From LINK>The Huffington Post by Marie Holmes – There are some key differences between the experiences of adopted and donor-conceived kids, but one thing remains the same: They should know about their origins.
For many people today, a surprise DNA test result opens the door to their true identity. The outcome can reroute their lives around uncovering of their family’s secrets. Many become advocates for people having full access to their genetic histories. I certainly believe that is important. From experience, I know that my genetic origins did matter greatly to me.
One woman describes finding out that her parents’ story, the story she’d bent herself into a pretzel to continue to believe, was a fabrication. The years that followed were difficult. “I went through a really serious time of grief and just identity crisis.” For a time, she didn’t speak to her parents.
The current consensus among professionals in the related fields is that it is best for children to know their whole story from the very beginning. That has been the perspective for me and my husband with our donor egg conceived sons. A communicative openness is best between parents and their children. Always we have believed in as much openness as our children encourage. We did not made a big deal of it, just a matter of fact-ness on occasion when called for.
And yet, secrecy is still an issue. Advocates today recommend a ban on anonymity. In my mom’s group, almost 20 years ago, we split into “tell and don’t tell” members. No one anticipated the inexpensive availability of DNA matching sites like Ancestry and 23 and Me. Parents who have not yet disclosed to a child that they were donor-conceived, are encouraged by advocates not to wait another moment. Ideally, children would never remember a time before they knew they were donor-conceived, because parents would speak about it frequently and openly. There is no minimum age a child needs to reach in order to hear the story of their origins. It is the right thing to do for their children and parents owe this truth-telling to themselves. Secrets do have a tendency to out themselves.
Unfortunately, sperm banks, egg donation agencies and other providers of third-party reproduction continue to remain silent on the issue of a donor-conceived person’s right to information about their origins. To be honest, in the past parents were usually not given any information about their donor, and donors weren’t told how many children were born as a result of their donations. Today, queer couples and mothers who are single by choice make up a majority of any sperm banks’ customers. These families tend to have a different attitude toward their sperm donors’ anonymity, with many specifically search in advance for “willing-to-be-known” or “identity release” donors who agree to allow their children to contact them once they turn 18.
To be certain, there are crucial differences in the experiences of adoptees and donor-conceived people. The latter generally grow up knowing one biological parent. Adoptees must also reckon with deeply emotional questions regarding why their family gave them up for adoption. Donor-conceived people do not have that challenge. A recent study published in the journal Developmental Psychology surveyed 65 families formed via third-party reproduction (sperm, egg or embryo donation) and compared them with 52 families who had not used assisted reproduction. The children were 20 years old at the time they completed the survey. Researchers found “no differences between assisted reproduction and unassisted conception families in mothers’ or young adults’ psychological well-being, or the quality of family relationships.” I find this good news but also my own experience.
It’s worth noting that in families where the children were informed about the donor by age 7, they were less likely to have negative relationships with their mothers, and the mothers themselves showed lower levels of anxiety and depression. The study’s authors say their findings “suggest that the absence of a biological connection between children and their parents in assisted reproduction families does not interfere with the development of positive mother–child relationships or (the children’s) psychological adjustment in adulthood.” With donor conception, an intentionality on the parents’ part appears to make them feel more responsible about telling their children the full story of their creation. So, are not adoptive parents also intentional about their choice ? I wonder. As my sons matured, we did 23 and Me, first for their father and then, for each of our boys. This allowed us the perfect opportunity to fully explain the reasons behind our choice. Their donor also did 23 and Me and they have the ability to privately contact her there should they wish to. They have had some contact with their donor, though years have passed since. They are aware she has other children and I show them photos from Facebook so they have some idea.