Welcome to The Child Listener's 2011 - 2012
Campaign Page for DC Children
Please do Email The Child Listener™ Emma Hartnell-Baker with your stories, info and questions.
Speaking out for children born through egg and sperm donation, surrogacy- or who are adopted
- exploring the issues- supporting families.
Finding positive solutions for future generations- including more comprehensive sharing of information about biological origins with sperm donor conceived children. There are options for people looking for a sperm donor
- in addition to using fertility clinics and sperm banks- that could offer more hope for children. Let's explore these!
"Children Deserve To Know Where They Come From- Even Though Parenting ('Nurture') is The Most Important Factor
Social and Emotional Development in The Early Stages of Life.
From Then On Their Lives and Experiences Become Wider - However The Stability and Values Within The Family Will Always Influence How Children Develop, and The Choices They Make.
Honesty is the Foundation on Which To Build A Brighter Society- Coupled with Fantastic Parenting."
- The Child Listener™ 2011
Why The Child Listener™ urges
'Please say no to commercial assisted reproduction and especially to
anonymous sperm donation'
Recently, in a large-scale study of donor-conceived people (751 in total) - with about half of the respondents coming from the general public -82 percent of respondents indicated a desire to be in contact someday with the donor (3).
Top reasons for searching were 'To see what he looks like';'To learn more about my ancestry' and 'To learn more about myself'.
Participants in the study claim 'I am angry that I am denied the basic right of knowing who my father was and what ethnicity I am'; and: 'Angry and frustrated that I can¹t get information about my heritage, genetics, looks, and medical history'
and clinics. Please do join our supportive new facebook page where we post useful related articles and news relating to sperm donor conception - for example
'What the Kids Really Want by Wendy Kramer and Professor Naomi Cahn
We are realising how important it is that children know where they come from- as we hear of the sadness and sense of loss- or incomplete 'identity' when finding out they were adopted, or born through egg or sperm
donation, or surrogacy. Some children (now adults) born through anonymous sperm donatione arespeaking out of their experiences- some good- some not so good- but the majority speak of wanting to know their biological origins. Anonymous sperm donation is being abolished in many countries, as the child's needs and rights are being more carefully considered. However even when a 'known donor' is used, the child (and parents) are still in the dark until they are fully grown. The Child Listener™ believes that this needs to be addressed - and alternatives found- so that future generations of children do not need to go through life not knowing where they come from.
Please note that the focus throughout the site is that it is nurture rather than nature (especially PARENTING )
that determines the emotional and social development of children- even though EVERY CHILD has the right to know of his biological origins, as early as possible.
We support those raising adopted and donor conceived children- and those born through surrogacy- regardless of whether they are the biological parents, or not. Promoting Positive Parenting.
For example please read this interesting related article
Also note that we take little heed to those who seek to imply, or who purposely seek out to prove, that being born through sperm or egg donation, or surrogacy (or where adopted) means that
these children are destined - or more likely- to lead troubled lives. Or that children 'should' be raised only by straight, married fertile couples in order to have the best chance of happiness and success in life.
The experiences of children born through anonymous sperm donation is currently being widely discussed - especially on the internet- as several adults are now requesting- in court- that they be told of their origins.
While we wish to offer a voice for children - who had no voice when created using an anonymous donor- we cannot see how the laws can be retrospectively changed - even though we would love to hear of solutions that leave no-one suffering. In practise, what can do other than learn from this- and stop anonymous donations? To change the arrangements made in the past the judge will need to decide that the child has more 'rights' than the parent, and the donor. No outcome can 'work' for all. We of course welcome your views.
While we understand that people visiting the site and using the forum (shortly launched) may have differing opinions we would ask that you be respectful when commenting - and stick to issues- and not make it personal.
Many people do not speak out for fear of being condemned or ridiculed- and this site is about fostering love and compassion- and working together to create a brighter future for our kids - and ultimately our society.
To do this we need to focus on the future. We should not be engaging in discussions about who 'deserves' or 'has the right to' be parents in the first place (where those parents are emotionally and financially ready for children) but more on how to help our fellow human beings develop the skills to be amazing parents- and to meet the needs of their children. Supporting parents- be they single, gay, lesbian, infertile....because ultimately that means supporting children- and our future generations.
Please remain open minded and kind- and remember that every situation is different
- you only truly know of your own.
Also, that " Not even parents- biological or not- can ever really know what is best for their children, let alone other people's children- or the children not yet born." - The Child Listener™
An excerpt from "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
"Speak to us of Children".
And he said:
Your children are not your children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but are not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and
He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So he loves also the bow that is stable.
Please do send us your inspirational quotes - honouring children and their parents.
We also welcome useful articles and letters that relate to children born through sperm or egg donation, surrogacy or who were adopted. Please send them in the first instance to Info@ChildrenDeserveToKnow.com
- The Child Listener™ - A Voice for Kids
Forum Coming Here Soon- Moderated by Child Psychologists
and Family Therapists- Offering Free Support to All
Please Participate- Share Your Story- Support One Another
The Child Listener™ Asks -" When Does a Sperm Donor Become a Father?"
Are you a 'Donor Dad' - or want to enter into an arrangement whereby you are involved with the child after conception- or even to co-parent? Options for being in contact with the child are not available when you donate through a sperm bank. If however you donate through
Free Sperm Donations Worldwide (FSDW) you can choose who to donate to- and make your own arrangement, that more effectively caters for the needs of the children born as a result ie for information and ideally some connection.
Please also use the new free support network- 'My Donor Dad' - launching shortly- and the home to our new 'Sibling Donor Registry' - 2012. This is a secure private area (not spidered by search engines) where FSDW donors and members can keep in touch safely AFTER conception and not worry about potential legal issues- being sued for child support, or for parental responsibility.
You can liase through the free members area using your FSDW unique identifier code, asking and answering relevant questions etc. Trained professionals are on hand to resolve any issues and offer professional support re parenting matter, legal and health issues.
The DC child can also use this to correspond with the donor if and when ready - even before 18. FSDW donors agree to this and welcome this contact by the child.
FSDW lawyers are working on the legalities to make sure no court can ever get this information, or force a parent or donor to reveal their true identity- leaving them open to legal action. At present private sperm donation arrangements are NOT generally recognised, and we do not want genuine sperm donors, with honourable intentions, and would-be-parents to stop connecting for fear of these laws. The laws are there to protect the child, however FSDW donors and members have this at the forefront of their minds and why they choose this site-
moderated by a professional who is dedicated to children- it is why they choose to join the ONLY 'free, known, AI only (no sex) known sperm donor connections site in the world. There is no hidden agenda that can come ahead of the parents and child's needs- eg payment for the sperm or sex. FSDW is about QUALITY matches and family building- NOT quantity. FSDW is about helping adults make safe, responsible decisions with the child at the heart of every one of these decisions.
'Pregnancy is only one small part of this journey'
. The only money you ever pay is to subscribe to the members area and find your donor.
All services after that are FREE.
'My Donda' - Stories Inspired by Donor Conceived Children- Being Created by the Child Listener™ as
Short Stories- Starting Discussion with Children About Their Conception and Biological Self-Identity
See first story here
Sperm 'Donor Dad' Questionnaire Here
- Sharing Information with Sperm Donor
(using a private sperm donor- eg through FSDW)
This is a starting point- based on what children have said they would like to know about their 'donor dad' in the early stages - making him 'real' - not just a sperm producer. Even through clinics is it not possible for donors to complete information such as this- without contact information?
Most children - who are told of their conception in a sensitive and age appropriate manner - separate the sperm 'donor dad' from their 'real' parents (as they say) To them, the people caring for them- soothing their nightmares, putting a band aid on their 'boo-boo' are the people they call 'Mom and Dad' or 'Mom and Mom' or 'Dad and Dad'. We have found that it is when children do not get the parenting they need that they hope for something better- often hoping that this will come from the biological parent they do not know. Sometimes this can be true- and sometimes it isn't. It is also logical when children are being raised by parents very different to them- in looks, personality, interests etc- (which can also happen with biological families) that children ask more questions about their origins- even though there may not be the link they believe is there.
The main thread is honesty- and that children can find out about their origins if the need and want to at the very least at 18. If we are parenting positively (see info about this here) this will not threaten us
- or our relationship with them. We can also perhaps protect them from the emotions they may feel later
in life, if their biological origins turn out to be not quite what they had hoped for. At present
counselling really only happens when the child becomes an adult and wishes to meet him- surely we should be preparing them for this far earlier?
Within the news there have been an increasing number of stories relating to sperm donation and the issues relating to children.
For example 'Explaining Sperm Donation to A Pre-Schooler' Please do send us others you find!
An introduction from The Child Listener™
- Learning From Past Mistakes- And Looking Forwards
Within the modern world a 'traditional' family is becoming a redundant term- with fewer and fewer children being conceived or raised by straight couples after a wedding ceremony. Single women, lesbian and gay couples and unmarried straight couples are making the decision to have children - through a variety of methods- and creating their own arrangement regarding the raising of the child. In an ever changing world - and especially since the creation of the internet - it is becoming easier and easier to have children- and it often doesn't involve vast amounts of money. Having more choices and opportunities seem positive; more adults are now able to fulfil their dream of becoming a parent - however these children often face issues not considered - or relevant- previously. The focus is often on how to have a child rather than what happens later- in the same way that planning can go more into a wedding day than a marriage. Discussions and decisions about the raising of the child, and in how to meet their needs, should happen before the child is brought into the world and to the family. As most would go into a wedding believing it will work- that love and good intentions will ensure that their marriage survives and flourishes- most enter 'parenting' with the same approach. 'If I love and care for my child with good intentions all will be fine.' Unfortunately that isn't always the case- and many difficulties in this unforgiving and often cruel new worlds that we live in, can be prevented. Different issues and questions arise at different stages of the child's life, and together we can explore these- sharing stories and questioning our own practices and attitudes.
I am known as 'The Child Listener™ - and as a ''Voice for Kids' and as such am developing this campaign in 2011- for children and their families. I believe that we can best help children by bringing together parents within a supportive community- so that we can all work together without judgment, and with compassion. I aim to raise awareness of the issues relating to children born through sperm donation, egg donation, surrogacy or adoption- and put forward information for current and also potential parents. When armed with information, and a mind (and heart) open to the possibility that we cannot know everything, or be the perfect parent, we can bring about change; a community of parents proactively meeting the emotional needs of their children. Children who are their children- regardless of their biological origins. .
Self-identity is who we are- and we can help children develop a positive image of self- based on reality- without needing to feel threatened about our own importance in our child's heart. Knowing when and how to tell children about their heritage- their biological origins - is explored within this campaign, although we must remember that our own parenting, and the experiences they have within their own social world, matter far more with regards to their development.
As private sperm donation arrangements is an area of particular interest to me I also seek to explore alternative private sperm donation arrangements that can benefit the child- arrangements not currently recognized or supported by the fertility authorities or legal systems.
We can set in place discussions and activities that help develop more effective communication with our children- rather than having to deal with issues as they arise. It is similar to my approach towards tackling bullying ; I help children feel (realistically- rather than narcissistically ) good about themselves- so that they are less likely to become targets, less likely to accept bullying as bystanders, and less likely to turn to bullying others. This is far more effective than having to work with children after they have been bullied or have been bullying others. Within this site you will see that I take the same approach- seeking to help children understand where they come from biologically, to view this information positively, and to therefore know how to deal with any difficult questions without fear or defensiveness before they even arise. Raising kind, self-confident, self-aware individuals with a desire to live their best life!
Thank you for your patience while we complete the site and add content to all pages
Please do Email Me to add your own stories and useful info. All voices are heard- however please keep them kind and respectful:-)
The Child Listener™
Know of useful assisted reproduction (with a focus on the DC child) related sites?
Recommend useful sites and we will add them to our Directory.
Please note that while we support the idea behind the 'Anonymous Us' Project by Alana Stewart who appears to offer a platform for adults born through anonymous donations to speak out and share their stories, we are concerned about the viewpoints of its creator. Mainly in that Alana (through her comments- even though not published on the site itself) seems to believe that sperm (and egg) donation (and surrogacy) should not be allowed at all- and that she is apparently supported by certain groups who believe that children should only be raised by straight, married couples- who are the biological parents. We are waiting to see if the radical beliefs held by Alana are manifested or encouraged on the Anonymous Us project web site itself before we link to it.
If it is to be used purely as a neutral - and emotionally safe- place for people to share their story, express their grief- or happiness- then we will of course link to it. However Alana posted this recently after a workshop for parents considering using reproductive technologies to grow their families. It indicates her true feelings and does not indicate that she wants to consider anything positive about assisted conception at all. http://familyscholars.org/2010/06/08/a-sunday-in-the-shark-tank/
She is funded/ supported by groups such as the 'Institute for American Family Values' who appear to, again, only support that children be conceived to straight, married, fertile couples. You can see how this project is being advertised through such groups for example through very one sided and judgemental articles, such as Untold Story of Donor Conceived Children
Also note that many are now researching and writing about the vital role nurture plays with regards to how happy and successful (emotionally) children are - and how they develop through to adulthood.
For example please read this article - "How Parenting Matters" http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/how-parenting-matters/
However we are adamant that children deserve to know where they come from- however wonderful the people raising them. On this we very much agree with Alana- also that commercial sperm donation practices could be viewed as a violation of children's rights, even if they are allowed to find out their origins at 18.
This is why The Child Listener™ advocates arrangements that encourage the sharing of information, the acknowledgement of the role the biological father played, and ideally a relationship with him from birth that can develop according to the wishes of the child as they develop.
However this is not embraced by Alana as it is not only commerical sperm donations that she appears to want to abolish - but also the ability for anyone who is not married and fertile to be having and raising children. This turns the issue into something far more complex.
Heard of related news and press releases?
Should single women, gay and lesbian couples use altruistic surrogates in Queensland?
(new laws are being passed to allow for altruistic surrogacy)
'Donor kids crave genetic identity'
The web site FSDW (DIY Baby) allows for single women, lesbian and infertile couples to connect with sperm donors who will agree to have contact with the child BEFORE 18- or even to co-parent - and make an arrangement that enables the child to know who he is. People shouldn't have to go through what Damien Adams talks about - craving his genetic identity- and the issues many others are going through- even knowing info at 18 is too late. Many are using FSDW for that reason- so their children will meet their 'donor daddy' or at least be given information about their biological identity. Children deserve to know where they come from. So we were looking forward to a positive piece about the options available- that will stop children- and adults who are donor conceived- to have to go through knowing nothing about their biological origins. This is an issue that needs talking about; it is the authorities and the current system who should be scrutinized however!
There is a story to be told of how modern parenting is changing- and that children born through surrogacy, egg and sperm donation - or who have been adopted- are thriving- with great parents. Often these people- because they so wanted children and were unable to do so without help- are even more caring and empathetic towards their children than those born 'naturally'. It is the parenting we should be focusing on- and in supporting all parents- so that we can change our society- as well as working out how to give children the information they want .
Let us know what you think
More related news is here.
What options are there for adults wishing to have a child - if not a fertile straight couple?
Sperm donation is the name of the provision (or 'donation') by a man, known as a sperm donor, of his semen with the intention that it be used to achieve a pregnancy and produce a baby in a woman who is not the man's sexual partner.
There are a range of ways women can become pregnant using a sperm donor- through a licensed clinic/ sperm bank - or through a private arrangement.
A sperm bank or cryobank is a facility that collects and stores human sperm mainly from sperm donors, primarily for the purpose of achieving pregnancies through third party reproduction, notably by artificial insemination. Sperm donated in this way is known as donor sperm.
Women/ couples may choose to use an anonymous donor who will not be a part of family life, or they may choose known donors who may be contacted later in life by the donor children. Information in this instance is available when they reach the age of 18. Throughout this site we question whether the children should have information about the donor earlier in life. How this can happen through the legal system- and still protect the donor (and the parents raising the child) is something to be discussed. It is however a reason why many are entering into private sperm donation arrangements or at least finding their donor though these sites.
For example, through the Free Sperm Donations Worldwide - FSDW- members area,
men around the world offer to donate sperm for free,
help women and
infertile couples become pregnant using
donor sperm, either through
self-insemination or in a fertility clinic. FSDW started out as Sperm Donors Worldwide - created in 2003 and there are now more sperm donors registered than within sperm banks in Australia and the UK......
Many sperm donors volunteer to help as they would welcome the opportunity to be in some way involved in the life of the child or children they helped to create or even to co-parent!. Through FSDW they are able to do so. Even if there is no contact post conception all welcome the idea of actually meeting- and donors encouraged to complete 'Donor Dad' Questionnaires for children born with their help. Men are able to choose who they donate to- and know that their biological child or children are likely to be raised well- and potential recipients want to know more about the biological father of their children than by looking at statistics on a piece of paper at a clinic. Perhaps more importantly, these arrangement can be of great benefit to the resulting child or children who often want to know more about their biological identity. More information- and more chance of having a real connection with their 'donor dad'.
FSDW offer a sperm donation connections opportunity ... and a place where everyone works hard to keep women safe, and also help them to become parents using a private sperm donor.... FSDW also believe that men who help should be protected- and not have to risk legal complications.
If you would like to find solutions to the issues relating to sperm donation please do join us and support this 'Every child deserves to know where they come from' campaign- focusing on the children born as a result of sperm donation. And note that we do believe that nurture plays a more important role for this children than nature- the parenting they receive is fundamental to their development.
" Creating choices for single women, lesbian and infertile couples- and at the same time protecting the rights and needs of children
created from sperm donation."
Read her DIY Baby™ pages eg 'Focus on the Children'- Children Born through Sperm Donation- Meeting Emotional Needs
Telling children they were born through Artificial Insemination using Donor Sperm....Issues and Advice
Surrogacy is an arrangement between a woman and a couple or individual
to carry and deliver a baby.
In many cases, the process is an expensive, time consuming, and
emotional one. There is also the possibility that the surrogate will change
her mind about giving up the rights after birth.
The Child Listener™ created 'Surrogacy Sisters' to offer everyone choices. Regardless of the difficulties she remain eternally realistic!- and encourages you to explore all options open to you.
The options available within many countries are unfortunately limited- for example a single women cannot adopt within Australia- even if an international adoption agency can arrange for her to adopt a child. She can't then bring the baby into the country! What options are therefore available to single women, infertile couples or gay couples who dream of being loving and responsible parents? Perhaps surrogacy?
Visit the Surrogacy Sisters web site to connect with surrogates or place surrogate wanted messages, and for free info and advice relating to surrogacy.
This process involves the stimulation of a woman with fertility drugs, the retrieval of her eggs, their fertilization with the recipient partner's sperm, and the transfer of the resultant embryos to the uterus of the recipient.
Egg donation- web sites relating to egg donation, messages from those interested in donating eggs etc Here
Adoption is the official transfer through the court system of all of the parental rights
that a biological parent has to a child, along with an assumption by the adopting
parent of all of the parental rights of the biological parents that are being terminated and are assumed in their entirety by the adoptive parents, including the
responsibility for the care and supervision of the child, its nurturing and training,
its physical and emotional health, and its financial support.
Adoption Related Web Sites and Messages Here
Share useful articles and stories about non biological children- or those born through assisted pregnancy - or who were adopted
Please email us
Should parents disclose information to to their children
about how they were conceived?
A child's right, a family's secret
By Vardit Ravitsky, assistant professor, bioethics, University of Montreal
(Globe & Mail. May. 26/11)
The enlightened and well-informed decision the Supreme Court of British Columbia rendered last week in Olivia Pratten¹s favour should make all Canadians proud. By putting children¹s well-being first and acknowledging the right of donor-conceived individuals to know their genetic identities, just like adopted children, B.C. joins a growing list of jurisdictions that have banned donor anonymity in recent years. The decision may also encourage other provinces to follow suit.
Donors who did not consent at time of donation to the disclosure of their identity are probably still protected, since any new legislation is likely to grant past donors a veto. Sadly, then, this decision might not help Ms. Pratten -- or others conceived in the past -- in their search for their donors or siblings. However, for a future generation of donor-conceived individuals, this is a great victory that will promote their chances of being treated fairly.
Promote, not ensure, because even those conceived after the new legislation goes into effect will not be guaranteed information about their donor. Unless their parents tell them the truth about the circumstances of their conception, they will not be aware that they are being denied information that could be crucial for their health and psychological well-being.
While the trend toward banning anonymity is gaining momentum worldwide, none of the jurisdictions that have made this policy change have also adopted a mechanism for ensuring that children are told the truth about the circumstances of their conception. Suggestions to impose disclosure on parents indirectly by marking birth certificates of donor-conceived individuals have been rejected. Such state intrusion into intricate family dynamics is perceived by most as unacceptable. The decision is left in the
hands of the parents.
Yet, research shows that the great majority of parents choose not to tell the truth, even in countries that guarantee offspring access to identifying information. Even in Sweden, the first country to ban donor anonymity, the vast majority of parents who conceived in the 1980s and 1990s still did not
inform their children that they were born of donated sperm. Research suggests that parents are reluctant because the topic is awkward, to protect the relationship between the child and the genetically unrelated parent, or to hide the fact of infertility.
These research findings show that policy is only a part of the solution. Indeed, a legal requirement that records be created, preserved and disclosed to offspring is a crucial first step. Yet, for legislation to be effective in protecting the interests of donor-conceived individuals, we need a campaign encouraging parents to be honest with their children and the provision of appropriate counselling and tools.
We need to enhance our educational efforts -- of parents and of the public at large -- and endorse a culture of openness and acceptance. We need to fight the stigma of infertility and promote a more nuanced understanding of family relationships, and of genetic relatedness and non-relatedness. We need to acknowledge the fundamental human interest in knowing one¹s genetic origins, while respecting the integrity and privacy of the family.
Children¹s right to know should come first, and the best way to protect this right is to support parents in making informed decisions.
Last week¹s court decision highlights the social and ethical challenges raised by gamete donation. Donor-conceived children deserve to be treated fairly and this can only be achieved if they are told the truth. The
challenge we face is in endorsing a cultural change that would encourage parents to be open and honest with them.
As more children are born using assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), a major question looms: Should parents tell their children how they were conceived?
In both policy and practice arenas, psychologists are saying, "Yes."
"The feeling is that this is not only the parents' story, but also the child's story," says Jan Elman Stout, PsyD, chair of the Mental Health Professional Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The reasons are both medical and psychological: Children of donor and surrogate technologies risk receiving inaccurate medical advice if they are misinformed of their genetic or biological roots, and such a fundamental secret can create an undercurrent of shame, experts note. For these and related reasons, ASRM's Ethics Committee released a position paper in 2004 advocating disclosure (see www.asrm.org/Media/Ethics/informing_offspring_donation.pdf).
Given the recent development of some ARTs, as well as complications in using children as controls whose parents have not disclosed to them, research in the area is still relatively new. But thus far, telling children appears to be neutral or positive, according to a review article in May's Sexuality, Reproduction and Menopause (Vol. 4, No. 1, pages 17-19) by psychologist Joanna E. Scheib, PhD, and Alice Ruby of The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC). The article also reports on Scheib's and colleagues' research on identity release, in which TSBC children can access their donor's name at age 18. Adult children and donors are mutually curious and may want to meet, Scheib's research finds, but they also want to respect each other's lives and not intrude.
It may be easier to tell children in some cases than others, other research finds. Studies by University of Virginia psychologist Charlotte Patterson, PhD, and others, find that lesbian and single moms are more likely than heterosexual couples to have told their children how they were conceived, undoubtedly because it's clear there is no biological father, Patterson says. Other research shows that some people don't disclose because they want to protect one or more family members, or they're afraid children might reject their own father in favor of their biological one.
No matter what the circumstance, psychologists can offer clients important guidance in deciding about disclosure and in talking to their child, notes Cornell University infertility expert Elizabeth Grill, PsyD.
"There is no definitive answer on the right time to talk to kids," she says. "But in general, younger is better, and parents might want to tell their children before adolescence, when issues of trust and identity take center stage."
Two of the most talked-about stories in The New York Times on Father’s Day were about sperm donors.
On the front page of the Metropolitan section was the tale of Carol Einhorn and her 3-year-old son, Griffin, whose biological father, George Russell, is a close friend of Ms. Einhorn’s. They make for a most unconventional family — with Mr. Russell spending some nights in the Einhorns’ spare room, and some with his partner, David Nimmons. All four of them eat dinner together every Sunday night. Mr. Russell is still trying to figure out who he wants to “be” to the little boy.
On the Op-Ed page was the bookend essay by 18-year-old Colton Wooten, who is trying to figure out who his father is. He was raised by a single mother who became pregnant using anonymously donated sperm from a North Carolina fertility clinic. “Sperm donors need to realize that they are fathers,” he wrote. “When I was doing college interviews, one of the interviewers told me that he didn’t have any children, but that he had donated sperm while in college because he needed the money. He didn’t realize that he probably is someone’s father, regardless of whether he knows his child.”
Technology almost always jumps out ahead of ethics and mores. We can do things, so we do them, and it can take decades to decide what to do about them.
It took generations for thinking to change on adoption, from iron-clad secrecy to open inclusion (a transformation that is not always possible, and is far from complete). Much of the impetus for this change was the recognition of the emotional power of genetics, yet we have not figured out yet what to do about new kinds of conception that treat genes as merely “material.” Carol Einhorn, George Russell, Colton Wooten and little Griffin are all caught in a moment of transition.
There were no comments under Mr. Wooten’s piece, but the e-mails I have received and the conversations I have had raised the question of why we have traditionally treated sperm donation differently from adoption or egg donation. Why, until quite recently, has the feeling been that sperm “counts” less?
I suspect it has to do with the obvious — there is far less involved, practically and emotionally, in making a sperm donation than in placing a child for adoption and in going through the invasive procedures involved in donating an egg. But I also suspect that the “less important” classification will change in the near future. Already states are debating whether anonymity should be granted to sperm donors as it has been in the past, and in some countries (England, for instance, and, just last month, Canada) that anonymity is already banned.
In your responses to the Einhorn article, which were overwhelmingly negative, one of the dominant themes (though there were many others) was disagreement with the fact that she had not told the boy who “Uncle George” really is — particularly if she was willing to be so open about it in a national newspaper.
As one commenter, Sue A. in Oregon, wrote:
This was especially painful reading for me as I work in a fertility clinic, where we help create situations like this with some frequency. One of the first rules we state, unequivocally, when counseling patients about donor-conceived children (sperm, egg, or both), is this: if the child does not know the complex, unusual and special circumstances of his conception, then NO ONE may know. In other words, he must hear it from his parent or parents, otherwise there will be an overlay of secrecy and shame attached forever. Usually we’re worried that Aunt Betty, who was told about the donor sperm situation, lets it slip one day to the child, who again, should only hear this very important information from a parent. In today’s paper ALL OF NEW YORK CITY is informed of Griffin’s situation. Shame, shame, shame on you, Ms. Einhorn, for forsaking your child’s privacy and well-being in this manner.
Most mental health professionals skilled in the complexities of reproductive technology feel strongly that children should hear, from day one, of their special circumstances, told in age-appropriate language. Kids who have always known where their gametes came from don’t usually think it’s any big deal. On the other hand, parents who are waiting for the “right moment” usually put it off and put it off until, one day when it comes out, they have a very angry 10- or 12- or 15-year-old. You can’t spring this stuff on them later. Get talking now, Ms. Einhorn.
Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that “all of New York City” now knows, which is particular to Ms. Einhorn’s situation, and focus on Sue’s admonition that children should be told “in age-appropriate language” about how they came to be, which is more universal advice. What exactly does that mean now that the story of one’s birth can include egg donors, sperm donors, surrogate wombs, sometimes known to all involved, sometimes not. What age is the right age? (Note, Mr. Wooten’s mother told him all this when he was 5. “This was before I understood anything about sex or where babies came from,” he writes. “I think I thought they just sprang from their mothers’ stomachs at random. Because my understanding of conventional conception was so thin, my mom remained vague about the details of my conception — in all its complexity — until I got older.”)
Again, there was a time when adopted children were told nothing. Over time parents have come to start the telling early, and there is a small section of the bookstore that can help. But practically, it is one thing for a preschooler to understand a story about “a Mommy who could not take care of a baby so she searched until she found that baby the family that was meant for them all along.” It is quite another to start with sperm and eggs. Those bedtime books exist, too, but there are fewer than a handful of them and I haven’t been able to find a one that really covers Ms. Einhorn’s situation. (I have linked to some of the other varieties in the preceding paragraphs.)
So I understand why Griffin has not been told yet. But I agree that he must be told soon, before he hears it from another child in preschool who overheard his parents talking over the newspaper yesterday morning.
What, though, should his mother say? How do you explain all this to a 3-year-old?
(Before you start, let me take a moment to answer a few of the other oft-made points in the comments. First, to those of you who are certain that Ms. Einhorn also used an egg donor and is hiding that fact, she says she did not, and my years of medical reporting, much of it specifically on reproductive issues, taught me that it is entirely possible for a 45-year-old woman to conceive with her own eggs. The cutoff age at clinics has been rising over the years, and most will attempt the procedure with women of that age.
Second, to those of you who ask the very reasonable question of why the graphic attached to the story did not include statistics for same sex married couples, that was not an editorial statement on the part of the graphics department. It was, instead, a reflection of the fact that it was based on census numbers, which traditionally have not included such a category because until quite recently there were no legally married same sex couples in the United States.
And to those who still say that the majority of Americans still disapprove of same-sex marriage. No. They don’t.)
The Child Listener's comment -
A thought provoking article- thank you! As the creator of the 'Children Deserve to Know Where They Come From' campaign I support the sharing of info from day 1. If they dont others certainly shouldn't! But they should. To do that you have to..erm..know who he is? Hence my conviction that commerical sperm donation practices are highly 'non child-friendly'. At best you get info about your bio father at 18. This is someone you share DNA with- a real person! Its so easily available in the US- order a vial today!- no questions asked. You dont even need to know who was behind the 'product'. Something I hope we look back on in years to come in disbelief.
I support FSDW - the largest, most success private sperm donation connections web sites in the world. Its the only strictly AI only site, that doesnt even offer an option to tick an 'anonymous' box, and members are encouraged to to involve the 'Donor Dad' in the child's life from birth. FSDW help single women, lesbian and infertile straight couples become parents, if they are emotionally (and preferably financially) stable and do so in ways that allow the child to have the very basic right of knowing where they come from. They not only have a bio father- they also have a whole other 'family'. And if we support parents of DC children - how to tell children, when, how to involve the donor, maintain boundaries etc - and not feel threatened by that- we can move forward in the modern world, a world in which there is no 'traditional' family. Our focus will instead be a safe, caring, loving, open minded family who value info sharing and honouring of individuals.
A story book is a great starting point for discussion. A story about the creation of a modern day family, and how everyone involved made sure their decisions were made by putting the child's rights and needs first. A fairy tale that might one day be a reality for all !
The Child Listener™ - A Voice for Kids!
Can children born through assisted pregnancy actually
do better than those conceived 'naturally'?
Non Biological Families Work Well
Emotional closeness just as strong
A study found that the egg donation, surrogacy, and donor insemination families showed more similarities than differences in the psychological well-being of the parents, the quality of parent-child relationships, and the psychological adjustment of the child. The potential negative consequences for such children have long been the subject of debate, with concern that parents may behave less positively towards them, and that the child may not feel fully accepted as part of the family.
The researchers have been following up 39 surrogacy families, 43 donor insemination families, 46 egg donation families, and 70 families where children had been conceived naturally. So far the data have been collected up to the time that the children are 7 years old, but the researchers hope to continue following up these families for as long as possible. The findings to be presented are from approximately half of the families where the child has reached seven years old.
“We asked questions in a number of different areas to both parents and children,” says Polly Casey, from the Center for Family Research at England's Cambridge University. “We looked at such things as parental psychological well being and parent-child relationships, and also questioned the mothers on any emotional and behavioral problems they felt that the child might have.” In addition, researchers used a standardized questionnaire which produces an overall score of the child’s adjustment along with individual scores for such things as conduct problems and emotional difficulties. Teachers completed the same questionnaire providing an independent assessment of children’s adjustment. The children’s perception of the emotional closeness to their parents was also assessed.
“We found that the family types did not differ in the overall quality of the relationship between mothers and their children and fathers and their children,” says Casey. “But the analysis did show some differences in the mother-child relationship between family types. For example, we found a minor trend towards greater sensitivity to their child’s anxieties and worries among the egg donation and surrogacy mothers compared with the donor insemination mothers, and there was a minor trend towards greater emotional over-involvement with their children, and towards greater disciplinary indulgence, by assisted reproduction mothers as opposed to natural conception mothers.”
The children in the different family types did not differ with respect to the questionnaire as completed by their moms. However, when the teachers completed the same exercise, a significant difference emerged. “The teachers reported a higher level of emotional difficulties among the assisted reproduction as opposed to the naturally conceived children, although these were not abnormally high,” says Casey. The children’s own assessments showed no significant difference between family types for self-esteem. In assessments of family relationships, there was no significant difference between the assisted reproduction children and the naturally conceived children in the location of their mother or father in the family maps, with 85% of assisted reproduction children and 88% of those naturally conceived placing their mother in the closest circle, and 73% of assisted reproduction and 76% of naturally conceived children placing their father in the closest circle.
“However,” says Casey, “at the time the child turned 7 only 39% of egg donation parents, 29% of donor insemination parents, and 89% of surrogacy parents had told their children about the nature of their conception. This is markedly less than the proportion of parents who, when their child was 1 year old, reported that they planned to disclose this information – 56%, 46% and 100% of egg donation, donor insemination and surrogacy parents respectively.”
There are numerous and complex reasons for parents deciding not to inform children, the researchers say, including a desire to protect the father, since the mother may not want others to know about his infertility, and the fear that a child may feel less love for the non-genetic parent.
“Previous studies have shown that parents want to protect their child, fearing that disclosure may upset them and have an adverse effect on parent-child relationships,” says Casey. Analysis of the differences in the quality of parent-child relationships and the psychological adjustment of the child found significant disparities between those families who had disclosed information regarding conception, and those who had not. “Those moms who’d told their children about their conception showed higher levels of sensitivity to the child and, although there was no statistical difference, we also found that fathers in disclosing families tended to show greater warmth towards their children,” says Casey. Mothers who’d been open with children also reported greater marital satisfaction. The researchers also reported a non-significant trend towards lower levels of emotional difficulties among the children who had been told, as assessed by teachers.
“This study shows that families with children without a genetic or gestational link between the parents continue to function well as the child reaches early school years,” says Casey. “Where differences in mother-child relationship were found between the different family types, these were reflected in more involved parenting by the assisted reproduction mothers. Those who lacked a genetic or gestational relationship with their child – the egg donation and surrogacy mothers – tended towards greater involvement, as opposed to the donor insemination mothers. These findings are not surprising given the difficulties that the women underwent in achieving motherhood.
“The children themselves showed positive psychological adjustment and did not differ as to family type. We were particularly interested to find that, according to teachers, those children who had been told of their origins tended to do slightly better emotionally than those who had not, though of course this may simply be due to better communication within the family generally. We believe that our findings will benefit clinicians who counsel prospective parents about the implications of disclosing the means of conception to their child, as well as to parents, and, indeed, children, who will be able to learn from the experience of others in similar situations. It is essential that all developments in assisted reproduction are accompanied by studies of the well being of the parents and children involved.”