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The Sperm Bank of California is an ethical leader in the field of sperm donation. Having donors who agree to release their identity to donor-conceived adults is part of our unwavering commitment to the well-being of families and donors. ALL donors on the general catalog participate in our Identity-Release® Program.
History ~ Overview ~ Identity-Release® Program versus Anonymous Donation ~ What Recipients Should Know ~ FAQs ~ For Those Considering an Anonymous Donor ~ 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 innovative program came from parents who felt donor information might be important to their children 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, parents, donors, and donors’ families. In 2002, the first donor-conceived adult requested and obtained her donor’s identity. More than 200 adults have since received their donor’s identity through the program and over half have gone on to have contact with their donor.
In 2016, based on decades of research and experience, TSBC stopped offering an anonymous sperm donor program. (Note: Anonymous donors remain available to families for siblings.) Having only donors who agree to release their identity to donor-conceived adults is part of TSBC’s long-term commitment to best outcomes for families and donors.
The Identity-Release® Program is designed to give adults conceived through donor conception the option to learn their donor's identity. Our research indicates 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 donor-conceived adults. The names of parents and their children are never released to donors. Choosing to participate in the Identity-Release® Program does not require 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 in the Identity-Release® Program sign a contract that authorizes TSBC to provide their identity to donor-conceived adults under the following circumstances:
- 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.
In the year prior to donor-conceived children turning 18, we contact the donor and ask them to fill out an updated profile and to specify their preferred form of contact (e.g., phone, email, or letter). When information is released, we share the donor’s full name, birth date, and place of birth. We make every effort to provide donor-conceived adults with current contact information for their donor and an update. There is no guarantee that adults will request their donor's information or initiate contact. Our experience so far is that donor-conceived adults from ~40% of eligible families make requests. Over two-thirds of adults who received the identifying information have contacted their donor. See more in Who requests their sperm donor’s identity? The first 10 years of information releases to adults with open-identity donors (Scheib, Ruby & Benward, 2017).
Identity-Release® Program versus Anonymous Donation
In 2014, TSBC stopped accepting new donors who wished to remain anonymous. Previously, TSBC donors chose whether to participate in the Identity-Release® Program or remain anonymous.
Identity-Release® Program donors sign a contract that allows TSBC to release their identity to donor-conceived adults who request it. In contrast, anonymous donors signed a contract that prohibits TSBC from revealing their identity. Nevertheless, the anonymous donor contract permits TSBC to contact a donor when a donor-conceived adult petitions for the release of identifying information. It remains the anonymous donor’s decision, however, whether or not to release this information.
While anonymous donors have the option to switch to the Identity-Release® Program at a later date, Identity-Release® Program donors do not have the option to remove their consent for releasing their identity.
What Recipients/Parents Should Know
Research by TSBC and others indicate that many youth and adults want more information about their donor. About 40% of adults from eligible families have requested their donor’s identity through TSBC’s Identity-Release® Program. While not all donor-conceived adults make these requests, there is no way for parents to know in advance whether or not this will be important to their child. This is one reason TSBC no longer offers anonymous donors on our general catalog. The Identity-Release® Program provides parents and donor-conceived individuals with options and control that are not available with an anonymous donor.
We encourage all recipients to choose a donor who is willing to release their identity to donor-conceived adults. Parents choosing Identity-Release® Program donors:
- give their future children options that are not available with an anonymous donor.
- have the choice of what to tell children about the family’s donor origins and when to tell them.
- find it easier to disclose to children about the family’s donor origins.
- have flexibility should their life or perspective change.
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 whether or not to select an open-identity donor. We find that parents sometimes feel differently about these options after their child is born. If you have more questions, or feel hesitant about this program, the following information is for you.
If I choose a donor in the Identity-Release® Program, will you release my information to the donor? 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.
Frankly, this decision matters. 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 (or your future self) than it is to you now. We encourage you to consider this an important decision that will have significant 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 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. 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 do they do?
Donor-conceived adults who wishes to obtain their donor’s identity should contact us through the website or call TSBC and ask for our Executive Director. She will explain the process, answer questions, and mail the adult a packet that contains (1) instructions to formally request the donor’s identity and (2) resources in case they want 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 do donors choose the Identity-Release® Program?
Donor reasons vary. Most donors consider it in the best interests of the donor-conceived, would want the option to learn more if they were donor-conceived, expect to be curious about their offspring, and/or have a personal connection, such as knowing someone who is donor-conceived. A couple of donors answered in their own words:
“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.”
“In my mind, I shouldn’t be making a choice at all. I like to think that I’m making the choice to let my offspring make the choice. Why should anyone have the right to deprive them of information about themselves?”
While Identity-Release® Program donors are not required to meet offspring, we know that many donor-conceived adults hope to meet their donor. Prospective donors who are not comfortable with the possibilty of future contact with donor-conceived adults are encouraged to reconsider being a donor.
For Those Considering an Anonymous Donor
TSBC no longer offers anonymous donors on our general catalog. Prospective parents desiring an anonymous donor can find them at other sperm banks. However, before you look elsewhere, we encourage you to read a little more. 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. The donor can only be identified at the request of your future-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 to tell my child that they were conceived using donor sperm.
The decisions of whether, when and what to tell your child about your family’s donor origins remain yours, 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 open-identity donor.
My partner feels more comfortable with choosing an anonymous donor.
We encourage all potential parents 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 on 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; this is part of the reason that donor-conceived people 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 youth feel 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 person will be about their origins. Choosing an Identity-Release® Program donor leaves options open in case your child, as an adult, wishes to learn more.
I do not want information about my family released to the donor.
No identifying information about families is ever released to donors. Ever.