The legal side of adoption and donor-assisted reproduction

Lawyers who specialize in donor-assisted reproduction and adoption dread getting one call in particular from intended parents: Their baby is due in a few days and they’re ready to finish up their paperwork. The problem? They should have gotten in touch with a lawyer at the beginning of the process. In this episode, we discuss why a call to a lawyer should come much earlier in a family-forming journey — and how HR leaders can ensure their employees have the resources they need.

Podcast Transcript

Show notes:

Why legal resources are a crucial part of fertility benefits

PairTree: Connecting adoptive parents with birth moms 

International Fertility Law Group

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

[00:00:00] Nancy: I first read the novel Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng years before I started working at Carrot and before the Hulu show came out, I always read the book first. Some of the issues that the book deals with really stayed with me. I don't wanna give too much away. But let's just say there are several choices characters make that my guests today would definitely say not to do.

[00:00:28] Today, we're exploring the legal side of adoption and donor assisted reproduction. And while I recommend checking out the book and TV show, today, we're going to hear real life examples of why legal support is so important for these journeys.

[00:00:43] This is Baby Steps, a podcast from Carrot Fertility about the intersection of work and fertility health. My first guest is Molly O'Brien. She's a partner at the International Fertility Law Group. They're part of Carrot's network of attorneys who can help with the legal side [00:01:00] of donor assisted reproduction.

[00:01:08] Just a quick note before we start, we recorded this episode before the us Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe V. Wade. We know there are a lot of questions about how this ruling could impact several aspects of fertility care and we're closely monitoring this evolving landscape and its potential implications.

[00:01:25] Okay. Back to the show.

[00:01:27] Hey, Molly. Thanks for

[00:01:28] joining me.

[00:01:29] Molly: Oh, hi Nancy. Thank you so much for having me. Could you

[00:01:33] Nancy: just say your name and your job title?

[00:01:36] Molly: I am Molly O'Brien and I am an attorney with International Fertility Law Group. I'm partner over at that law firm.

[00:01:44] Nancy: What inspired you first get into this kind of law?

[00:01:48] Molly: Well, I actually had worked in this industry for. Seven years before I became an attorney, I took the job in the industry working for an egg donation [00:02:00] agency. And then I later worked for a surrogacy agency and I thought it was temporary. I was just trying to have a job and follow my dreams. But then while I was working at the egg donation agency, I received a check from some clients and on the memo line of the check, it said for our hopes and dreams. And I knew at that moment that this is what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing was helping people become parents.

[00:02:27] Aw, that's

[00:02:27] Nancy: awesome. So then you went to law school and, and started pursuing this

[00:02:31] Molly: path. Nancy. I was so lucky at the surrogacy agency that I worked at, the owners of the agency encouraged me to go to law school. It was actually their idea and they helped arrange my schedule and everything so that I could work during the day and then go to law school at night, knowing that they would lose me as an employee, but, you know, gain me as a lifetime supporter of their agency and things like that.

[00:02:57] I was rarely lucky to have that [00:03:00] opportunity to be able to go to law school while I was. Yeah, that's

[00:03:03] Nancy: awesome. So what are some of the situations that you help people with?

[00:03:07] Molly: Most of my work is transactional contracts, drafting contracts between egg donors and intended parents and surrogate mothers, and intended parents and doing parental establishment work so that parents have a judgment of parentage that names them as the legal parents to ensure that their names go on the birth certificate.

[00:03:29] So that's the legal work I do. But I would say that most of my job is actually really client interaction. Making sure people know what the next steps are, what to expect because the legal paperwork is fairly straightforward, but this is something I do every day. So it makes a lot of sense to me. But to parents who are new to this or to a surrogate, who's never done this before,

[00:03:51] my job is really guiding her and educating her or guiding them and educating them about what's going to happen next, what to expect [00:04:00] and how to navigate these waters together.

[00:04:03] Nancy: On the carrot side. When we have someone going through donor assisted reproduction journey, we let them know here's one of our partners, right?

[00:04:10] You need to talk to a lawyer, but let's say someone doesn't have Carrot or they're going through the agency route. Does the agency connect the, the family with you? Is that typically how it works?

[00:04:20] Molly: It can happen through an agency. We get referrals from IVF clinics, both my law partner and myself have been in this industry for a very long time.

[00:04:29] And so we do get a lot of client referrals where clients will say, oh, I have a friend who used you and we'd love to talk to you about what it would be like to work with you. So there's lots of different ways to meet future intended parents and future surrogates and egg donors.

[00:04:44] Nancy: Could you walk us through why it's so important to complete this step in the process?

[00:04:50] Molly: The attorney is the person who's going to guide you through the legal steps. And this is actually a legal requirement as intended parents. You would need a contract between yourself and your [00:05:00] egg, donor, or yourself and your surrogate mother, and a lawyer has to draft that you can't just pull a contract offline and expect that it's going to properly protect everybody.

[00:05:10] Or in many states that's not even acceptable. Some states will require you to actually have a lawyer for yourself as the intended parent. And then for the other party, the egg donor, or the surrogate to have their own attorney as well. So it's really important that you speak to a lawyer. If you're in a jurisdiction, that's going to require that because the worst possible scenario would be one where you go through all of this, you sign a contract, you're pregnant, and then you find out that you didn't do it right. Or the contract doesn't contain what it needed to contain in order for you to be recognized as a parent. And I can't tell you how many times that happens. Almost every single parent who tries to avoid using an attorney, ends up spending more money to have an attorney fix what ended up happening..

[00:05:56] Nancy: Oh, interesting. Yeah. So people try to maybe save a little money. I mean the [00:06:00] whole journey can be very expensive, egg donor route or surrogate route. Yeah. It sounds like you pay for it later. If you try and get out of this step mm-hmm , let's say you're, you're going the egg donor route. You could. Give birth to a child.

[00:06:14] And then is it possible that you won't be named as the parent or that their partner might not be named as a

[00:06:19] parent?

[00:06:19] Molly: It's a really important question to discuss with an attorney from the beginning to make sure that everything's done correctly and legally, a lot of the answer to that question. Is going to vary depending on who the parent is and where they live.

[00:06:32] Cause every state has a different law and every country has a different law. So if the parents live in a different country that can affect things, if they have a surrogate and the surrogate lives in a particular state that can affect things. So it's really important to speak to a lawyer at the very first step so that you know exactly what you're looking at in terms of all the legal process, will it work for you and for what you need?

[00:06:55] Nancy: Do you have maybe an example of two states that have different laws just [00:07:00] as a, an illustrative example within the U.S.?

[00:07:02] Molly: So California is commonly known as the state that has the most favorable surrogacy law. It's true. It's a very good law here in California.

[00:07:10] It's a very simple, straightforward, easy to navigate, and anybody who intends to be a parent and follows the line of the law will then be declared a parent in the state of California. So that's a really good law. Michigan is the complete opposite. They actually have a law in the books that says surrogacy contracts are not enforceable.

[00:07:32] So if a surrogate is residing in the state of Michigan and she enters into a surrogacy contract with somebody and then decides that she wants to fight for parentage of the child. The parents have no legal framework to support them as the parents, because the contract they did is not enforceable. Michigan won't recognize it.

[00:07:53] This is an interesting example because gosh, it's been probably a decade now, but there was a surrogate in the state of [00:08:00] California who resided in California, entered into a surrogacy contract and some things happened and she decided she didn't think that the intended parent should be the parent. So she took off and went to Michigan to try and have the contract invalidated. Not because she wanted to be the parent necessarily. She just didn't want the parent to be recognized as the parent, because information about the parent had been withheld from her at the time of the match. This person should not have been a surrogate. This, this was not a normal situation at all.

[00:08:32] This was not a reputable agency and how this all happened. It was really horrible. Michigan said you can't do that. California pulled her back, California decided the case and said, no, you entered into a proper contract in California and California's law will apply here. So that would be a good compare and contrast of two different states with very different structures.

[00:08:53] And some states in the United States allow for surrogacy, but you have to go through additional hoops. It's just something you need [00:09:00] to be on top of and talk to your attorney about from the beginning.

[00:09:04] Nancy: Let's say you have a friend who says they'll do it for you. For example, that's, you know, not a great idea, right?

[00:09:10] Molly: Absolutely need a contract. Especially if it's like a family member. I see this pretty frequently where somebody within a family is willing to donate eggs, maybe with the same sex male, couple. One of the sisters will donate. So the family can actually have an almost fully biological child using the sperm of one dad and the eggs of the sister of the other dad.

[00:09:30] And it's a really beautiful thing, but you absolutely need a contract there because now you've got somebody where there's a DNA connection and they will be in that child's life. So you wanna make it very clear and make sure what everybody's intent was at the time of the donation is documented and that everybody had their own independent, legal representation at the time, to explain to them the contract, to explain to them any rights and any obligations they might have.

[00:09:57] Without a legal agreement or without [00:10:00] something in writing that says what everybody agreed to, that can lead to hurt feelings. And so I think it's a really necessary layer to have in that sort of relationship in regards to the trust, when you have a surrogacy situation or a donation situation where the parents don't know the person who's helping them.

[00:10:25] There's that's actually the most common question I get from the parents is we're reading this 30 page contract and it says, the surrogate shouldn't do this. And the surrogate shouldn't do that. And how do we know that she's behaving that way? Like how do we know? And I think that's a really excellent question and the answer is trust, but it's not just as simple as trust.

[00:10:46] It's, how do we build that relationship? It's almost a little bit like speed dating, where you go on a first date and then suddenly you're pregnant and having a baby together. So you have to like, and trust this person who you're doing it with.

[00:10:59] Nancy: Do you [00:11:00] have any other stories that you think illustrate.

[00:11:03] Maybe what can go wrong and, and why legal support is so

[00:11:05] important?

[00:11:06] Molly: I think the scariest thing is when we get the call, when the baby's days away from being born and the parents say, Hey, we are about to have a baby. We're so excited and we're ready to hire a lawyer to finish the paperwork for us. It's a really terrifying call for us to get, because the parent has no idea what a bad position they're in right now, getting that kind of legal paperwork cannot really be managed in a day. It's something that takes a lot of time to prepare. You have to file it at the court. And then the court has to take time to just look everything over and assess the case. And one of the additional challenges lately has been COVID.. Because of course, staffing is much lower, so things are taking longer.

[00:11:49] And that really scares me because the parents should be declared to be the parents and the surrogate should be declared to not be the parent. So when somebody comes to us at the [00:12:00] last minute and we have to try to play clean up and try to fix this, there's a big legal risk there. A big danger. And I think that's one of the biggest missteps I see people take.

[00:12:11] Nancy: Yeah, just

[00:12:12] not getting legal guidance early enough

[00:12:14] in the process.

[00:12:15] Molly: Mm. And if they had spoken to somebody at the beginning, they would hopefully have been instructed that these are the steps you need a lawyer for. This is how you should communicate with your lawyer. At our firm, we do a lot of follow up and we calendar things so that we know we're keeping in touch with our clients so that we know if they're pregnant and we are getting their paperwork done on time.

[00:12:36] And we're checking in about the status of things, if they have questions. And I think that's a really crucial thing for an attorney to do. If your client isn't so good at communicating, we need to overtly be communicative with them and be checking in with them and just making sure that they're good and that they don't need anything too.

[00:12:55] If

[00:12:56] you're someone navigating these journeys, there are so many other things to do, getting your, your [00:13:00] home and your life ready for a new baby. So that's great that you, you check

[00:13:03] in and, and help them out on that side.

[00:13:05] It's nice to really develop that bond. With the parents that you help over the years I've been doing this.

[00:13:12] I think I'm starting my 19th year. I've become friends with so many different people across the entire world. In fact, this is a kind of a cool story. I had some intended parents who their child was born very early. She was. Born around 24 weeks. And she was born in California and they lived in Germany. So they had to spend a lot of time in the United States.

[00:13:34] They didn't really know anybody, um, except for me, cuz we had been friendly through the whole journey. But while they were checking in, on her, in the hospital before she could be released, I would see them a lot. And we developed a really wonderful friendship and they decided they wanted to have a second child.

[00:13:49] So they came back to me for the second child and we did all the paperwork. And then when their son was born, they asked me to be the godmother to their son. Oh. And I thought, how special is that? That [00:14:00] I've managedto develop such a nice friendship with these parents that they would entrust me with something that important.

[00:14:07] And I think it's really cool that I'm the godmother to this little boy in Germany and , I think it's just really neat.

[00:14:16] Nancy: yeah. Oh, I love that. Yeah, that really shows how much trust you, you built in that relationship too.

[00:14:21] Molly: I absolutely love the parents I get to help. I love being with them through the steps of the journey, not to diminish the work we do as lawyers and the paperwork, cuz that's all very important, but this is really a very emotional and personal thing that the parents are going through.

[00:14:39] And so the more human you can be and the kinder you can be to people the better everybody's gonna feel about the whole journey.

[00:14:47] Nancy: Molly. Anything else that you'd like to leave our

[00:14:49] listeners with?

[00:14:50] Molly: I think the biggest tip that I could give anybody going through fertility journey is to really listen to your gut instinct, [00:15:00] trust your heart.

[00:15:01] If something feels good, continue down that path. But if you start to get the feeling like it's not feeling good back up, reassess, look at it. This is the most important thing. That you will be doing with your lives and you wanna make sure that you like, and you trust the people that are on this journey with you.

[00:15:19] So trust your. Trust your instincts.

[00:15:23] Yeah, that's great advice. Thanks again for being on the show. Really appreciate it.

[00:15:27] Thank you so much for having me on the show.

[00:15:32] Nancy: Another pursuit of parenthood that involves legal considerations is adoption. My next guest, Erin Quick is an expert in this area, both from personal experience and from founding her company PairTree.

[00:15:47] Erin: Hey,

[00:15:47] Nancy: Erin. Thanks for joining me. Thanks. I'm happy to be

[00:15:50] Erin: here.

[00:15:51] Nancy: I would love to start out just by hearing a little bit about your personal experience with adoption and what inspired you to found PairTree?

[00:15:59] Erin: Let's see. So [00:16:00] my background has been 20 plus years in global brand development and for the last 13 of that I was running my own firm in Seattle, like a good company owner. I was completely focused on the company and not family. And so I kept delaying this idea of getting pregnant until the point that it was just too late for my husband and I. So we tried to get pregnant naturally and nothing had happened in a year.

[00:16:23] And so we got recommended to a fertility specialist and we ended up spending around three years and I think it was close to $75,000 in that space and doing just about everything that we possibly could. And after our third miscarriage, he and I both looked at each other and said, let's we gotta stop. We just felt broken emotionally and physically and financially too.

[00:16:48] And so we moved into adoption thinking that it was gonna be easier. And were kind of floored when we got there that it's three times the cost of a round of IVF. The average adoption in the United States to adopt [00:17:00] an infant is 40 to $60,000. The wait times were around 24 months at the time. And so we luckily had some friends tell us about a method of adoption that doesn't use kind of the conventional agency methods, uh, and it's called self matching. And so that really appealed to us because we were kind of in charge of how fast it went, cost and timeline. We ended up hiring our own team. Instead of going to an agency, we hired a social worker to approve us in our state and we hired an attorney and said, we'll call you when we need you.

[00:17:32] And then the kind of the challenging and daunting part was you need to go connect with your own expectant mom. Luckily we found a website that was basically kind of a equivalent that connects adopting families with expectant families. And we put ourselves on there and within a few weeks we were in a hospital in Michigan holding our son, same process three years later, this time it took around four months, but same website and this time we connected with a family that was in Houston, Texas. And so [00:18:00] we found ourselves in Houston holding our daughter. And that's when I think when a word got out. And so friends of friends started coming to us saying like, teach us the ways, how did you do that? And that's when I think we looked into it as a business opportunity and said, is there a chance to help more families at scale if we built out a business and that was the seed of PairTree.

[00:18:17] Molly: And

[00:18:18] Nancy: why is the, the self matching process so

[00:18:20] Erin: much faster?

[00:18:21] The adoption process in the U.S. Hasn't dramatically changed in 50 years and the people that are in the professionals and, and granted I'm painting with a big broad brush right now. And obviously it doesn't apply to everybody, but I think as a whole, the industry has been slow to pardon in the pun, but adopt technology to make certain pieces of it more efficient.

[00:18:44] We liken it to online dating. Matchmakers always existed, but it wasn't until dating shifted online that it became massively popular. And so same thing for us is how do we use technology to support the pieces of adoption that can be made more efficient and, [00:19:00] and therefore driving the cost down with technology.

[00:19:02] And for us, that's like matching is huge for that the approval process. Is another piece that, that we've we launched a product to make the approval process much more efficient using technology. There are for sure aspects of adoption that are definitely better with a little bit of like the infusion of technology.

[00:19:18] And what

[00:19:19] Nancy: is that matching process like on the agency side, as opposed to the

[00:19:22] Erin: self navigated side? A lot of time and it depends on the agency and the agency size, but a lot of times these agencies have built established networks over time with various people that are somewhat influencers over expecting families.

[00:19:38] So say a woman walks into a hospital and gives birth and says, I'm, I'm not taking the baby home with me. You know, an agency might have a relationship with the charge nurse at the hospital or at a homeless shelter or a substance abuse shelter. They rely on those networks calling them versus being more proactive in terms of going out to find the expecting women, [00:20:00] which is something that, that Pairtree does.

[00:20:02] How does

[00:20:02] Nancy: PairTree connect with expectant

[00:20:04] Erin: parents? It's almost an even split. So about 50% come to us through social media. So we do a really good job of being in the places in social media, where expecting moms are. And then also then through search engines and primarily Google, that's just something that we found as a trend that this is the first time in history where.

[00:20:21] Where both adopting families and expecting women have grown up with the internet and online dating and social media. And so they're way more comfortable starting these relationships online than they've ever been in the past. And so they're turning to platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Google, before they're making any other kind of attempt to walk into an adoption agency.

[00:20:41] And so that's where we've been able to find and connect with them. And we've done areally good job we have had over 450 expectant moms in our first year, which is huge compared to what you know, most agencies would see. Yeah.

[00:20:54] Nancy: As a marketing person myself, I can see how your brand manager background [00:21:00] influenced, uh, PairTree.

[00:21:01] And it totally makes sense kind of incorporating those digital channels. That's great. So one of the themes of this episode is the legal side of family forming. And I'd love to hear a little bit about what someone should be aware of in terms of legal considerations. If they are going that self navigation route.

[00:21:19] Erin: It's gonna depend on the state that you're in about half of the states in the us are what we call agency only states. And the other half are states where you can just use an adoption attorney to do the legal work. And I'll talk first, maybe about the states that aren't. Agency only states. And then we can get into those, but I'll back up a little bit.

[00:21:38] So PairTree is a platform that provides all the services. A family needs to navigate adoption. The kind of nuance there is that we don't actually provide all the services, but we aggregate them and curate the very best ones for our families. And one of those, you know, major services that's needed is legal.

[00:21:54] And so we have partnered. Again, curated the best adoption attorneys in the [00:22:00] U.S.. And primarily the ones that we recommend are from a group called the quad a, so that stands for the academy of adoption and assisted reproduction attorneys. There's four A's in the name. And so they call it quad a. And so those are attorneys who have spent more than five years in the adoption space, and they've done more than 50 adoption related cases.

[00:22:21] And so for families that are looking to start somewhere with a legal professional, or they've already connected with an expectant mom, and now they need to walk through the legal portion of their journey is we always recommend starting at the quad A website and, or you can find them all on PairTree, too.

[00:22:37] And that's not to say that family law attorneys, aren't also good. It's just, I think for us there's family law attorneys deal with a lot of stuff other than just adoption. And so if you're gonna use a family law attorney, we recommend that families make sure that they have a significant amount of adoption experience because we have heard some really nightmare stories about people that didn't understand the nuance between state law [00:23:00] in Rhode Island versus state law in Connecticut. I also think that, and this isn't, again, this is kind of broad brush. It doesn't apply to every agency, but typically what we find is the least expensive route for families and adoption. If they get home study approved in their state, they match.

[00:23:17] And then they work with an attorney that can. Granted there's, you know, huge variables in adoption that can raise fees, but, uh, for most people that's kind of the, the most efficient path in terms of cost. For agency only states, that means the state requires you to work with an adoption agency like states like Texas.

[00:23:35] For example, if you're gonna provide the birth mom, any support, you have to be working with an adoption agency. We have some curated, some great adoption agencies in every state on PairTree, but most of the agencies either have an attorney in house or. They have a contract with an attorney that can take care of all the legal, for families.

[00:23:51] But if you've already connected with an expectant mom in an agency, only state, this is where it gets kind of nuanced. You can do what's called an [00:24:00] identified adoption. And so instead of an agency charging you all the fees that they normally would for a family that hasn't connected with an expectant mom, if you have already connected with an expectant mom, you've done kind of the hard part that the agency gets hired to do.

[00:24:13] And so you typically qualify for something that's called an identified adoption. So instead of $28,000 in agency fees, you're paying something like $7,000 in agency fees. So there's even an agency only states there's ways to make it much more affordable for families. Yeah. So is

[00:24:29] Nancy: the way that would work would be if you somehow connected with the expectant mom, maybe through PairTree and then kind of traced it back to a certain

[00:24:37] Erin: adoption agency.

[00:24:38] Exactly we did that. So, um, as a two time adopt mom, when we adopted in Texas, we had already connected with our expectant mom. And so it was just a matter of finding an agency that could help us facilitate the legal portion of the process. And we found a great agency in Texas and, and it was that they normally charged $32,000 and they charged us seven.

[00:24:55] Nancy: Wow. Yeah. Great savings. Going back to what you were saying about all the [00:25:00] differences in laws between states. Do you have any stories or maybe specific examples of where you've seen that kind of go awry?

[00:25:08] Erin: Yes. We heard about one just a couple months ago and it did, it took place in the states that I use in my example, where the states that it happened in, but it was a family that was in Connecticut

[00:25:17] and they're 20 miles south of the Rhode Island border. And they had connected to a family in Rhode Island, which basically, you know, like in any other state, the, the geography wouldn't matter that much, except that across the state line and the laws are much different in Rhode Island. I won't get into the actual specifics, but the attorney was not an adoption attorney.

[00:25:36] It was a friend of a friend and they thought they could save a couple thousand dollars in legal fees by using this person. And the child was at the hospital and because the attorney wasn't familiar with Rhode Island state law, the child was almost put in foster because he didn't have all the paperwork needed for Rhode Island that

[00:25:58] had they been in [00:26:00] Connecticut, it would've been no problem. A child was almost put in foster and this family that you talk about a roller coaster ride in terms of, because once the baby was put in foster it was going to be very hard to make the adoption happen privately. There are ways to make it very efficient, like I talked about, but it's not a place where you were like, eh, like a real estate attorney could probably get it done.

[00:26:17] This is yeah. You know, the place where you really wanna use an expert.

[00:26:21] Nancy: You said there are these ways that families can save some money, but legal services, not one of those areas where you can cut a new corners,

[00:26:28] Erin: not one of 'em. Yes.

[00:26:30] Nancy: In terms of HR leaders who are considering offering fertility and family forming benefits, what should they make sure to include in terms of adoption and, and resources that employees might need, if they're pursuing these different paths..

[00:26:44] Erin: Well, the first thing I would say is make sure that your plan has an adoption benefit. And I would make sure that the adoption benefit isn't just referring people to an adoption agency, which is what we have seen in most benefits packages. A referral to an adoption agency is not necessarily a [00:27:00] benefit because of what we talked about in the past that agencies charge 40 to $60,000.

[00:27:05] And can take 24 months. And so making sure that the spectrum of adoption options is available. And so for us, a self navigating platform that a family typically is gonna spend 10 to $15,000 adopting on versus the 40 to 60 is just as good. If not a better option, a huge caveat. We've partnered with a ton of adoption agencies and a ton of adoption attorneys understanding that there are options within adoption and making sure your benefit covers all of them, I think is the best thing that you can do. And then the other thing, this is just a little bit, I like to call it out, but when you're talking to people that are adopting, if your benefits packages named fertility, that I just wanna call that out is that it can be slightly triggering for families that most of our families have gone through massive amounts of infertility, huge long journeys.

[00:27:56] I, I went through it myself. I refer to those days as the dark days. [00:28:00] If you have to dig into my fertility plan to see if I can adopt was always like slightly triggering. And then the other thing is we see a lot of gay men adopting LGBTQ community and that, you know, fertility doesn't have a lot to do with their family forming journey.

[00:28:14] And so I think just ensuring that you're using the right language when you're communicating with these families, I think is really empathetic. And also you know, talking about inclusivity these days is obviously a huge push for every organization. So just making sure that the way you're communicating these benefits is in line with what these people are hoping to hear, I think is a big deal..

[00:28:35] Nancy: That kind of goes back to our, our marketing theme from earlier. Sometimes we do see employers who frame it as fertility benefits and people don't realize that there actually is support for their journey, whether it be adoption or even donor assisted reproduction, they think, oh, it must just be for IVF.

[00:28:53] So just making it clear, if you do offer all of these different ways of forming a family, making that clear in [00:29:00] communications.

[00:29:00] Erin: Exactly. And then, you know, the benefit to using kind of a platform over an agency approach. And, and I should say again, like we partner with a lot of agencies, so there's a lot of agencies that are on PairTree too, but using this kind of self navigated platform is the average benefit for an employee is 15 to $20,000 that you can fully support a journey, an adoption journey for your families, using a platform. What an amazing benefit, if a family doesn't have to come out of pocket to be able to build their family, that's a huge win for families. And obviously then organizations.

[00:29:30] Nancy: You

[00:29:31] also just mentioned LGBTQ plus people who are looking to adopt.

[00:29:35] I, I wanted to see if you could just briefly touch on some specific, maybe legal considerations for those people. I, I know that there are still some restrictions in, in certain states that are allowed around LGBTQ

[00:29:48] plus adoption.

[00:29:49] Erin: The statistic is there are no states that deny LGBTQ the ability to build a family, but because the adoption world has been so dominated by [00:30:00] faith-based organizations who do have the right to deny service based on their faith.

[00:30:04] And so that was one of the other reasons that I think PairTree really wanted to get to market as fast as we could is because we believe all family, having the ability to, or all families, having the ability to build a family the way that they want to. And so making sure that we're open to all people and that all the LGBTQ community has an option to work with PairTree in any states where the agencies won't work with them.

[00:30:27] It's LGBTQ families, it's single person families. So a lot of agencies will choose not to work with single person, whether male or female. And then it's also families that are older. A lot of agencies have restrictions around working with families that where the combined ageis over a hundred, it feels a little bit arbitrary, but it's, you know, at PairTree, we just believe like, who are we to tell you?

[00:30:47] You can, or can't build a family. We wanna make that path to parenting as easy as possible for all families.

[00:30:52] Nancy: Before we started recording. You mentioned that PairTree has expanded the options that people have on your platform. Can you [00:31:00] tell me a little more about

[00:31:00] that?

[00:31:01] Erin: We're also now connecting, adopting families to embryo donors.

[00:31:05] Their people's objective is to build a family and if they can carry, they just can't make a child providing them even more options to connect with potential ways to build a family becomes exponentially more important.

[00:31:16] Nancy: What are, um, some circumstances that, that you've heard of so far where embryo adoption is an option someone might choose?

[00:31:23] I, I think that's something even at Carrot. I, I don't think we talk about as much.

[00:31:27] Erin: Many many families are going through IVF and so many extra embryos that aren't, you know, intended for them. You know, say a family goes through IVF and they come out with five embryos. They want two children, they put into embryos and they both take, then they have three embryos that they're paying storage fees for.

[00:31:40] And their two options are to discard them or to donate them to a family. There used to be a third option to donate them to science. But I think science was like, Nope, we are too many. For families that want to donate them to a waiting family like we have on PairTree. This is where it gets. I think it gets super cool is that process has existed [00:32:00] forever, but it's always been anonymous.

[00:32:02] But now, because of the rise of 23, me and, there's a really good chance that child is gonna find you and, or find your children or extended family. And so those families that have extra embryos to donate saying, well, if the child's gonna find me. I wanna play a more active role in which family this is going to and what our involvement is going forward.

[00:32:22] And so it ends up looking a lot like adoption. So these embryo donor families are picking the, you know, quote unquote adopting family, even though it's not legally, it's not adoption, it's it follows property law. So they're picking the family that they want the embryos to go to. And then they're building for the most part open adoption agreements with this family to say like, I want pictures twice a year, or we wanna play an active role in your life.

[00:32:46] And so the process follows our existing PairTree adoption process almost to a T it's just making sure that we can make the connections between the embryo donor and the waiting family. And we have right now around 20% of our waiting families can carry. They just [00:33:00] can't create, we're starting to partner with fertility clinics and cryo banks to make sure that the embryo donor families know that they have a lot of really good options in terms of families to choose from.

[00:33:09] You mentioned

[00:33:10] Nancy: that it's actually part of property law. So is that you would probably need to connect with a different kind of lawyer, maybe, uh, someone who specializes in donor assisted reproduction for those journeys?

[00:33:20] Erin: That's where it gets really nice. So the legal network that we've curated through the quad a again, it's the academy of adoption and assisted reproduction attorneys.

[00:33:28] We have all the attorneys that anybody would need to go through that journey. And those contracts are a little bit more rote than adoption contracts. Open adoption. But, um, at the same time, there's still a number of variables. So we would, again recommend, definitely use a quad, a attorney if you're going through the embryo donation process.

[00:33:45] And if you choose to do it on PairTree, we can make it pretty seamless for all families.

[00:33:49] Nancy: I've heard people say that there's no such thing anymore as an anonymous, either adoption or donor situation. Do you agree with, with that statement?

[00:33:58] Erin: A hundred percent. Yeah. [00:34:00] And I think, you know, for families that want some level of anonymity, I think it's more, so you go in now eyes wide open in terms of there's a very high chance that child will find you.

[00:34:11] And so it's very hard to maintain that level of anonymity. For us, it makes making a highly compatible match exponentially more important. And so that's one of the reasons that we use personality based matching on PairTree. If you're an embryo donor family and you are explorers, you like to go see the world and try new things.

[00:34:31] And adventure is part of your DNA, literally. And figuratively then. You can come onto PairTree and you can find other Explorer families. So when adopted families are waiting families register on PairTree, we put 'em through kind of a personality, light test, and it classifies them as one of 12 major personality types.

[00:34:48] And they're all good. They're all just very different. We have everything from like Explorer, personality types to Sage personality types to rebels, to caregivers. And so when families, donor families and, or expecting [00:35:00] families are looking for a waiting family, because personality is the leading indicator of behavior.

[00:35:06] It gives them a little bit more meatier information about like, what would life look like if I chose you versus just looking at pretty pictures on a profile. And so I think because there is no more anonymity in any kinda like sperm, egg embryo, donorship it makes making that highly compatible match exponential more important because there's a good chance that you'll probably be involved with that family for the rest of your life.

[00:35:26] And you'll see how they're raising the child. And so you want to pick a family, that's gonna be raising the child the way that you want that child to be raised.

[00:35:33] Nancy: I love that there's a personality test. I think that's a nice way to bring something a little fun to that. A process that can be stressful. And to your point, it also has a lot of benefits in terms of making a great match.

[00:35:45] Thanks so much for being on the show.

[00:35:47] Oh, thanks for having me.

[00:35:52] You can learn more about the International Fertility Law group at And you can check out PairTree at [00:36:00] That's P A I R. In our show notes you'll find more information on how fertility benefits can support the legal side of family forming.. And as always, you can learn more about Carrot at

[00:36:14] Baby steps is produced and edited by Eric Montgomery and Christopher Olin. To get notified when new episodes are released, subscribe to Baby Steps on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast. Thanks for listening.