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Family Contact List Information
What is the Family Contact List?
The Family Contact List (FCL) is a free program that provides an opportunity for connection between TSBC families with children from the same donor. We started the program in 1997 at the request of parents. Now 30% of all TSBC families have registered with the program and more than 80% of the families on the list have matched with at least one other family. Some matches exchange information by phone, email, or letter, while others have met in person.
How do I join the Family Contact List?
To join the list we require that a request be made in writing by letter, email, or filling out the Family Contact List Form on our website. It is TSBC policy to maintain the confidentiality of all families. Therefore, we require written documentation that a family has asked us to release their information to others.
The request letter should include:
- gestational parent's name
- partner's name (if applicable)
- child’s full name
- child's birth date
- child's donor number
- current contact information (mailing address, phone and email address)
- a sentence requesting to join the Family Contact List. All of this information is required to assist TSBC in making accurate matches and contacting you regarding your matches.
For families with more than one child, the same form may be used for all children in the family who have the same donor. Separate forms are required for children conceived using different donors.
What if I only want to release some of my contact information?
A family may state specific contact preferences; such as “I prefer first contact to be by phone” or “Please only give out my email address”. Most families give out their mailing address, email address, and one phone number (usually either home phone or a cell number). However, some families have requested to only give out an email address. Special requests regarding what contact information to be released will be accommodated and preferences will be shared with the other family or families. We encourage families who do not wish to share their mailing address to share their city and/or state as the relative location of families can determine how they choose to reach out to each other.
How does it work?
When we receive a Family Contact List request, the information in the request is checked against our pregnancy database to confirm it matches, especially the donor number. The family is then placed on the list. If there is another family (or families) on the list for that donor, they will be contacted to confirm their contact information and their continued interest in the program. All families are contacted and affirm their interest before their contact information is released. When both families confirm their interest, their contact information is shared with each other, usually by email.
What is my chance of having a match?
Almost a third of TSBC families participate in the Family Contact List and more than 80% of participating families have matched with at least 1 other family.
Will TSBC notify families not on the list that they have a match to see if they want to join?
No. TSBC lets all families know about the Family Contact List but does not solicit families from specific donors to join the list. Families vary widely in their interest in contact. We feel strongly that the best outcomes occur when families voluntarily decide to participate in the program.
Can I join before my child is born?
No. The Family Contact List is only open to families after their child is born.
Can a child place herself or himself on the list?
Adult offspring (18 years or older) may place themselves on the list. Younger children may not place themselves on the list.
When should I join the list? What age is best for my child?
There is no research on this and TSBC families join this list at different times and for different reasons. Some families want their child to know others in a similar circumstance from the time they are young. Other families wait until their child expresses interest in other children who share their donor. We encourage you to do what seems appropriate for your family.
What have experiences been like? Do families who have already matched have any advice?
Overall the feedback on the Family Contact List has been very positive. Each family contact situation is different as each family is different. Some families have developed close friendships either in person or long-distance. Other parents have found that they didn’t “click” with their matches but are staying in touch so their children can have the option to know each other in the future. Still other families have chosen not to keep in contact with their matches.
The advice and recommendations that follow are inspired by feedback from the families who have pioneered this process.
Think It Through: Friends, Family or Strangers?
When you choose to create your family through donor insemination, you have to approach the process deliberately and mindfully. This same willingness to plan ahead will serve you well as you decide whether to add your family to the FCL. Before you submit your request, we advise you to take the time to consider these questions.
What is your motivation? It is important for you to think through your own motivation, as this may affect your experience of, and satisfaction with, the matching process. If you’re partnered, does your partner share your motivation? If not, are you able to talk through your differences? If your child is old enough to express a preference, can you be flexible about slowing down or possibly postponing the process, if that is what you child wishes?
What are your hopes and expectations? Identify your own hopes for connecting with other families who share your donor, and practice putting them into words. If you’re partnered, communicating your hopes to your partner is a great place to start. It will certainly be helpful for both of you to hear the other’s expectations, as this will give you the opportunity to clarify where your expectations dovetail and where they don’t before you initiate the process. It will also be helpful for you to have a clear script in mind with which to communicate with other families once you have a match. Do you want to limit your contact to a single phone call or meeting, or do you want it to be ongoing?
You will need to be open to changing your mind and adjusting your expectations once you and your children are actually in contact with other families whose hopes and assumptions may differ from your own. This will be an experience involving your most near and dear, total strangers, and uncharted relationships, so you should expect the unexpected.
Take It Slow
Recipients who have gone through the process recommend that you start slow in terms of the level and pace of contact. In the first flush of excitement at making contact, it may be tempting to speak on the phone often or to schedule multiple meetings. However, this has the potential to set you up for disappointment or misunderstandings if you come to realize you have mismatched expectations of contact. Just as with any relationship that involves both you and your children—such as relationships with neighboring families, extended family, or families of your children’s classmates—it’s a good idea to maintain respectful boundaries.
Consider the Logistics
There are logistical issues outside your control that will affect your experience with the FCL.
Who Are the Families? The other families on the list for your donor may or may not be demographically similar to your own. In general, we find that single parents and LGBTQ couples are most likely to join the FCL while heterosexually-partnered parents are least likely to join. However, families of all types participate in the program.
How Many Families? If you are not sure whether you want to register with the FCL, but you are curious about the number of offspring your donor has, we are happy to provide this information. We can also tell you how many other families, if any, have signed up for the FCL. You may be matched with one other family, or with six, or you may not have any matches; it helps to be prepared for the range of possibilities.
Where Are the Families? TSBC ships sperm all over the world, so your family match is just as likely to live across the ocean as across town.
Language Matters: What should the children call each other?
You doubtless have your own way of referring to your child’s donor (donor, biological father, donor dad, etc.), and you will want to consider in advance how you’d like to refer to the children who share your child’s donor. Some matches refer to each other’s children as siblings. Others consider the children somewhere between friends and family and have chosen not to use the words “brother” and “sister.” Our culture is lacking adequate kinship terms for people who share genetic relatedness, but are not socially related. Some families have come up with their own creative terminology, such as “dosies” for “donor siblings.”
This is something that parents who have matched will want to discuss. We suggest that you identify your own preferences before you make the contact and be ready to communicate your choice of vocabulary clearly and comfortably to other families so that you do not find yourself in a situation that is awkward and potentially confusing for your child.
It’s a Family Affair
Perhaps the most important decision you’ll face is when and how to discuss family matching with your children and your extended family.
Ages and Stages. Some parents with very young children initially choose not to explain the genetic connection. They may meet on a casual play date basis if a match lives nearby, or they may postpone meeting. Others choose to explain using simple language, as they use for donor conception, to normalize the concept for their children.
If your child is school-aged, and understands the donor connection, you will want to avoid raising his or her expectations about potential contacts in case you and the other family have different preferences. Approach the possibility of contact as an interesting opportunity to gain more information about his or her family tree, but take care not to exaggerate its significance.
It’s best to let older children take the lead in determining how much family contact they desire. They may decide they are not interested in contacting matches. As one recipient put it, “Probably the most important thing in my mind is to remind myself that it’s not about me, really. It’s about our child and opening a door for him. As he gets older, he’ll take it his own way.”
Sibling Situations. If you have more than one child with the same donor, or with different donors, you may approach family matching with additional concerns. Two children with the same donor may have different feelings toward or levels of interest in meeting their “dosies.” If your children have different donors, and only one has the opportunity to meet others who share their donor, you might want to have a conversation about how this will affect your family. If you have a blended family, the siblings you are raising together may be sensitive about the notion that a genetic sibling from outside the family has any special status.
Charting Unknown Territory
TSBC has always advocated an open approach to donor insemination, and we appreciate the fact that so many of our families over the years have shared our values of openness and disclosure. If you decide to register with the FCL, we are confident that your efforts to be self-aware, to communicate honestly, and to focus on your children’s best interests will result in a positive experience for you and your family.
Where can I get more information?
Scheib, J.E., McCormick, E., Benward, J. & Ruby, A. (2020). Finding people like me: Contact among young adults who share an open-identity sperm donor. Human Reproduction Open, 2020. doi:10.1093/hropen/hoaa057
Goldberg, A.E & Scheib, J.E. (2016). Female-partnered women conceiving kinship: Does sharing a sperm donor mean we’re family? Journal of Lesbian Studies, 20, 427-441.
Goldberg, A.E. & Scheib, J.E. (2015). Female-partnered and single women’s contact motivations and experiences with donor-linked families. Human Reproduction, 30, 1375-1385.
TSBC Director of Research, Joanna Scheib, and Executive Director, Alice Ruby, conducted the first study on the experience of contact among families who share a donor: Scheib, J.E. & Ruby, A. (2008). Contact among families who share the same sperm donor. Fertility & Sterility, 90, 33-43.