Counseling Donor Family Members: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals
Donor conception is becoming substantially more common with the exponential advancements being made in the field of reproductive medicine, and with the wider acceptance in recent decades of LGBTQ+ families, single-parent families, and women in later reproductive years utilizing donor gametes. The accessibility of commercial DNA testing is also helping to expand these families as many people are finding out by surprise that they are part of a sometimes quite large donor family. Given the greatly increased probability of encountering a client connected to a donor family in their practices across settings, clinicians must be well informed about all perspectives in order to best serve people in the donor family constellation.
Families formed and connected via donor gametes are unique in many ways, yet they also share the same joys, disappointments, adventures, concerns, stressors, and love that most families do. It’s not uncommon for individuals in donor families to feel a sense of confusion or discomfort about their stories or their own or their family’s boundaries when it comes to using donor gametes or donating them or to have issues surrounding disclosure or learning about their own donor conception story. It can be anxiety-provoking to reach out to one's own or their child’s new genetic relatives. Grappling with the depth and breadth, and the timing and speed with which they explore their own or their child’s origins and expanding families can be challenging, and also deeply profound and rewarding.
Clinicians will explore in this guide the unique issues that can present for egg and sperm donors, parents of donor-conceived children, and donor-conceived people. They will better understand the reasons donor family members may or may not desire to connect with their own or their child's close genetic relatives. They will be better prepared for many of the issues that donor family members might present with regarding their families of origin and with their new donor family relationships. Regardless of the presenting issues for treatment, for these individuals, the challenges of forming and redefining identity and family as they explore their own or their child’s new biological connections can seem overwhelming and are therefore very likely to surface as a topic of discussion.
Counseling Donor Family Members: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals is a first-of-its-kind guide intended to be a resource for mental health and medical professionals in any setting, especially for those who are unfamiliar with donor conception. It’s a presentation of evolving ideas, recommendations, and talking points that can be used in counseling anyone in the donor family. Because each stakeholder is deeply connected to the others, understanding all viewpoints is important for a successful counseling experience with any parent, egg and sperm donor, or donor-conceived person.
As the mother of a 3-time egg donor and a researcher in the field, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a great deal from Wendy Kramer. She is undoubtedly one of the most knowledgeable experts regarding all the emotional and practical issues that donor-conceived individuals, their families, and also the gamete donors and their families experience. After some 22 years of running what has become the world’s biggest online resource for connecting donor-conceived offspring with their half-siblings and with their egg or sperm donors, as well as her extensive actual experience counseling and supporting donor-conceived offspring and family members, and also her participation in research, she is the ideal person to share her clinical and research experience with others who counsel any of the complex group of people affected by donor conception. This practical, extensive, empathetic, and inclusive guide can be an essential resource for mental health professionals in counseling such individuals. I highly recommend it to all. — Jennifer P. Schneider, M.D., Ph.D
The world of donor gamete conception is novel for many mental health professionals and becoming well-informed about the unique features of donor families can be challenging as practitioners begin working with this population. This guide provides a concise overview of the unique historical, social and emotional aspects of donor gamete conception for all parties involved and advises counselors about how to navigate exceptional psychosocial realities that each member will face. This text utilizes a breadth of research, professional and personal experiences to make a compelling argument for understanding what is currently known about the challenges donor families face as they attempt to foster and maintain distal yet uniquely intimate relationships among biological and non-biological members.
Wendy Kramer has been a trailblazer in the world of donor conception for over 20 years. As the co-founder of one of the largest donor family organizations, she passionately advocates for supporting and educating families to be well-informed as they navigate donor conception. She uses her unique positionality as a biological mother of a donor-conceived child and pioneer in the field of connecting donor families to highlight the gravity of the psychological complexities for donor families.
A strength of the text is that it is well-organized and structurally appealing for any learner. The language used is easy to understand as the authors clearly define terms used and avoid medical jargon. The chapters are organized in such a way that scaffolds seminal topics such as disclosure, legal and medical concerns, problems perpetuated by gamete vendors, and the inevitable loss of anonymity with commercialized DNA technologies. Chapters 2 through 6 specifically describe the different perspectives of each member of the donor family, which makes it easy to reference a particular client type. Additionally, the bulleted format allows for information to be accessed with ease and quick reference. The inclusion of references at the end of each chapter, rather than at the end of the book, allows the reader to source relevant literature as needed. Another strength is the author's inclusion of direct quotes from donor family members. These anecdotes are captivating and heart-wrenching, as they truly evoke empathy from the reader. The quotes also offer insights that can be used to validate and normalize clients’ experiences, especially those who may feel isolated, alone, and worried about the future of their well-being and familial relationships.
Overall, this book serves to fill the gaps of knowledge in working with donor families. This text centralizes years of research, advocacy, and interdisciplinary practice into one cohesive text that will be referenced for years to come. Mental health professionals trained in any modality can learn from and apply the information offered in this guide. Therapists who interface with donors, intended parents, donor-conceived people, and their extended families will find the information provided truly valuable, no matter their training or years of experience. — Breanna N. Beard, MA, Health Psychology Intern, Duke Fertility Center, Duke University Health System
Education and competency in the issues related to donor-assisted reproduction should be required of any professional working with parents, donors, or the donor-conceived. And by this, I mean healthcare workers, legal professionals, teachers, spiritual care workers- people who interact with humans. Especially now, as this medical technology advances its accessibility, and as more people find out later in life that they were donor-conceived. This is another intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion for which professionals and families alike need resources for education and understanding. This handbook is just that source. As a healthcare professional, beneficiary of an egg donor, and mother to a young donor-conceived person, I can say this book is a great start. I extend gratitude to Kramer and Bertisch for their hard work in sharing this with us.
— Laurie N. Baker, PhD, ABPP, Director of Psychology, Shepherd Center
Based on their extensive first-hand experience of donor conception, Wendy Kramer and Hilary Bertisch have produced a highly readable, timely, and comprehensive guide. It should be required reading for all mental health professionals working in donor conception.
— Eric Blyth, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield, England
Kramer and Bertisch's groundbreaking handbook details the common, but often unspoken and profound impact of assisted reproductive technologies on the lived experiences of donor-conceived children, their parents, and other family members. By weaving quantitative and qualitative data, as well as clinical insights and personal narratives, the book provides a compelling and accessible framework to help families navigate the cognitive and psychological aspects of assisted reproductive technology. Their book fills a much-needed gap for recognizing and addressing these issues that are deeply rooted in the core of the families' evolution. — Suzie Bertisch, MD, MPH
Finally! After years of working as a mental health professional specializing in the emotional aspects of infertility, I have struggled to convey to my colleagues the importance of truly understanding the experience of using a donor to create a family. With one out of every eight heterosexual couples experiencing infertility and many single women and LGBT couples using a donor to conceive, it is imperative that mental health providers understand all aspects of the decision. This guide will provide insight into the world of donor-conceived families: the parent(s), children, siblings, and the donor. Our culture has promoted secrecy behind this decision and after you read this guide, you will learn how important it is for ALL parties to not live under the shroud but rather to be fully informed on how to be open and honest with no guilt or shame about the decision to donate, or to have a child or to be a donor-conceived person. Truly a must-read!!
— Harriette Rovner Ferguson, LCSW, Co-author Experiencing Infertility, member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's Mental Health Professional Group, mental health consultant to fertility clinics
This is a therapist handbook that should not be put on a high shelf; it needs to be readily available. While focusing on the needs of all members of donor families, the handbook is also an intelligent, accessible, and practical guide for offering high-quality therapy to all clients who want to address issues related to their families. —- Liz Margolies, LCSW and Founder, National LGBT Cancer Network
Like the Donor Sibling Registry itself, this handbook is destined to be an invaluable resource. And like the DSR, it is replete with wisdom, empathy, and lived experience.
— Misha Angrist, PhD, Duke University Initiative for Science & Society
This handbook relays the practical importance of this topic, particularly how mental health providers can help donor-conceived people navigate such complexities. Although discourse is shifting and stigma is decreasing, there needs to be greater awareness around assisted reproduction and its impact on individuals, couples, and families. — Dr. Elizabeth B. Lozano, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Sociology, California Northstate University
This is a tangible guidebook filled with a wealth of evidence-based information as well as useful and personal anecdotes to humanize the complexities that go into donor-assisted reproduction. Not only should this be readily available to all practitioners and patients but also to all learners studying the field of reproductive medicine. — Dr. Dana Siegel, Obstetrics and Gynecology Resident, University of Colorado
Given continued advances in assisted reproductive technologies, Counseling Donor Family Members: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals meets a critical need. Kramer and Bertisch provide a welcome and indispensable resource for practitioners, especially those working with people with infertility or seeking gamete donation, donor-conceived children, and their biological and non-biological parents. In this book, unique themes that can arise in donor family situations, such as disclosure and redefining family, are carefully and sensitively reviewed, as are the feelings and needs of all involved parties. Practical recommendations are also offered for intake assessment and talking points during therapy. This book is essential reading for therapists across a variety of settings who encounter donor family members. Students of ethics would also find this book informative and a useful reference. — Lynn A. Schaefer, Ph.D., ABPP, Fellow, American Psychological Association, Fellow, National Academy of Neuropsychology, Director of Neuropsychology, Nassau University Medical Center
I’m always struck by the parallels between the realities of donor and adoptive families, so Kramer’s excellent new handbook struck very close to home. More importantly, the information and insights within it are applicable to all sorts of families. And, of course, it’s necessary reading for everyone who works or might work with any member of a donor family. I think that means it’s a must-read-and-use for all health professionals. — Adam Pertman, President of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency and author of Adoption Nation
Wendy Kramer writes from the wise and compassionate perspective of a parent who has navigated the complexities of assisted reproduction. Kramer and Bertisch plant their flag firmly in support of truth and transparency for the long-term benefit of children who become adults. This book is not only a useful guide for counselors, as those considering selling their gametes to a vendor, or creating a child through assisted reproduction would be well-served to read this practical guide before making their decision. — Rich Uhrlaub, President, Adoption Search Resource Connection, Coalition for Truth and Transparency in Adoption
Wendy Kramer has long fought for openness and disclosure in the donor conception world. Having spoken to many thousands of trailblazers — and having been one herself — she offers guidance to today's counsellors on how to help people navigate this challenging terrain. — Alison Motluk, Freelance journalist and publisher of HeyReprotech, a weekly newsletter about assisted reproduction
This book is a must-read. As a mental health clinician, I find the book to be comprehensive and engaging. Each topic is well organized and coverage is in-depth. As a donor-conceived person with a rich family fabric of donor siblings, step-siblings, and adopted siblings, I found the book comforting and stabilizing. The authors share their passion and expertise in a style that is practical, accessible, and applicable. — James Holmes, LCSW
Omg I would have begged for this in the 2000s. Thank god I had you! You were my lifeline once we found the connection, after lots of years of strife! — DSR Mom
Wendy is a true visionary and leader in this field and sheds light on subjects important for everyone involved in donor conception to understand. — Lisa Schuman, LCSW, Director, The Center for Family Building
My name is Kris A Probasco, LCSW and I have practiced in the state of Missouri and Kansas since 1972. I specialize in adoption, fertility, and reproductive issues. I have been following Wendy Kramer in the Donor Sibling Registry since their conception in 2000. As a social worker, I have felt like the lone wolf in the crowd of reproductive mental health professionals. I spoke often of the rights of the donor-conceived person to know of their genetic history and birth by donor conception. Only the adoption professionals understood the damage to families in maintaining family secrets. The Adoption Reform Movement started in the 1970s and the adoption professionals learned from the Adoption Triad of all the mental health factors connected to secrecy. We also acknowledged that families work best in being open and honest and having and giving the knowledge of one's genetics throughout life. Thank you, Wendy, for your dedication to keeping the needs of all of the donor population at the forefront. Education is mandated for all mental health professionals. This book is an easy read that is full of knowledge and experience. The Donor Sibling Registry has always been a guiding light. Thank you again, Wendy. — Kris A. Probasco, LCSW, Adoption & Fertility Resources
Our Donor Sibling Registry community can get a 40% discount by entering DSR40 as the discount code while checking out!
The Donor Sibling Registry has published three other books for all stakeholders in the donor family, including a book for children. You can purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.
Wendy Kramer's Memoir
Donor Family Matters: My Story of Raising a Profoundly Gifted Donor-Conceived Child, Redefining Family, and Building the Donor Sibling Registry
The story of Wendy Kramer and her donor-conceived child, Ryan, who eventually found his biological father and [now 28] half-siblings. Wendy and Ryan created the Donor Sibling Registry, the world’s largest platform for mutual-consent contact of sperm, egg, and embryo donors, donor-conceived children and adults, and their parents.
“Educate the child. Raise him or her without biases of any kind. Teach him or her to trust in others but to rely on self. Instill in him or her a sense of humor and the ability to enjoy life.”
Penned on a sperm bank intake form, these words of advice from Donor 1058 to the future recipients of his donations became a parental motto for one particular recipient, Wendy Kramer, who would go on to found the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR). With more than 88,000 members in 105 countries, the DSR is the world’s largest platform for sperm, egg, and embryo donors, donor-conceived children and adults, and their parents to connect and share information through mutual consent contact. In her role with the DSR, Wendy has become a leading advocate for donor families and for the reformation of the modern profit-driven donor conception industry.
This is the story of Wendy’s journey as the mother of a donor-conceived profoundly gifted child, Ryan, whose relentless curiosity — under the tenacious guidance and support of his mother — eventually led to his reunion against all odds not only with his biological father, Donor 1058, but also with half-siblings scattered across the continent. Their experience — like the experience of so many of the Donor Sibling Registry’s members — illustrates how this brave new world of donor conception is stretching our understanding of the evolving nature and possibilities of “family.” This memoir, written with warmth and humor by Wendy herself, reminds us with story after story that there are few things more fundamental than the human need to know where we come from, nor more beautiful than the triumph of truth over shame.
Conclusion: This book has demonstrated that mutually consenting contact between both donors and siblings can be a very positive and profound experience for many people. The DSR’s origins may not have been built on mutually consented contact, largely because it was a time when donor conception and infertility were taboo subjects and where a facility similar to the DSR did not exist. However, the DSR has now helped to tackle the stigma of such issues and bring more accountability into the assisted reproduction sector. Wendy’s book highlights her experience of the importance of genetic heritage in donor conception but does not minimize the value of parenting in the “verb” sense. While many are secure in knowing their genetic inheritance, this book helps the reader to have more empathy for those who do not and the impact that this has had on Wendy, her son, and other families affected by this.
Donor Family Matters Reviews
"Wendy Kramer tells an absolutely riveting story that only she could tell — one that documents a profound shift in the way we negotiate our biology ... and each other. Donor Family Matters captures what Kramer calls the 'difficult, messy, joyful, and rewarding endeavor' of raising a family in a way that will break your heart and then put it back together again."
— Misha Angrist, Ph.D., author of Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics
"Wendy Kramer’s memoir — like Wendy Kramer herself — is invaluable, lucid, engaging, and full of wisdom. This book is a gift.”
— Dani Shapiro, donor-conceived offspring and author of Inheritance
"I wanted to write as I have just put down your new book, read from cover to cover in one sitting. It’s excellent and I wanted to add my voice to the accolades already out there. I know that I will be recommending it to many, many people for years to come, perhaps especially to parents, clinic staff, regulators and policymakers. It’s such a valuable and unique addition to what is out there. Thank you!"
— Dr. Marilyn Crawshaw, BSc (Soc) (London), CQSW & DipApplSocStudies (Sheffield), MA (Bradford), Ph.D. (York)
"This warm and highly enjoyable book gives the reader a real insight into the lives of Wendy and Ryan Kramer, founders of the Donor Sibling Registry. Wendy conceived Ryan by donor sperm when still part of a heterosexual marriage, but left her husband when she realised the impact his drinking was likely to have on Ryan. As a single parent Wendy worked to support her son who was soon recognised as being profoundly academically gifted. Whilst this is a problem we might all think we would want to have, Wendy makes clear that finding the right sort of education for him was a massive struggle. He was often bullied for his ‘difference’ and only really found himself able to fit in with others when he was in higher education. I met him when he was about 14 and can testify to the really kind, warm, and generous young man he was then and I know remains.
Ryan knew about being donor-conceived right from the start and began to show an interest in connecting with half-siblings around the age of eight. From a little Yahoo group started by Wendy as a very personal project to try to reach out to find genetic relatives for Ryan, The Donor Sibling Registry grew organically into the enormous, successful database that it is today. Wendy’s passion for openness was fuelled by the anger and sadness of an early connection with the mother of two of Ryan’s half-sisters who said to Wendy that her daughters would never be told about their origins. Ryan went on to find his donor, his paternal grandparents and slowly over the years 19 half-siblings. The story of the way Ryan and Wendy approached his donor and the huge care they took in establishing a relationship with him and his family is an educative and fascinating one.
This is a book that should be read by all parents of donor-conceived children and indeed those contemplating becoming parents this way. Just 85 pages long it is a short but life-enhancing read."
— Oliva Montuschi, Donor Conception Network, UK
"As a psychotherapist who works with families created by using a donor, I rarely find people who understand the psychological and emotional journeys couples and individuals go on when they decide on this family-building option. For years, using a donor was shrouded in secrecy. Parents were told no one has to know and so no one did, including the child. The family unit was underscored by dishonesty and secrecy. Not too healthy a way to build trust and security. Thank goodness today it’s different. Wendy Kramer was one of the leaders in helping to open up the discussion on whether or not a child has the right to know about his/her origins and this query inspired her to create the Donor Sibling Registry.
The DSR is now the site I can refer my clients to so that they and their child can get the most updated research and information on using a donor to have a family, as well as help people find their donor relatives. This is sometimes a complicated pursuit filled with ups and downs from fear to excitement.
Wendy is the mom of a son conceived through a donor and this book personalizes the process. She explains her story though parenting a donor-conceived child and always keeping her son’s best interest in her mind and heart. She walks the reader through the doubts she experienced before meeting the donor and his family. Ultimately she describes the satisfaction and love she and her son found after meeting the biological relatives that helped make him. It's a must-read for those beginning the path of using a donor because Wendy Kramer and others who work in this field truly believe that the best we can do for our clients is to always promote openness and honesty despite the outcome.
"I loved reading your and Ryan’s story and the origins and journey of the DSR. It made all the work I’ve seen you do through the past 20 years so real and personal. Ryan is a very special addition gifted person and the way you parented him with such love and respect was inspiring to say the least. I can’t wait to recommend this book to my donor-recipient couples and single women that want to become moms. Thank you for all you do for the community."
— Harriette Rovner Ferguson, LCSWR
Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story
How do you tell your child that they were conceived with the help of a donor and then address their curiosity about half-siblings and/or the donor?
Your Family: A Donor Kid’s Story is a sweet and light-hearted picture book that answers the question "Where did I come from?” and then gently introduces the concepts of half-siblings and donors in an open and honest way. The book starts with the parent’s desire to have a baby, introduces the use of a donor, and then broaches the topic of half-siblings and biological parents/donors. A perfect book for [the millions of] donor-conceived children to learn about how they were conceived and for understanding that being curious about their unknown genetic origins and relatives is natural.
Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story Reviews
"A much-needed resource for parents and children in families created by donor conception. The author, Wendy Kramer, has a wealth of experience and a real understanding of the needs of donor conception families. This book will foster curiosity and inspire conversations in families where children want to learn more about their donor origins and connections."
— Dr. Tabitha Freeman, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge
"As a psychotherapist, I work with many LGBT parents of donor-conceived children who struggle to find the right language to speak to their children about the circumstance of their birth. They are also often afraid that learning about their donors and potential donor siblings will be upsetting or confusing to their children. Finally, I have a book to recommend to them! Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story is the perfect combination of honest, loving, and positive. I am keeping a pile of copies in my office."
— Liz Margolies, LCSW, psychotherapist and mother of a donor-conceived child
"Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story is a wonderful book that affirms the experience of children who have been donor-conceived. It's important for families to have a book like this to read to their kids so that their children can understand who they are and where they came from. Wendy Kramer's book is long overdue!"
— Jacqueline Mroz, author of Scattered Seeds: In Search of Family and Identity in the Sperm Donor Generation
"Your Family gives children born from egg or sperm donation a chance to see themselves reflected in a positive, informative, and accessible story. Most importantly, this book will help families who have used reproductive technology to explain complex concepts to their children while giving them vital information about themselves and how they came to be. Here’s a book that is relatable and will allow children to feel proud of their special story."
— Susan Frankel, MFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and mother to a donor-conceived daughter
"A lovely book for children who were conceived with donor sperm or egg. Parents in all kinds of families will find it very helpful in explaining their child’s conception story in a gentle, simple, and positive way."
— Jane Mattes, L.C.S.W., psychotherapist and Founder/Director of Single Mothers by Choice
"Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story fills a noticeable gap in LGBTQ family books. While others have discussed how we make our babies, Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story takes the next step in addressing what can often be an elephant in the room for our families. The existence of donor siblings, and how to navigate those relationships, is deeply personal and family-specific. For those who are looking for a way to help their children understand the breadth of their biological relationships, Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story does an incredible, age-appropriate job at laying the framework in an interactive, light-hearted way."
— Amanda Hopping-Winn, Chief Program Officer, Family Equality Council
Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families
Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families
The first comprehensive book for children born through donor conception and their families. #1 on Amazon's Reproductive Medicine & Technology List!
Millions of people have been born with the help of donor sperm or eggs, including Wendy Kramer’s son. Realizing the unique concerns of being or parenting a donor-conceived child, Kramer launched what would become the world’s largest database for connecting donor-conceived people, the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR).
Finding Our Families provides additional support for this growing community. With compassion and insight, the authors draw on extensive research to address situations families face throughout a donor-conceived child’s development, including the search for a biological parent or half-sibling and how to forge a healthy self-image.
"Finding Our Families is a treasure trove of compassionate advice designed to help those raising the more than an estimated million people who were conceived using so-called donor* sperm, the tens of thousands whose lives began with eggs of contributors, and thousands who were "adopted" frozen embryos, as well as the donors.
The 258-page book compiled by Wendy Kramer, the mother of a donor-conceived son, and Naomi Cahn, family and reproductive law professor, helps blood-related kin navigate relationships unthought-of generations ago. The book offers how-to search assistance and suggests ways for the legal, social, and nurturing family to open their hearts and minds to those who contributed eggs, sperm, or embryos in addition to welcoming siblings who share the same or half genealogy." —March 2015 Huffington Post book review by Mirah Riben
"The book successfully honors its promise to deliver the tools necessary to help donor-conceived children discover and explore their genetic legacies.” —October 2013 Publishers Weekly review
September 2013: New Family Trees: Lessons from the Donor Sibling Registry's First Decade, William Heisel
September 2013: New Family Trees: Five Ways to Reform Fertility Medicine, William Heisel
March 2014: Center for Genetics and Society, Diane Beeson
Finding Our Families Reviews
I want to thank you for setting up the DSR and for writing your book. It was a very valuable resource in helping my wife and I to process and come to terms with the reality of having donor offspring. Since reading your book we have been in contact with a number of families and have had really great experiences so far.
- Former Sperm Donor
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to thank you for your book and for the DSR. When I first found out that [my husband] was a sperm donor (on our third date), I felt threatened by this unknown element. Your book gave me a 180-degree turnaround, and I ended up being the one leading the initiative to join the DSR. It gave me a new perspective on the other families (and their intentions and needs) and now they are a positive and enriching part of our lives.
If you ever do a revised edition, I would really like to get more information for donors about telling our extended family about the other families. It can be a difficult relationship to explain properly. And explaining to our toddler son about his “diblings” as our group calls them.
And thanks for your research and activism to hold the industry accountable.
- Wife of a Former Sperm Donor
With the Donor Sibling Registry, Wendy Kramer and her son Ryan performed an essential and revolutionary service, by giving members of far-flung "donor" families the opportunity to find each other. Now, Wendy and co-author Naomi Cahn have written Finding Our Families, a much-needed guide for the offspring of sperm or eggs from usually anonymous providers, as well as their parents and even the providers themselves. This book is clear, straightforward, and will be immensely useful for the vast and growing numbers of "donor"-conceived families. Aided by the testimony of parents and offspring from the DSR, Kramer and Cahn walk you through how to search for missing biological relatives, how to communicate with them, and how to manage the challenges in the strange landscape in which offspring like myself find ourselves. The authors make recommendations for policy changes in the USA, and refreshingly, come out strongly against anonymity and in favour of our having the right to know who we come from.
- Barry Stevens, Canadian filmmaker (Offspring and Bio-Dad)
If you are thinking about having a baby through donor conception, this book is for you. If you are a donor-conceived person, this book is for you. If you are a parent raising a child who came to you through the help of an egg or sperm donor, this book is for you. If you are a medical or mental health professional, helping people build their families through donor conception, this book is for you...
With wise, compassionate, practical and innovative advice, Kramer and Cahn guide readers through the ever unfolding world of donor conception. They take on the challenges of identifying language to describe new definitions of family and address the complexities — and rewards — that come when people search for donors and other genetic connections. Finding Our Families is that rare book that you will read and return to again and again over time, appreciating and understanding it in different ways as you explore and discover new forms of kinship...
- Ellen Glazer, LICSW; Co-Author, Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation
Finding Our Families isn’t just a good and important book — it’s a necessary one.
- Adam Pertman, President of the Adoption Instititute; Author, Adoption Nation
This gem of a book is based on the unique experience of the founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, Wendy Kramer, who has heard from members of thousands of families who owe their existence to donated sperm and/or eggs. Kramer and Cahn have written a heartfelt, practical, easy-to-read, and step-by-step book that is indispensable for all members of such families. With the aid of numerous first-person accounts, the book describes what, when, and how to tell your child about his or her genetic origin, how to accept and process the usual desire of offspring to learn about their roots, how to proceed with the search for biological relatives, how to reach out to the donors, and what happens afterwards. Finding our Families includes empathetic and useful sections about meeting the donors, connecting with half-siblings and their families, recognizing the potential outcomes, and handing rejection of efforts to connect. A chapter written specifically for offspring is very useful. This book is must reading for all members of the family.
- Jennifer P. Schneider, M.D., Ph.D.
Finding Our Families is a must read for anyone in any part of a process related to donor insemination. Whether you've just opened the door to an idea about using donor sperm or your donor children are grown, this is a book for you. Comprehensive, thoughtful, and full-hearted, this book addresses the myriad of issues that can arise in donor families.
It is an inclusive, sensitive map to guide anyone touched by the joys and complexities of donor insemination. The authors pull from the amazing anecdotal work Kramer has done, as well as research she's spearheaded in this arena. Three cheers for this groundbreaking work and may it reach a professional audience, as well as the families they write about.
- Susan Frankel, MFT
This ground-breaking book affirms what donor-conceived people have been telling us (in media interviews, at seminars and support groups, on blogs and internet forums, etc): They want, need, and deserve to be told the truth about their genetic origins and the right to decide for themselves whether to seek contact with their donor and/or half-siblings. And thanks to Wendy Kramer's hard work, dedication, and innovation in creating the Donor Sibling Registry, many donor-conceived people are now able to "find the other 50% of the pieces of the puzzle that make up who I am.
- Diane Allen, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Infertility Network, Canada
Finding Our Families gently stretches us to consider the experiences of all those involved in helping make our families. As a psychotherapist, a lesbian, and the mother of a donor-conceived child, I finished this book as a more compassionate and forgiving person. There is nothing more powerful than the truth.
- Liz Margolies, Founder and Executive Director of the National LGBT Cancer Network
Clearly written and well-organized, this is an indispensable guide for all those who are part of families formed with donated eggs or sperm.
- Rene Almeling, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University; Author, Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm
The definition of ‘family’ is rapidly changing and Wendy and Naomi's book provides a clear and helpful guide through this uncharted territory. Their advice on communicating with children, by far the most challenging and important aspect of this journey, is compassionate and wise. Thank goodness for this wonderful and much-needed book!
- Jane Mattes, LCSW, Founder and Director, Single Mothers by Choice
Wise, honest, informed, and reassuring — and written by two deeply respected experts — Finding Our Families is the definitive guide for any parent or child who is part of a family formed with the help of donor conception. The insights are so profound and the guidance so clear-eyed that I would go further and say that the book is a definitive guide for anybody who has a family. An essential parenting book.
- Liza Mundy, Fellow, New America Foundation; Author, Everything Conceivable: How the Science of Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Our World
Finding Our Families is a stunningly honest and sensitive introduction to the challenges, complexities, and joys faced by donor-conceived persons and their family members as they explore new forms of kinship. Inspired by the personal experience of Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, in raising her donor-conceived son, Ryan, this fascinating book will expand readers’ appreciation of the complexities and responsibilities of childrearing. It will make clear why Kramer and her co-author, family law expert Naomi Cahn, believe honesty, including about donor conception, is at the heart of “the sacred responsibility of parenthood.”
Without privileging biological connections over social relations, this book draws on the experiences of thousands of donor-conceived offspring and their family members to illustrate that there is much to be gained by all participants from acknowledging the unique genetic history of these offspring. Lifting the veil of secrecy not only can provide more complete medical information and enlarge extended family networks, but as the authors compellingly demonstrate, it can strengthen both the roots and the wings that the best parents are able to provide for their children. Even for those without a close connection to donor conception this book provides a fascinating exploration of how developments in human reproduction are redefining family.
- Diane Beeson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita (Sociology), California State University, East Bay
An invaluable resource for anyone searching for their donor or donor siblings through the Donor Sibling Registry.
- Susan Golombok, Ph.D., University of Cambridge
You've written a wonderful and much-needed book for donor-conceived kids and their families! I am impressed with the depth of your insights and I really like the way you have cited the latest research in the field.
I also like the depth of detail you have gone into with regard to conducting searches for donors and half-siblings through your registry. This kind of information, drawing on the experiences of your members, goes a long way towards demystifying that process and will allay the fears of those who want to make contact with their donors and/or half-siblings
- Kim Kluger-Bell, LMFT; Author, The Pea That Was Me
Finding Our Families is a guide in how to deal with the practical, ethical, and social questions brought about by the changing landscape of donor reproduction. The star of Finding Our Families is the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR), founded by Wendy Kramer and her son, Ryan, in 2000 to assist donor-conceived children find their half-siblings and perhaps also their donors. The DSR, along with the development of internet search engines and sophisticated genetic testing, have changed the rules of the "anonymity game" in gamete donation. The DSR has facilitated thousands of matches with the resulting "donor families" connecting with one another and forging new relationships that we currently don't have labels for. Finding Our Families offers guidance in this uncharted territory to people thinking of using a donor, parents who have a donor child, donor-conceived people searching for half-sibs or donor parents, and the donors themselves. Useful information for those personally touched by donor reproduction and for those interested in learning more about a field where science outpaces the current social, ethical, and legal constructs.
- Karen Gottlieb, Ph.D., J.D., Privacy Advocate
Your book is an invaluable resource for everyone involved in the field of third-party reproductive medicine. It is informative for professionals and families alike, and condenses complex processes into manageable bites that are understandable and helpful. It is beautifully written, cohesive in its organization, and captivating in its personal and sensitive style. I could not put it down, and can't wait to order multiple copies for current and former clients who are considering or have conceived through sperm or egg donation. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read this. It's like a concluding paragraph to my passionate efforts to illuminate important, long-term emotional issues hidden within the practice of anonymity and secrecy.
- Patricia P. Mahlstedt, Psychologist, Private Practice, Houston, Texas
The one thing we as human beings deserve more than anything else is our own, personal truth. Wendy Kramer and Naomi Cahn have long fought for this right, even before it was fashionable to do so. These well-respected advocates for the donor-conceived and their families bring outspoken tenacity and audacious courage to the pages of this significant book.
- Corey Whelan, Patient Advocate and Author, The American Fertility Association
In a world that has allowed for the global, largely unregulated use of donor eggs and sperm (predominately through anonymous arrangements), Kramer and Cahn's book, Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families, is their timely contribution to help the various stakeholders navigate through the many, many issues surrounding donor conception. Their positions and views come from their years of both personal and professional experience, and are clearly explained in the book. They advocate for open donation and for telling children their conception stories early and often. They also offer practical steps on how to search for your biological parent, and what to do when you find him or her, your extended family, and any half-siblings. It's a highly practical book, complete with stories and a step-by-step approach to "finding our families."
There is even a chapter on regulation where they offer their views on what should be done to reform the practice of egg and sperm donation. While it is a helpful book with lots to offer the many stakeholders — people born via donor-conception, people who have used donated gametes or are considering using this method of family building, professionals who work with the many individuals involved with third-party reproduction — I was left wanting and longing to hear much more on the ethics of third-party reproduction. Should we be doing this at all? Is it ethical, right, and just to create children intentionally separated from their biological parents, and natural extended families? Do biological connections matter at all? Is kinship important to the human race?
Answering these questions, in my mind, seems the best and first place to start. Otherwise, we are left simply to navigate difficult situations that may arise within our families, that we unintentionally or intentionally caused, that place an enormous burden on the children created by these means.
- Jennifer Lahl, President, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network
My experience of Americans is that they can be gushingly naive and sentimental (see some of the self-published books for children conceived by egg donation) or refreshingly wise and direct. I am delighted to say that the new book from the Donor Sibling Registry Finding Our Families (of which I am privileged to have an advance copy) is definitely in the latter camp. This book, to be published at the beginning of December , is aimed at all members of the donor conception triangle with a slight bias towards parents as gatekeepers of much of the information to which their children are entitled. Whilst it will be of enormous value to all family types, the very many helpful examples and quotes reflect the DSR membership of 50 percent solo mums, 33 percent LGBT families, and 17 percent heterosexual couples.
- Olivia Montuschi, Co-Founder, Donor Conception Network