6 Questions You Should Ask About Embryo Adoption

Embryo adoption is an option prospective parents may explore.

Jennifer Mellon May 09, 2018
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One option prospective adoptive parents may explore in their desire to build their family is embryo adoptions. Through the Department of Health and Human Services, the United States government established a frozen embryo adoption public awareness campaign under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health to promote and educate the public on embryo adoptions. According to their data, there are over 620,000 cryo-preserved embryos in the United States alone. About ten percent of these embryos—60,000—could potentially be made available for embryo adoption as they are from couples who produced more embryos than they planned to use in their in vitro fertilization process. This is a viable option for families.

1. What are the Differences between Embryo Adoption and Embryo Donation?

It is not always the case, but often when a couple chooses to freeze their eggs and donate, they do so through an anonymous donation program at their fertility clinic. The clinic staff then usually decides to whom the embryos will be donated, leaving the donor family and adoptive family little say in the process. The donated embryos may be distributed among many families.

Embryo adoption programs treat the process as an adoption. The prospective adoptive families have many of the same protections and guidelines as an adoption of a biological child. There is a home study, legal contracts, post-adoption support, and education. The donor family and prospective adoptive family can decide whether the adoption is open or closed and the level of communication that will exist, just as with a private domestic adoption.

2. How Many Agencies Offer Embryo Adoption?

Currently in the United States, according to the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center, there are seven embryo adoption agencies (or adoption agencies which offer an embryo adoption program. The first to be established was Nightlight Christian Adoptions which facilitated the first embryo adoption in 1997. Since then, they have completed over 1,100 embryo adoptions.

3. What Is the Process to Adopt an Embryo?

The process has similarities and differences from a traditional adoption. The prospective adoptive family must complete a home study, utilize an adoption agency or adoption attorney for the legal documents, and complete post-adoption education. The differences are that the adoptive parents may be able to choose their donor family and the legality is different. Frozen embryos are considered property, so the embryo belongs to the government under property law. The frozen embryos belong to the prospective adoptive parents once they are legally transferred to the family, not when implanted. There is obviously the medical process which goes along with the embryo adoption and differs from a traditional adoption.

4. How are You Matched?

You are matched either by the donor family choosing your family or by you choosing the donor family. This is different among agencies. This an important question to ask when you do your research on which agency to use. You will also, at that time, be able to decide whether you want an open or closed adoption. Most agencies offering embryo adoptions recommend having an open adoption for many reasons. This is something to explore as a family with your social work and with your agency.

5. What Are the Costs Involved?

The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center states that the cost of embryo adoption is less than domestic or international adoption, in vitro fertilization or the cost of egg donation. They state that the cost is about $7,500 – $19,500 on average.

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Jennifer Mellon

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.


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