What is the Family Contact List?

The Family Contact List (FCL) is a free program that provides an opportunity for connection between TSBC families who share a donor.

We started the program in 1997 at the request of parents. Now ~40% 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. The program is open to parents with a reported live birth and donor-conceived adults. Some matches exchange information by phone, email, or letter, while others have met in person.

Donor-conceived adults (18+ years old) and parents may request to join. 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
  • non-gestational parent’s name (if applicable)
  • donor-conceived child/adult’s full name (see notes below)
  • donor-conceived child/adult’s birth date
  • donor number
  • current contact information of requestor(s) (mailing address, phone and email address)
  • a sentence requesting to join the Family Contact List

This information is required to assist TSBC in making accurate matches, contacting you regarding your matches, and keeping our records updated–only the information you request to be shared will be shared. We do not share the names of donor-conceived children under age 18 or donor-conceived adults who have not requested to match.For families with more than one child, the same form or letter may be used for all children in the family who have the same donor. Separate forms or letters are required for children conceived with different donors.

For families with more than one parent (and especially those with separated or divorced parents), we recommend parents make decisions about the Family Contact List together.

For donor-conceived adults whose parent(s) joined the FCL when you were underage, we ask that you email us to confirm your desire to have your name and email address added to the list. Because your parent(s) completed the form initially, you don’t need to fill it out again.

In our effort to ensure the best outcomes for all individuals, we ask that those who have received the donor’s identity not share it with other families who share the same donor. This policy is to ensure that we can provide detailed information, support and opportunity for discussion with each person who wants their donor’s identity. It acknowledges that donor-conceived adults have different levels of interest in the donor and may not wish to receive the donor’s information before they are ready, or at all. Lastly, it also takes into consideration the needs of the donor by making sure that we share any update they provided to be released with their identity. (The update often includes how the donor feels about being contacted.)
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 registrant is then placed on the list. If there is another registrant family, families, and/or donor-conceived adult(s)) on the list for that donor, they will be contacted to confirm their contact information and their continued interest in the program. All registrants are contacted and contact information is only released for those who confirm their interest in the program. Contact information is shared by email.
You may state specific contact preferences; such as “I prefer first contact to be by phone” or “Please only give out my email address”. Most registrants (i.e., parents, donor-conceived adults) give out their location (city/state), email address, and one phone number. However, some have requested to only give out an email address. Special requests regarding what contact information to be released will be accommodated as long as they include at least an email address and a name.
Almost 40% of TSBC families participate in the Family Contact List and more than 80% of registrants have matched with at least one other family.
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. Our experience supports our policy that the best outcomes occur when families voluntarily decide to participate in the program.
Children (under 18 years old) may not place themselves on the list and we do not share the names of those under 18. Donor-conceived adults (18 years or older) may place themselves on the list. We only share the names of donor-conceived adults if the request to share their name and contact information comes directly from the donor-conceived person–we do not add this information at a parent’s request.
No. The Family Contact List is only open to families after their first child is born.
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. Some parents don’t sign up at all, and instead their adult child opts to. We encourage you to do what seems appropriate for your family and yourself.
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. Donor-conceived adults are very positive about the program even when they have had little contact with their matches.

The advice and recommendations that follow are inspired by feedback from the families who have pioneered this process. 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.”

When you choose to create your family through donor conception, 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. Similarly, these considerations can be helpful when you are joining as a donor-conceived adult. 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? If your family is divorced, have all parents discussed the decision to participate in the program?

What are your hopes and expectations? Identify your own hopes for connecting with other families and individuals 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.

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 different expectations of contact. Just as with any relationship, and especially 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.
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+ parents 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, as do donor-conceived adults raised in different family types.

How Many Families? If you are not sure whether you want to register with the FCL, but you are curious about the number of families 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 matches may live across the ocean or across town.

Your family will have your own way of referring to the donor (donor, biological father, etc.), and you will want to consider in advance how you’d like to refer to the families who share the donor. If you have older children they may have their own ideas and, of course, donor-conceived adults will decide for themselves. 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 and/or donor-conceived adults 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, especially for a child.

Perhaps the most important decision you’ll face is when and how to discuss family matching with your children and your extended family. If your child has more than one parent, we recommend discussing joining with your child’s other parent(s), or at least informing them, so that no one is caught unaware. For donor-conceived adults, there are your parents and your siblings (if applicable) who may want to know.

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 their expectations about potential contacts, in case you and the other family have different hopes and understanding of what the link means. Approach the possibility of contact as an interesting opportunity to gain more information about your child’s family tree, but take care not to exaggerate its significance.

For older children, it’s best to let them take the lead in determining how much contact they desire. They may decide they are not interested in contacting matches.

Sibling Situations. If you have more than one child with the same donor, or with different donors, or you are the donor-conceived person with these siblings, you may approach family matching with additional concerns. Two children or adults with the same donor may have different feelings toward or levels of interest in meeting people who share the donor. As a parent, 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.

TSBC has always advocated an open approach to donor conception, 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, for parents, to focus on your children’s best interests will result in a positive experience for you and your family.

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.