ready to go forward with the program. They have to deal with the loss and the grief that is inherent in this process before we start. We don’t want to open up old wounds for them, and hurt them in any way. I think that is really important. Some of them have just discovered that they cannot go forward again to carry their own child. So that has to be dealt with, before we begin the program. These are tragedies indeed.

I closely examine their relationship and their current mental status. Are they oriented to reality? Are they prepared to go forward? Do they have any emotional or mental issues, as a result of their infertility history that needs to still be worked through? Do they have the coping skills to deal with a surrogacy arrangement effectively?

We in the program, Building Families and myself, maintain constant contact with the Couples and their Surrogate Mothers, that is true, and the support is ongoing. We must be prepared, ahead of time, before on this journey and that is my job which I take very seriously.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

Do All Agencies Require Psychological Evaluations of the Couples and the Surrogate Mothers?

Do All Agencies Require Psychological Evaluations of the Couples and the Surrogate Mothers?

Actually, they don’t, that I know of. We are the first surrogate program, Building Families, that actually developed the psychological component. I spent 12 years developing this state of the art, psychological evaluation that is effective and promotes excellent care for intended parents and the surrogate as well.

Actually, I don’t think other agencies do it, maybe they do it at this point, but there is absolutely no mandate to do it. At Building Families, it is mandatory.

No one gets into the program until they have been psychologically evaluated, and we understand that they are ready to start the process.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic