Processing the donor conception background with the child
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Processing the donor conception background with the child
It is important for a donor-conceived child to grow up with the knowledge of their origin throughout their whole life. In practice, this means that you can talk about the donor conception background already to a baby. Many parents find it easy to talk to a baby because a baby does not ask any questions and the parent can practice the words to talk about the donor conception background that suit them. According to studies, children that have been spoken to about the donor conception background at an early age, react to the matter in a neutral and inquisitive way. Children often have a feeling that they have always known, and it is a natural part of the family’s and child’s story. According to studies, it is in the best interest of the child that they are spoken to about the matter as early as possible, so the child grows up with the knowledge of their background and it becomes a natural part of their story.
Checklist for speaking about the donor conception background to a child
- Calm and disturbance-free situation, for example while reading.
- Small children require an explanation that is as simple and short as possible.
- Listen attentively for any questions the child might have.
- Consider the child’s emotions and reactions and respond sensitively.
- The matter can be discussed also as a story because children remember things better when they are told as stories. Fairytales and baby books help with this.
- You cannot fail in discussing the matter and you can and should keep returning to the subject.
Talking to a small child
- Tell the truth and share as much information as your child requires. The basic rule is that you should answer the child’s questions as simply as possible.
- Leave the details to a later date, considering the child’s age and development.
- Tell your child how important this information is to you and consider the child’s questions and answers in earnest and encourage the child to ask questions.
- Make sure that the child understands that the matter is not a secret.
- Return to the subject in suitable situations and make sure that the child has understood what you talked about.
Things to note when talking to a school age child
- You should start by talking about diverse families. This is certainly familiar for the child already.
- School may cover family relationships and it might be a good moment to explain the matter to the child. This is a good time to share the information with the teacher as well, so the child’s story does not come as a surprise to them.
- Children’s attitudes towards the matter differ. Some are not affected by the information, some can be very inquisitive. Some may already wonder if they possibly have siblings.
Things to note about telling a teen/an adult
- Share the matter in a way that makes the teen understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Make sure that the teen understands that this knowledge does not change who they are: They are the same person as they have been so far and belong to the same family as before.
- The tone of voice matters as well. Emphasise that the matter is not a secret.
- Prepare to tell why you have kept it a secret for so long.
- Be available to the teen and support their reflections.
Children’s thoughts of their background
A majority of children find their relationship with their background to be neutral or good and they feel particularly wanted and anticipated. Especially those children that have a good and confidential relationship with their parents and those that have always known of their background experience their donor conception background as acceptable and neutral. Those young people that find out about their background later than as 18-year-olds have described feelings of betrayal and shock more often than those that found out early about their origins.
Children’s feelings towards the gamete donor
According to multiple studies the main reason to find out the identity of the donor is curiosity and interest in finding out who the donor is. Children think it is important to find out about the donor’s looks, characteristics, health, and often about the donor’s other children as well. Donor-conceived people have a need to know about the health history of their genetic family so that they can find out their (and their children’s) predisposition to certain hereditary illnesses. Children have described that accurate information about the donor helps them create a more complete picture of themselves.
Children’s right to receive information is based on the fertility treatment law
The fertility treatment law took effect in 2007 in Finland that in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child takes into account the best interest of the child and protects the child’s right to know their background. According to the fertility treatment law, the fertility clinic that receives the donation, needs to deliver the information of the gamete donor to the donation register of the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). Valvira maintains the donation register, Luoteri, of the donations of gametes and embryos for fertility treatments.
Saved in the register are:
- The name and social security number of the donor
- The information of the donor’s identifier
- The consent and cancellation of the acknowledgement of paternity
- Whether sperm, eggs, or embryos were donated.
A child born from a donated gamete has the right to find out the identity of the gamete donor after they turn 18. The clinic providing the treatment must give the information of the origins of the donor-conceived child, even if the child’s parents disallow it. The first donor-conceived children born during the validity of this law will turn 18 in the year 2025.
NB! Even if the donor is anonymous, it is good to tell the child that the parent is prepared to investigate the matter with the child. The investigation can start by considering with the child which qualities they might have inherited from the donor. You can discuss with the child which qualities they share with their parents and which ones they do not.
The donor has no rights or obligations regarding the child, and they have no possibility of finding out who the recipient or the recipient couple is. The recipient of the donation (the parent) has no possibility to find out the identity of the donor.