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.
The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC) developed the Identity-Release® Program in 1983 – the first open-identity program worldwide – 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 increasing numbers 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. Since then, more than 300 adults have received their donor’s identity through the program and the majority have gone on to contact the donor.
In 2014, based on decades of research and experience, TSBC stopped accepting new donors who wished to remain always anonymous. Working solely with donors who agree to release their identity to donor-conceived adults is part of TSBC’s long-term commitment to the best outcomes for families and donors.
The Identity-Release® Program is designed to give adults conceived through donor conception the option to learn the donor’s identity. Our research indicates that many donor-conceived people want to learn more about the 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. The Identity-Release® Program does not require that donors meet donor-conceived adults, however, 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) Contact varies and may include email, phone, text, letter, meeting, etc.
Donors in the Identity-Release® Program sign a contract that authorizes TSBC to provide their identity to donor-conceived adults. TSBC provides this information under the following circumstances:
- The donor-conceived person must be at least 18 years old.
- The donor-conceived person must request the donor’s identifying information in writing and go through a release process before the identity is released.
In the year prior to donor-conceived people turning 18, we contact the donor and ask them to fill out an update and to specify their preferred form of contact (e.g., phone, email, or letter). When donor-conceived people request the information, we share the donor’s full name, birth date, and place of birth. We make every effort to provide donor-conceived adults with current donor contact information and an update as well. 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).
Research by TSBC and others indicates that many youth and adults want identifying information about the 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 accepts applicants who only want to participate anonymously. Instead all donors participate in the Identity-Release® Program, giving parents and donor-conceived individuals options.
Frequently asked questions
When my child reaches the age of 18 and wants more information what do they do?
Donor-conceived adults who wish to obtain their donor’s identity should contact us through the website. Our staff will confirm their eligibility and reach out with (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, donor-conceived adults. (See Talking With Your Child About the Identity-Release® Program)
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, photographs, or medical information, we release that as well. We contact the donors before the oldest donor-conceived person 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 possible contact. 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 this looks like varies from donor to donor.
Why do donors choose the Identity-Release® Program?
Reasons vary. Most donors consider it in the best interests of donor-conceived people, would want the option to learn more if they were donor-conceived, expect to be curious about people they helped to conceive, 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 [donor-conceived people] make the choice. Why should anyone have the right to deprive them of information about themselves?”