How to Talk With Your Child About the Identity-Release® Program
Note: This article assumes that you have already shared your family’s donor origins with your child. If you have not, we recommend our article Discussing Donor Conception With Your Child and other resources at our website.
Talking with your child about having a donor is usually an ongoing conversation, not a one-time event. That your child has the option to get the donor’s identity adds a layer of complexity to that conversation. When and how you discuss donor family-building and the Identity-Release® program will depend on how much your child understands, what questions they have about the donor, and when you feel they have the capacity to understand all the details.
It is important for parents to recognize and accept their children's feelings. Your child will have their own feelings that may or may not be the same as yours and are likely to change over time. It is not uncommon for an eager child to turn into a more cautious teen, once the option to make a donor-identity request becomes a reality.
Before speaking with your child, it is important to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the Identity-Release® Program. This will help you explain the program clearly and answer your child’s questions to set realistic expectations of what lies ahead.
What is the Identity-Release® Program?
The primary goal of the Identity-Release® Program is to provide donor-conceived adults with access to information about their donors. It is a program about options and information. Adults (at least 18 years old) with a donor in the program have the option to obtain their donor's identity from TSBC. The fact that it is an option is important—your adult child may wish to request the donor’s identity when they turn 18 (or at some later age) or they may decide not to. If they decide to make a request, we will provide them with 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 preferences regarding contact, we release that as well.
The Identity-Release® Program is not intended to create parental or family relationships between donors and donor-conceived adults. TSBC does not guarantee that donors in the Identity-Release® Program will have contact with donor-conceived adults. While 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, we cannot guarantee this of all donors.
It is important to remember that this is a human process with great potential for a wonderful experience. But it also has the potential for mismatched expectations. Each donor’s openness and preferences vary considerably with respect to contact from donor-conceived adults. Quite a few of our donors have their own children with whom they have not yet shared that they are a donor. Others may have personal reasons for desiring less contact or more privacy. While some donors are very open to and interested in contact, there are others who do not wish to be contacted at all. However things go, it may help to remember that a lot of this has little to do with your child and more to do with what is going on in the donor’s life. Understanding this, having realistic expectations, and remembering that this is a human process, will help your child at adulthood, if donor-information release goes differently than what they hoped for.
Key Points to Share with Your Child/Teen
- When you turn 18, you have the option to learn more about your donor, including your donor's name. It is your decision if and when to do this; I will support you, whatever you decide.
- Your donor may be open to writing to, talking with, or even meeting you, or they may not be open to any communication. The program does not guarantee communication, so you will have to see what your donor is open to when the time comes.
- Donors are people with their own lives and experiences. Just as you have your own family, donors have their own families. Donors do not consider themselves fathers or parents to children being raised in the families they assisted.
With an older child or teen, you may wish to explore their motivations, hopes and expectations with them. Why they are interested and what they are hoping for may affect their experience of the information-release process and outcome.
Frequently Asked Questions
When my child reaches the age of 18 and wants more information, what do they do?
The first step is to contact our Executive Director who will explain the process and send the information-request forms to the donor-conceived adult. All requesters are provided with information and resources to support them during the release process.
Can I request the information for my child?
No. Our donor contracts allow release of their identity to their offspring only, not to parents. While many individuals eventually share this information with their parents, the request can only be initiated by the donor-conceived adult.
My child wishes to meet the donor on their 18th birthday, is that possible?
No. It is important to set realistic expectations with your child about the program. Even donors who are open to meeting in person may not want a meeting for the initial contact. We encourage you to review the details of the program and our research on the website, and call our Executive Director with your questions.
Can my child receive the donor’s identity before they reach 18?
No. Our donor contracts only allow for the release of identity information to adults. This policy is designed with the best interests of all donors, parents, and donor-conceived individuals in mind.
Our family has two children, can the older one still request information at age 18?
Yes. If the elder child requests while the younger child is under 18, our release protocol involves a conversation between the parent(s) and our Executive Director in which the donor’s preferences for this situation will be shared if available.
TSBC’s Experience Releasing Donor Identities
There are always exceptions, but so far we've found that:
- Each person is different. Some donor-conceived adults simply want to know who their donor is and/or see a picture of him, others want to meet their donor, and still others decide that they don’t want to know at this time in their life. It is ok if what your child wants changes as they go through this process.
- We ask donors to provide an update on their life and strongly encourage them to express their feelings about being contacted. If donors provide an update, they sometimes include a picture of themselves. Overall, the majority, but not all donors provide an update.
- Donors understand their commitment to the program. The majority of donors are expecting their information to be released and many look forward to being contacted. A small handful of donors have been unreachable or have had a change of heart. If your child’s donor is among these, we will discuss it when they return their information-request forms.
- About a third of adults who are eligible for donor-information release have actually requested it.
- More information is available from our research publications.
Contact TSBC Executive Director, Alice Ruby
Ph. 510-841-1858, ext. 204