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What Do We Tell the Kids??? 33rd Annual American Adoption Congress. Parents as their Child’s Advocate in Donor Conception. The contents of this presentation were created by Nightlight Inc. with help from grant #6EAAPA081009-02-00 from the U.S. Department of Health and

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what do we tell the kids 33rd annual american adoption congress

What Do We Tell the Kids???33rd Annual American Adoption Congress

Parents as their Child’s Advocate in Donor Conception

The contents of this presentation were created by Nightlight Inc. with

help from grant #6EAAPA081009-02-00 from the U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services. It may not reflect the official views of the Department.


Kris Probasco, LCSW, LSCSWAdoption & Fertility Resources



Licensed in the states of Missouri and Kansas as social worker and adoption agency.

She has practiced since 1972 in her specialty of adoption, infertility and reproduction.

Partnered with three fertility medical practices in the Kansas City area, specializing in work with families formed by a donor conception.

Kris provides placement services for domestic, international, and embryo adoptions, which include counseling for prospective birth and genetic families.

Consults with agencies interested in partnership model.

The worst thing about

Being lied to is

Knowing you weren’t

Worth the truth

history of donor conceptions
History of Donor Conceptions

1884 – First Documented Case of Donor Sperm Insemination, R. Snowden, Artificial Reproduction, A Social Investigation, Artificial Reproduction; a Social Investigation, 1983

1983 – First Documented Case of Egg Donation – UCLA Medical Center

1988 – The Office of Technology Assessment estimates that 30,000 U.S. children were born via donor insemination during 1986-87

1997 – First Case of Embryo Placement and Adoption- Snowflakes, Nightlight Adoption, Inc.

Approximately 60,000 Children Born by Donor Conceptions each year in the United States. However, in the U.S. there is no accurate tracking or record keeping, so it is likely there are many more donor conceptions.

612,000 Frozen Embryos awaiting decisions about their outcome, 2011 California State Fulton Research

Annually there are approximately 25,000 to 30,000 traditional adoptions and 9,341 (2011) international adoptions.

early honesty leads to trust
Early Honesty Leads to Trust

Children often “sense” there is a secret; they sense there is “something wrong.”

Secrets almost never stay secret forever. It is far easier to share with a three-year old than a twenty-three year old.

Secrets in families are damaging.

When secret information finally comes out, the feeling of betrayal can be overwhelming.

Parents can demonstrate ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity by being honest with their child about their beginning story from an early age

Speaking about their beginning story casually, early and often makes it simply a part of their family. It’s their normal

younger years birth 6
Early Honesty Leads to Trust

Parents can begin talking to their children about their conception the minute the child enters their lives or before.

Younger Years [Birth-6]
parent preparation
Parent Preparation

Adoption research states that who we become is approximately 50% nature and 50% nurture.

Openness in the process will provide life-long benefits for the child.

Sperm Bank of California – first sperm bank with open identified donors – offspring want adult picture, social information and how many half siblings

parent preparation1
Parent Preparation
  • Provides a resource medically
  • Offers the children greater understanding of their story
  • Understanding of needs of children born through donor conception
  • Gain support
  • Foster openness
  • Secrecy causes difficulty
younger years birth 61
Begin to practice talking to your child during infancy with positive language and feelings:

“We were meant to be your parents. We are so happy that we got help. We have so much to tell you. We are excited for you to understand your story.”

Younger Years [Birth-6]
children s curiosity
Children’s Curiosity

Parents can use these questions as a jumping off point for explaining their child’s donor story.

All children are curious as to how they came to be.

Children start asking questions about babies and pregnancy around age 3.

Be honest without going into details that will be beyond a young child’s ability to comprehend

Let the child’s questions lead the discussion.

Answer the questions with a tone of celebration and awe at the amazing way they joined your family

celebrating their story
Celebrating their Story

Celebrate their unique arrival.

The goal is for the child to not remember being told because they always knew how they came into the family.

Foster a positive attitude about their conception, birth and family

The donor conception decision as the beginning of a positive story

The Goal: Share all that is known about the donor family and their journey

The attachment process is enhanced by honest stories

telling about technological conception1
Telling about Technological Conception

Use the words “sperm” and “ova” when describing how an embryo is formed. Babies grow in a “uterus”. Inaccurate words can confuse the child

Choose terms that are comfortable for your family to describe the genetic/donor family. Use accurate terms. Terms may evolve as your child matures

Children DO need to begin processing that there are other people in the word to whom they are connected in a significant and lasting way

younger years birth 62
Younger Years [Birth-6]

Storybooks can be a useful tool to introduce the story of conception.



younger years birth 64
Talk about how there are many ways that children come into their family.

Todd Parr has authored many books about families and the importance of the love they share with each other.

Younger Years [Birth-6]
middle years 7 12
Why am I different?Do you love me as much as you would if I came rom pieces of you and Daddy? Why did our donor help to give me to you?Will you always love me? Middle Years [7-12]
the middle years 7 12
The Middle Years [7-12]

Questions arise at the most unexpected moments.

the middle years 7 121
The Middle Years [7-12]

Between ages 7-10 is generally when the “ah-ha” moments occur.

There will be a time of grief, sadness and disconnect for the child

The groundwork laid before will assist in the child’s acceptance

Explain that many families are not able to make a baby and needs lots of help to bring children to their home.

Particulars about the child’s story will be helpful. Their story may include sperm or egg donation or embryo placement and adoption.

the middle years 7 124
If they are asking questions you do not have the answer for, it is best to have empathy for the child by saying “I would want to know, too.”

If there an open donor situation, the child can write down questions that can be asked of the donor family the next time there is communication.

The Middle Years [7-12]
adolescent years 132
Adolescent Years [13+]
  • Middle Years
  • Parents hold ownership of child’s genetic history
  • Any communication with the fertility facility, sperm bank, or direct contact is managed by the parents.
  • Adolescent Years
  • Child takes ownership of genetic history
  • Will they want contact with the resources that assist in their conceptions or with the donors/half siblings themselves. The Donor Sibling Registry has 38,000 families registered.
adolescent years 133
Adolescent Years [13+]
  • Understand their story
  • Find out how they are similar and different from their families
  • Determine how they become a unique individual
  • Adolescents may challenge their families
  • Tell everything they know
  • Understand the teenager’s quest for identity without becoming defensive
how do secrets stop being secrets2
How Do Secrets Stop Being Secrets?
  • Welcome the child’s questions...any questions any time
  • Answer their questions honesty
  • If you need time to find the best answer, tell them you need to think about it for awhile and will get back to them. Keep your promise!
  • Bring up the donor story from time to time
  • Make sure both parents bring up the story with their child from time to time.
  • The child may be sad that they don’t share genetics with you.
  • Acknowledge their sadness
  • Tell them you were sad about it too before they were here. But now you are so happy that they are who they are.
  • The child will be angry about their genetic history
  • They will be angry if they feel lied to and betrayed