News & Upcoming Events
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Study Findings: Scheib, J.E., Ruby, A. & Benward J. (2017). Who requests their sperm donor’s identity? The first ten years of information releases to adults with open-identity donors. Fertility & Sterility, 107, 483-493.
Commentary: The end of donor anonymity?
Experiences of donor linking - Research and personal perspectives: Joanna Scheib, Louise Johnson, Deborah Dempsey, and a panel of donor-conceived people, recipient parents and donors, Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), Australia, July 2018
Facilitating contact between donors & donor-conceived people: Lauri Pasch, Joanna Scheib & Ken Daniels, American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting, October 2017
Conferences: Alice Ruby, TSBC Executive Director, and Joanna Scheib, TSBC Executive Director, attend ASRM for the latest education and research on reproduction.
Favorite session chosen by Dr. Scheib:
Mental Health Symposium: Challenges and Controversies in Treating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Patients
Angela K. Lawson, Ph.D.
Sarah Holley, Ph.D.
San Francisco State University
Colleen M. Quinn, J.D.
President, American Academies of Adoption Attorneys and Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys
Alice Ruby speaks with Mina Kim on KQED Forum along with Diane Tober, Daley Dunham & Ryan Kramer.
LezBeMommies: Alice Ruby shares "Everything you wanted to know about sperm banks," from screening donors to talking to your children about donor conception.
Interested in studies and ongoing compilations about family building with donor conception?
We just completed interviews with adults about their experiences of getting their TSBC donor's identity. Keep an eye out for the results and other studies with TSBC families.
Research studies and more happening outside TSBC.
News & Research Update
A message for you from Joanna Scheib, The Sperm Bank of California Research Director.
I hope you enjoy this update about our programs. As I wrote this, I found myself incredibly grateful to TSBC recipient and donor families, staff and Board. Whether I'm calling a parent for information about their child's birth, asking a donor-conceived adult if they want to share their experiences, or speaking with a donor from our program 25 years ago, you are an inspiring group of people who are leading the way to better practices in donor conception and healthier, happier families.
1. Choosing donors study 2. New research collaboration: Participate in a study? 3. Study with parents from our Family Contact List 4. Want to connect with families who share your donor? 5. Adults with donors from the Identity-Release® Program
1. Choosing donors study
In the spring of 2013, TSBC surveyed recipients choosing anonymous donors over Identity-Release® Program donors. Our intention with the survey was to discover the extent to which prospective parents choose anonymous donors and why. Do anonymous donors meet specific needs of their family, meet a logistical need such as cost specifics, or is there something else entirely that drives the decision?
Recipients graciously spent time talking with us. Among the many reasons we identified, four main issues appeared to motivate recipients to choose anonymous donors:
Financial considerations: Cost motivated some recipients because anonymous vials cost less. [Vial cost no longer differs.]
Ethnicity: A specific donor matched the family/partner and the donor happened to be anonymous.
Comfort: Discomfort with the Identity-Release® Program that gives adult offspring the option to obtain the donor's identity.
No preference: The donor's status as anonymous or from the Identity-Release® Program did not seem important at the time. For example, a recipient would focus on donor vial availability and not on a future option to be able to access donor identifying information.
For recipients motivated by the first two issues, choosing an anonymous donor was intentional, as this choice met very specific family needs. However for recipients motivated by the latter two issues, we found that additional information about open-identity donation led to almost three-quarters saying that they were open to or might be open to using a donor in the Identity-Release® Program. Among recipients who valued donor anonymity, these donors could still meet the family's needs for privacy and comfort by honoring the parents' choice of if, what and when to tell children about their origins, and simultaneously offer the parents flexibility, should their perspective or privacy needs change.
Overall, our findings revealed the need to provide prospective parents with more information and support to help dispel misunderstandings and fears about the Identity-Release® Program. The findings also confirmed our ongoing need to recruit more men of color (most TSBC donors are of European descent) and to charge more similar prices [prices are now equalized] despite cost differentials for anonymous and Identity-Release® Program donor vials, so that families who actually prefer an Identity-Release® Program donor can make that choice without compromising their family's well-being.
We are very grateful to the recipients who spent time talking and sharing their personal experiences. Information from this survey will help us continue to provide as much information as possible to help inform and guide individual donor choices (see For Those Considering an Anonymous Donor).
2. New research collaboration: Participate in a study?
Our Research Director, Joanna Scheib, joined the Family Communication Project team. The Family Communication Project (FCP) is a collaborative research effort led by Dr. Martha Rueter at the University of Minnesota. The FCP team includes researchers from across the U.S. and the families who participate in FCP studies. Working together, team members are helping to understand how to promote children's health and well-being through family communication. The current FCP study includes parents of children ages 4-17 years. If you are a parent of a child who is between 4 and 17 years old, you may be interested in participating. [This study is now closed.]
3. Study with parents from our Family Contact List
In June, we reached out to parents on the Family Contact List to learn about their experiences of contacting and getting to know families who share the same donor. We hoped parents would also share challenges, successes and suggestions to help guide other parents and donor-conceived adults as they join the List. The response was impressive. Within hours of emailing invitations, we received over 35 completed questionnaires!
We are now in the process of analyzing the questionnaire data and hope to learn three major things: what families' experiences are like, what feedback parents have to help others as they make contact and/or help us improve the service, and how parents conceptualize the relationships they have with genetically - but until now not socially - linked families.
In total, 230 parents participated, providing 180 complete response sets (i.e., gave us answers beyond basic demographics). Parents also had the opportunity to reflect further on their experiences and relationships through in-depth interviews with well-known family researcher, Abbie Goldberg, PhD, and her team at Clark University. Interest in participating in the interviews was incredible. The team hoped to interview 35 respondents, actually completed 55 interviews and had to turn more people away! The interview data are now also being analyzed. We are very grateful to all the parents who participated in both parts of this study. Your enthusiasm and commitment to your families and to participating in research that can help so many families is overwhelming. Thank you! [Results are now available and are being emailed to individuals who requested them.]
4. Want to connect with families who share your donor?
If you have wondered about contacting other families who used the same donor, you may want to join our Family Contact List. Registering with our Family Contact List is available to parents of donor-conceived children and to donor-conceived adults (at least 18 years old). 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. Simply send a written request (attention: Executive Director) that includes your child's full name (or yours, if you are a donor-conceived adult), date of birth and donor number. Please include your contact information and if you have any preferences or restrictions about contact. We'll add your name to our family registry, and when there's a match - that is, when another family who used the same donor asks to be put on the list - we'll put you in contact with each other. Please note that parents or donor-conceived adults must initiate this process themselves, as TSBC does not solicit families to register with the Family Contact List. Click here for more information.
5. Adults with donors from the Identity-Release® Program
We completed Phase 1 of our follow-up study on 10 years of information releases to adults with donors in the Identity-Release® Program. From September 1983 to August 1993, 256 families had a first born child with a donor in the Identity-Release® Program. Now 30 years later, we are seeing just over 35% of eligible donor-conceived adults making requests for their donor's identity. Specifically, in the first 10 years of releases, 85 adults made a request. (As of today over 100 have done so.) These adults ranged from 18-27 years, but most made their request around age 18, with over 90% doing so before the age of 22.
The process of information release requires several steps that can be completed (by the very motivated) in a few days, but on average takes adults about 1-2 months. Part of the process includes a brief interview with TSBC Executive Director, Alice Ruby. Analysis of these interviews indicated that the main driving factor behind the requests was curiosity. Adults reported wanting to know what the donor was like as a person, what he looked like and whether the donor-conceived adult shared any of his characteristics, saying things like "...to see who he is and what he does and what I got from him." They also mentioned feeling like obtaining this information could help them learn more about themselves.
One question focused on what adults hoped to gain from getting their donor's information. The majority responded that they might try to contact their donor. Interestingly, regardless of interest in donor contact, almost all adults expressed low-to-no expectations. One person put it this way, "[I] just want some questions answered, just want to know which parts of myself are from him." The majority - 76% - of the adults who made requests during the first 10 years completed the process and now have their donor's identity.
What's next? We are currently conducting follow-up interviews with these adults to learn what happens after donor information is released and to identify the extent to which the Identity-Release® Program is meeting the needs of our families. We look forward to sharing the results of this study with the TSBC community.
Seeking Study Participants and Contributors
The following are being conducted by individuals who are not affiliated with TSBC:
Family Building in Same-Sex Couples Study
Are you currently a member of a same-sex couple using fertility treatments (e.g., IUI or IVF) to form your family? If so, you are invited to participate in an IRB-approved study being conducted by researchers at San Francisco State University and the University of California, San Francisco. The study aims to examine family building experiences for same-sex couples. Participation involves both you and your partner. You each complete on online survey (30 minutes), then together complete an in-person interview (90 minutes) at a local university. You and your partner will receive $80 (total) for your participation.
- For more information, and to register for the study, click here
Using or Used Fertility Technology and/or Adoption to Have Children?
Lesbian women in monogamous unions for more than 6 months with the person with whom they plan to co-parent are invited to participate. Women can either be currently undergoing fertility technology or adoption or have been within the last year. Participants will be asked to describe their emotional experiences, coping strategies, social support and satisfaction with their medical personnel and/or social workers as they engage in fertility technology and/or adoption. The questionnaires will take between 20-50 minutes to complete.
Participants are eligible to enter a drawing for one of four $25.00 raffle prizes. It is hoped that responses will help improve services provided by medical personnel, social workers and psychotherapists.
The study is an IRB-approved dissertation research project by Karolyn K. Palmer, M.A, and Natalie Porter, Ph.D., at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, San Francisco. Click here for more information about the study and/or to complete the survey. All responses will be anonymous upon return.