Anonymous Versus Identity-Release® Program Donors ~ What Recipients Should Know About the Identity-Release® Program ~ For Those Considering an Anonymous Donor ~ FAQs About the Identity-Release® Program ~ What Donors Should Know About the Identity-Release® Program ~ Research and References ~ Talking With Your Child About the Identity-Release® Program
THE SPERM BANK OF CALIFORNIA (TSBC) developed the Identity-Release® Program (the first open-identity program worldwide) in 1983 in order to provide donor-conceived adults with access to information about their donors. Initial requests for this pioneering program came directly from prospective parents who wanted to leave a door open for their children to get more information in the future. While an increasing number of sperm banks are following TSBC's lead, no other bank has done the systematic research, planning, and record keeping to ensure that donor identities are released in a manner that respects all the parties involved: donor-conceived people, their parents, and the donors.
The Identity-Release® Program is designed to give adults conceived through donor insemination the option of learning their donor's identity. Our research has found that many donor-conceived people want to learn more about their donor as a way of exploring their own identity.
The Identity-Release® Program is not intended to create parental or family relationships between donors and offspring. The names of parents and their children are never released to donors. Choosing to participate in the Identity-Release® Program does not obligate donors to meet their offspring;although our research shows that the majority of donors in the program expect to have contact with donor-conceived adults. (See Talking With Your Child About the Identity-Release® Program.)
Donors who choose this option sign a contract that authorizes TSBC to reveal their identity only under the following circumstances:
- A donor’s identity can be released only to the donor-conceived individual.
- The donor-conceived individual must be at least eighteen years old.
- The donor-conceived individual must request the donor's identifying information in writing and go through a release process before the identity is released. The information is not automatically released.
Before releasing any information to donor-conceived adults, we contact the donor and ask him to fill out an updated profile and to specify his preferred form of contact (such as phone, email, or letter). When we receive a written request from a donor-conceived adult, and match it with our records, we release the donor’s full name, birth date, and place of birth, and the donor's updated profile and contact information (if available). We make every effort to provide offspring with current contact information for their donors. There is no guarantee that donor-conceived adults will request their donor's information, nor that those who do request information will initiate contact with their donor. Our experience so far is that about 30% of eligible adults have made requests and that at least half of those who received their donor’s information have contacted him.
TSBC employs rigorous record keeping to track the birth of each person conceived through our donor program. However, the completeness and accuracy of our records depends on parents reporting their conceptions and birth outcomes. In the event that TSBC closes, we will transfer all records to a carefully selected agency and we will notify all recipients of this transfer in writing.
Anonymous Versus Identity-Release® Program
TSBC donors choose whether to participate in the Identity-Release® Program or remain anonymous. We indicate each donor's status in our catalog and donor profiles.
An anonymous (or 'no') donor signs a contract that prohibits TSBC from revealing his identity under any circumstance. This contract permits TSBC to contact the anonymous donor in the future should a donor-conceived adult petition for the release of identifying information; however, it remains the donor’s decision whether to remain anonymous or to release his identity.
An Identity-Release® Program (or ‘yes’) donor signs a contract that allows TSBC to release his identity to donor-conceived adults upon request (and to no other party). While 'no' donors have the option of becoming 'yes' donors at a later date, 'yes' donors do not have the option of changing their minds and becoming 'no' donors.
What Recipients Should Know About the Identity-Release® Program
We encourage all recipients to consider whether an Identity-Release® Program donor or anonymous donor is best for their family. We know that some prospective parents simply feel more comfortable using an anonymous donor. However, we find that the Identity-Release® Program provides parents and donor-conceived individuals with more options and control—making it important for all families to consider.
Parents choosing Identity-Release® Program donors:
- have flexibility should their life or perspective change.
- have the choice of what to tell children about their donor origins and when to tell them.
- give their future children options that are not available with an anonymous donor.
One of the first steps in the donor insemination process is to choose a donor. We understand that this can be a potentially complicated process with many influencing factors. One decision with long-term implications is the choice to use an Identity-Release® Program donor or an anonymous donor. We find that parents sometimes feel different about these options after their child is born, so we want to take a moment to present some important information that may be overlooked.
For Those Considering an Anonymous Donor
Do any of these apply to you?
I do not want the donor involved in my child’s life.
The donor will not be involved in the upbringing of your child. He can only be identified at the request of your then-adult child. Identifying information about your family is never released to the donor. This protects the family (and the donor) legally and psychologically.
I am not planning on telling my child that she or he was conceived using donor sperm.
The decisions of whether, when and what to tell your child about their conception origins remain parental choices regardless of what type of donor you choose. It is not uncommon for parents to be more inclined toward openness and disclosure after their child is born and parents often report that disclosure is easier if they have an Identity-Release® donor.
My partner feels more comfortable with choosing an anonymous donor.
We encourage all recipients and their partners to learn the facts about the Identity-Release® Program. Some partners express concern that the Identity-Release® Program will place their parenting rights in jeopardy. Donors in the Identity-Release® Program do not have any of the rights or responsibilities of parenthood based California law. (Note: Regardless of where the insemination takes place, the donor’s parental rights are terminated based on California law because the donation was provided in California.) However, we understand this concern and this is part of the reason that donor-conceived individuals must be 18 years old to receive their donor’s identity.
Another concern expressed by partners is that choosing an Identity-Release® Program donor will make the donor more important to their child and thus diminish the non-biological parent’s role in their child’s life. Our published research indicates that youth feel that being donor-conceived has a neutral to positive impact on their relationship with their parents. While it is true that many donor-conceived adults are curious to learn more about their donor, this is expressed as an interest in learning more about themselves and their genetic origins, and not as a desire for their donor to be their parent. There is no way to know in advance how curious any specific donor-conceived individual will be about their origins. Choosing an Identity-Release® Program donor leaves the door open in case your child, as an adult, wishes to learn more.
I do not want information about my family released to the donor.
Answers to Common Questions About the Identity-Release® Program
If I choose a donor in the Identity-Release® Program, will you release my information to the donor when I get pregnant? Can the donor access MY information once I am pregnant?
No to both questions. TSBC does not release identifying information about parents or their children to donors. In fact, we do not release any identifying information about our families to other parties except when requested to do so by families who choose to participate in our Family Contact List
If I choose a donor in the Identity-Release® Program, how soon can I get the donor’s information?
Parents do not have access to identifying information about their child’s donor. If you choose a donor in the Identity-Release® Program, your child will have the option to request their donor’s identity on or after their 18th birthday. While many individuals eventually share this information with their parents, the request can only be initiated by the donor-conceived adult.
It doesn’t really matter so we are choosing an Anonymous Donor.
Research from TSBC and elsewhere indicates that many donor-conceived youth and adults have a healthy curiosity about their donor. Therefore, whether or not the donor is open-identity may be more important to your future child than it is to you. Regardless of which type of donor you ultimately choose, we encourage you to consider this an important decision that will have future implications for your child.
Does the Identity-Release® Program give parental rights to the donor? If I choose a donor in the Identity-Release® Program, the donor could seek custody, right?
No, a TSBC program donor, regardless of their Identity-Release® Program or anonymous status, does not have the right to seek custody of your child. Donors in our program do not have any of the rights or responsibilities of parenthood based on the Uniform Parentage Act which is part of California law. Furthermore, the donor will not know who you are or who your child is. Remember, if you choose an Identity-Release® Program donor, your child will not have access to the donor’s identity until the child is 18 years old or older and is legally an adult. (Note: If you are considering working with a donor who is personally known to you through our Directed Donor or Known Donor programs, we strongly encourage you to seek legal advice regarding the issue of parental rights.)
What does it mean when you say you will release “Identifying Information”?
We release the donor’s name, birth date, place of birth, and available contact information. If the donor provides additional information such as an updated profile or photographs, we release that as well. We contact the donors before their eldest offspring turns 18 in an effort to have as much information available as possible and to provide support to donors and their partners and families in anticipation of contact from donor-conceived adults. It is important to remember that this is a human process. While most donors in the Identity-Release® Program anticipate being contacted by donor-conceived adults, what that looks like varies from donor to donor.
When my child reaches the age of 18 and wants more information what does she/he do?
The first step for a donor-conceived adult who wishes to obtain their donor’s identity is to call TSBC. At this time, the release of information is handled by our Executive Director. She will explain the process, answer any questions the adult has, and mail her/him a packet that contains forms to formally request the donor identity and resources in case she/he wishes additional support for the process.
If my child turns 18 and requests donor information, is contact with the donor guaranteed?
No. TSBC does not guarantee that donors in the Identity-Release® Program will have contact with donor-conceived adults. However, our experience to-date shows that the majority of TSBC donors are open to contact with, and are expecting to be contacted by, their adult offspring. (See Talking With Your Child About the Identity-Release® Program.)
Why are vials from donors in the Identity-Release® Program the same price as vials from Anonymous donors?
For many years TSBC charged the same fees for vials regardless of whether the donor was in Identity-Release Program or the Anonymous Program. Several years ago, we changed this policy to cover costs of running the Identity-Release® Program. An unintended consequence of this change was more women selecting Anonymous donors as a financial decision rather than based on what they felt was ideal for their family. To eliminate the influence of price on this important parental decision, we have adjusted the vial fees over a two year period to bring them back to the same level. This is consistent with our prior practice and with how we recruit donors for the program—all donors are paid the same per donation because we want each donor to make this decision based on what he feels is right for him, not because of a difference in compensation.
Do Identity-Release® Program Donors get paid more to be in this program?
No. All donors are compensated the same on a per sample basis regardless of which program they choose. We want men to choose the Identity-Release® Program because they believe in the program, not because they get paid more for being in it.
What Donors Should Know About the Identity-Release® Program.
We are always interested in recruiting as many donors as possible for the Identity-Release® Program. If you choose to remain anonymous, we will respect your decision. However, we know that open-identity donation is a new concept for many of our donors and we encourage you to consider participating in a program that would allow donor-conceived adults access to complete information about their genetic origins—something many of our donors say they would want if the roles were reversed. Our research indicates that donor-conceived adults want to learn more about their donor as a way to learn more about themselves.
We believe the Identity-Release® Program leads to the best outcomes—not just for the donor-conceived individuals and their parents but for donors as well. Donors participate in this program for a variety of reasons.
The most commonly stated reasons donors choose to participate in the Identity-Release® Program include:
- the donor felt that donor-conceived adults should have the right or chance to know to their donor's identity
- the donor would want to have this option, if he were donor-conceived
- the donor said he was curious about future offspring
- the donor has a personal connection, such as having a friend who is donor-conceived
One TSBC donor summed up his decision like this:
I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who was the result of such a donation. I might not actually look up the donor, but it would be reassuring to have the option to do so.
Note: While Identity-Release® Program donors are not required to meet offspring, many donor-conceived adults hope to meet their donor. Men who are not comfortable with the prospect of future contact with donor-conceived adults may want to choose the anonymous program or even reconsider being a donor. Many prospective donors need time to consider the program. It is fairly common for men to start as anonymous donors and after some time and thought to change to the Identity-Release® Program.