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Wednesday, 01 June 2022 11:33

Crisis in Ukraine creates fears for Canadian parents using Ukrainian surrogates

With tensions rising in Ukraine, the Canadian government last weekend again urged its citizens to leave. But some Canadians – expectant parents working with surrogate mothers in that country – continued to make plans to head over. Their babies will be born in the coming weeks and months.

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In surrogacy, a woman carries another person’s child for them until birth – babies typically conceived through in vitro fertilization and, in the case of Ukraine, using a parent’s own sperm, eggs or both. Only a handful of countries allow international surrogacy. Canada is one, but it’s not legal to pay for the service here. In Ukraine, it is. And as a result of a ready availability of surrogates, surrogacy-friendly parentage laws and relatively low prices, Ukraine has become a favourite for married heterosexual couples from around the world.

Susan Kersch-Kibler, founder of Delivering Dreams, a small New Jersey-based agency, said two of her Canadian clients will have babies born in the next month. Her agency typically recommends parents arrive about two weeks before the due date, and that means travelling soon.

But parents are really on edge, Ms. Kersch-Kibler said. They’re worried about the safety of their surrogates and their babies, and how they’ll get out of Ukraine in the case of a Russian invasion. “I’m spending almost all my time on the phone,” she said, “trying to talk people off ledges.”

Earlier this month, she held a Zoom call for her clients and outlined potential scenarios.

Ms. Kersch-Kibler advised people to prepare for cyberattacks. Telephones, cellphone towers, the internet, the power grid – all are vulnerable, she believes. All her clients and her Ukraine-based staff are being issued satellite phones.

ATMs and banks could go down temporarily too, so Ms. Kersch-Kibler advised packing extra cash. Heating systems could malfunction, so parents should bring warm clothing, she said. If possible, people should book accommodations with independent heating and water, and even electricity.

She also advised purchasing very flexible airline tickets – the kind that allow passengers to change not only dates, but destinations and departure cities as well. That’s because it’s not certain where surrogates will be when parents arrive.

It’s routine practice for Delivering Dreams to move surrogates closer to major centres such as Kyiv three months before the birth. But women living close to so-called “contested” areas of Ukraine were moved early, including one whose home is just 200 kilometres from the eastern city of Donetsk and who is acting for a Canadian couple.

After this past weekend, when some foreign governments elevated their concerns, the company moved surrogates further west, to Lviv.

If there is an invasion, Ms. Kersch-Kibler said, the agency had contingency plans to move surrogates out of the country altogether. Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova all border Ukraine to the west, and could become safe havens for surrogates who leave.

One challenge is that these countries all have different parentage laws than Ukraine, and a birth there would mean additional complications in making the foreign intended parents the legal parents. For that reason, she said, surrogates due to deliver soon will be moved into the Czech Republic, which has laws similar to Ukraine that would recognize the foreign parents as legal parents right away.

An Australian surrogacy broker, Growing Families, which connects patients to agencies and clinics in other countries, is fielding similar concerns from its clients about Ukraine. Some have asked to transfer their embryos elsewhere, and couriers are being arranged. Others are worried about not getting clearance from their employer to travel to areas deemed by their government to be high-risk. Similar to Canada, the Australian government recently issued a “Do Not Travel” advisory.

“Such a blanket advisory is not helping [intended parents] expecting births or in Ukraine now,” Sam Everingham, global director of Growing Families, said in an e-mail. “The last thing we want is parents too afraid to travel, or panicking and leaving babies behind.”

Canada’s advice to citizens last weekend was to “avoid all travel to Ukraine” because of Russian threats and the risk of armed conflict. “If you are in Ukraine, you should leave while commercial means are available,” the advisory said. The Canadian embassy has moved consular services to Lviv from Kyiv. The U.S. embassy advised parents to travel by land to Poland, where American officials will issue travel documents.

Even so, Ukrainian fertility clinics continued to offer services, screen surrogates, perform fertilizations and transfer embryos into surrogates.

VittoriaVita, a large surrogacy agency based in Kyiv, wrote in an e-mail last week that while it understood the concerns of foreign parents, news outside the country doesn’t reflect the reality within. “Unfortunately, many news abroad are too exaggerated, which leads to a distorted perception of this informational war,” wrote Alina Bashynska, a manager with the company. “Therefore, we kindly ask everyone not to panic, but to consider the situation soberly and with a cool head.”

VittoriaVita counts five Canadian couples among its clients.

One surrogate, Nataliia, who is carrying a baby for Canadians due to be born in May, last week called the idea that Russia would invade “complete nonsense.”

Another, Maryna, who is carrying twins due in mid-April for a Canadian couple, said it was all just political posturing. She added that she speaks regularly with her Canadian family and they don’t talk about politics.

It’s not clear how many Canadian citizens turn to Ukraine for surrogacy each year. But according to Immigration Canada, in 2021, 45 passports were issued to infants younger than 12 months of age who had been born there. Given that both parents of a child need to be present to complete the paperwork, that means that some 90 Canadians – or 135, if you count the babies – could be in Ukraine this calendar year as a result of surrogacy.

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We have been very satisfied, I have been comfortable at the clinic and with my doctor. I was heard. I could ask any questions. I like you have hu-mor, despite the circumstances. Great clinic. Your service has been very good. You have been a huge support and very spacious. You have been available 24 hours a day. You have the answer to all the questions we have been asked. You have accommodated our nervousness, you have rejoiced with us, you have been there throughout. I could not have wished ...
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A and S
The communication with surrogate is easy and better than what we expected. The updates are provided as scheduled with occasional surprises
The support was great. It was easy on us that the coordination was done by the delivering dreams team while being completely transparent with us on the progress. The communication with the delivering dreams team was always fast, responsive, and easy.
E and K
Thank you kate. You have been great today and all the other days ❤ you are a great team. We are very satisfied and happy for your help.
We were confident before in our choice, but this experience has confirmed beyond any doubt that we choose the best agency.
I loved working with Susan and her team and highly recommend them to anyone considering her services. She's is great at every aspect of a process and knows how to handle delicate matters.
Diana Lyakhovetska
Susan truly understands the needs of parents using surrogacy, and offers comprehensive emotional support to parents as they experience the journey!
Christine Hughes Pontier
The team at Delivering Dreams is amazing! Their attention to detail and ability to put your mind at ease while growing your family is like none other. They handled everything for us, and I never once doubted they would help us accomplish our dreams.
Margaret Jones
I’ve known Susan for several years now, and I’ve always been impressed by her attention to her clients’ needs. I’ve known her to work ardently and diligently to solve whatever challenges, no matter how unique, that prevent her clients from completing their families. She is a problem-solver, and she earnestly believes in providing the best options and in making surrogacy opportunities realities: this is not merely a business for Susan. She will help customize the process for your needs and to ...
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Mary Woods
Susan has a keen sense of business and goes to the max to solve her clients’ problems. She is super knowledgeable on business, laws and how things work in surrogacy in general, and specifically on Ukrainian surrogacy. She is an advocate for transparency in a market that’s often opaque and full of hidden risks. I really enjoyed working with Susan. She really pays attention to detail and was always looking out for my best interest above all. Highly recommend!
Laurie Tham
Delivering Dreams goes above and beyond what other surrogacy agencies offer. After speaking with Susan, I see how they anticipate every part of the process, down to details that I had never even considered. I didn’t know what I didn’t know! Surrogacy can be really complicated and confusing. What an amazing sense of relief to have a company so dedicated to managing the WHOLE process and taking away as much of the stress as possible.
Kate Varness
I have gotten to know Susan through a group where we are members. I have found her to be a genuine and caring person. Her consideration for others and love of her work with Ukrainian surrogates and parents-to-be are evident in all her decision making. She is passionate about being a force for the greater good and helping where she can. I have been amazed at the way she is able to smoothly navigate the complicated maze of requirements in the surrogacy process. I am happy to give her my highest...
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Rose Anne Barbour Huck
Susan Kibler is kind.  She clearly loves those she works with and loves what she does.  Susan listens deeply and compassionately and can make you laugh all in the space of one conversation.  She is wonderful!  If you are feeling worried, she'll hear you.  If you have questions, she will find answers for you. If you need help, she does her very best to support you.  I feel so fortunate to have found her and imagine you will too.
Frances Russell
Susan has the ability to really connect on a personal level quickly.  I have found her easy to talk to and have been so grateful for her guidance.  She is one of those people who offers so much to her clients.  She sees the big picture and has a heart for the most intimate concerns.  She is highly skilled and able to manage what can certainly be challenging and uncomfortable experiences, making them feel easier.  She will take charge at the perfect times and guide you when you really need her...
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Susan Seare
The international surrogacy world is complicated. Susan Kibler knows its ins-and-outs. She knows the people and outfits you can trust and the ones to avoid. She insists on the best for her clients and handles the details so they don't have to worry about them. If you want to take the international surrogacy journey, you can trust Delivering Dreams International Surrogacy Agency to guide you on that path.
Nancy Linnerooth
My friend and I had a positive experience working with Susan. Susan is always super responsive and caring. She is very professional, helpful and reliable. My friend has soo much troubles trying having a baby for many years. My friend and her husband were about to give up their dream of having a baby. Susan Kersch Kibler found the way to help. She has unlimited energy, attentive to detail and super efficient. Great to work with!
Polina Clend
Susan is passionate about helping people become families. She is a trustworthy confidant to have on your side.
Kristen Ancker
Our experience with Delivering Dreams has been overwhelmingly positive. The team seems to be genuinely dedicated to helping us to realize our dream of having a child. The constant communication leading up to the trip and the numerous touch points made us feel comforted in what has been a very challenging and uncomfortable situation. We always had streamlined communication through the group chat and was frequently checked on during our stay.

Under Ukrainian law, surrogacy is a legal affordable option for traditionally married couples to have children using their own embryos, or with either an egg or sperm donor. There must be a medical reason you can’t carry a child. You are also able to participate if you have had 4 unsuccessful IVF attempts.


Under Ukrainian law, surrogacy is a legal affordable option for traditionally married couples to have children using their own embryos, or with either an egg or sperm donor. There must be a medical reason you can’t carry a child. You are also able to participate if you have had 4 unsuccessful IVF attempts.