Australian State Government To Release Donor Info

In what appears to be an ongoing trend throughout the world, the topic of anonymous sperm donor rights are once again making headlines, this time, in Australia. This isn’t as simple as releasing the records, what the Health Minister plans to establish a central, government-run register of donor records. This could set a new standard for the future of anonymous sperm donations. Under the proposed plans, only certain information will be available to the offspring of donor sperm, that is, if they want it. The hope is to have the information available to those wanting to know more about potential medical concerns.


Via Sydney Morning Herald

Fertility clinics will be forced to hand over information about anonymous sperm donors so children can learn about their genetic origins, in a move that has divided doctors and offspring advocates.

The state government will also consider bringing in laws to protect donor records, after an inquiry heard “alarming” evidence that doctors had destroyed information to prevent donors being outed.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner plans to establish a central, government-run register of sperm donor records, allowing offspring to apply for non-identifying information about their donor fathers. This could include medical history, ethnicity and physical characteristics such as eye and hair colour.

The register also raises the prospect that more donors and their offspring would make contact, by offering a linking service if both parties consent. Under a current, little-publicised voluntary system, just 21 offspring and 20 donors are registered.

However the measures fall short of revealing the full identity of donors without their permission. Many donor-conceived people say full knowledge about their donor father is needed so they can manage their health, form personal identities and avoid unknowingly having a relationship with a sibling or parent.

Donor advocates say this must be balanced with the wishes of donors to remain anonymous.

The government’s position was contained in a response to a parliamentary inquiry into managing donor conception information.

Clinics that provided assisted reproductive technology treatment before 2010 would be required to release donor conception information to the register, which would be run by NSW Health. Since 2010, sperm donors have been identified and conception information has been held centrally.

However questions remain over how much donor information clinics will be forced to provide, and whether donors would be approached to allow the release of identifying data.

University of Sydney Professor David Handelsman, an expert in sperm donor privacy, said medical records should not be passed on to the government without donor consent.

However “approaching donors after decades, when they never expected any contact, may seriously breach their privacy and do harm to them and their families,” he said.

Professor Handelsman said once donor records became government property, they may later be released without donor consent, or released in error.

The inquiry heard evidence that some doctors may deliberately destroy medical records in a “misguided” effort to protect donor identity, because “they fear what will happen to the information if they hand it over to a central register”.

The government will consider introducing laws to protect donor records.

Donor Conception Support Group spokeswoman Caroline Lorbach said the government response did not go far enough, and offspring should have the right to access all information about their donor.

“They may have a chance to meet that person, to get more answers to their questions. Often just giving a name to that person, instead of just calling them “donor” [is important],” she said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Skinner said the government was consulting assisted reproductive technology clinics on the proposed changes.

Co-Parenting Topics to Discuss

Parenting partnerships, or co-parenting as it’s often referred to isn’t something we just decide we want to do one day and make happen overnight. There are so many variables to consider and discuss prior to entering into a non-romantic parenting relationship with someone else. From the basics of responsibility to the more complex issues of education, living arrangements and of course, finances, co-parenting comes with a lot of obstacles. These obstacles can hopefully be avoided by careful planning ahead of time as well as having open conversations with your parenting partner prior to becoming parents.

Excerpted from a Parent Chat on

My granddaughter is 24, a nurse and expecting. She is not married to the father, but they’ve dating for a couple of years. She lives with him part-time and with her parents part-time. Everyone is happy about the baby. What the best way to encourage both parents in equally raising the child since they do not live together full-time and are not married?

Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann: Co-parenting is the term for parents who are not married or in a romantic relationship but are committed to raising a child together. I meet so many parents who are doing a great job co-parenting.

Aisha Sultan: It seems like you have some feelings about their situation. I’d be careful about giving them the impression that they might not be good parents because they aren’t married yet.

Dr. B: Co-parenting really requires a lot of maturity. I would recommend that legal custody issues be determined soon, while parents are still in a positive relationship. Often co-parenting becomes difficult after one or the other partner enters a separate romantic relationship. It’s very smart to get legal issues such as custody and child support clearly defined while parents are on positive terms together.

Aisha Sultan: Be an engaged and loving grandmother and offer to help out in whatever ways you are able.

Dr. B: Other issues to define clearly to each other include holidays, education, and faith tradition.

Our website is also a great resource of information and suggests what should be discussed prior to entering into a parenting partnership. Below is an excerpt from our “legal issues” portion of our co-parenting issues guide.

Of all the issues that parenting partners need to address, the legal issues are often the most complex. Issues such as drafting a co-parenting agreement, understanding what the law requires of parents, and even figuring out just who is a legal parent can vary by jurisdiction. In the United States alone, where family law is regulated by the individual states, this means 50 sets of rules for prospective parenting partners!

Fortunately, FamilyByDesign is here to help untangle some of this complexity. Our state-by-state analysis will help you figure out the most important issues you should consider for a parenting partnership in your state, and we’ll more broadly tackle the big-picture issues like co-parenting agreements and known donor agreements. Want more info? Ask a question to our legal expert on parenting partnerships!

[Note: Because every person’s situation is different, and because the law frequently changes, is not clearly established, or is interpreted in different ways by different courts, you should not rely on the information presented herein for legal advice about your specific situation. We always recommend a consultation with local legal counsel before taking action.]


Convicted Felon Sperm Donor Mix-up

Technology and security has improved drastically in last twenty years, but stories like the following still shouldn’t be taken lightly and for future parents looking to use a sperm bank, extra precautions should always be taken when using donor sperm. Imagine finding out 21 years after the birth of your child, that the sperm donor you originally opted to use was in fact replaced or accidentally switched with another donor. It’s not an ideal situation and can cause some serious trauma to the family, but in the end, if the child is healthy and happy, he or she is still your child. But now imagine that the donor sperm you used to conceive was from a convicted felon with a history of psychiactric problems. It kind of changes things a bit, doesn’t it?

That’s exactly what happened to one family. The felon was actually a worker at the clinic and a donor as well. A background check was not done during the time of his employment and sadly, the mystery of how the sperm was switched will never be known as the felon donor passed away from complications of alcoholism, another problematic and disturbing find. The clinic is no longer in operation and many of the supervisors from that era of his employment are also deceased. Representatives of the clinic have opted not to alert the families who were clients during the time of his employment, over 1000 families. A hotline has been set up for those who find out and want to proceed with next steps. Only five people from the era of his employment have had paternity tests, one resulting in again having a different sperm donor than originally thought. The donor was not the convicted felon, leading many to believe that the clinic was careless.

For more information on the specific events, click here.

Remember Playing Outside As A Kid?


We came across an interesting op-ed recently that discussed the differences that children today and their parents have with regards to growing up. There was a time when most of us could go outside and well, play. Sure, we did stupid things, but we survived and learned, and moved on. Before a time of digital leashes, and overly protective parenting, kids were just left to be kids. Sure, the world’s changed a bit since we were all kids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that children should be deprived the opportunity to be a bit more independent. At least that’s the opinion of the author. Read below.

Let’s face it: Playing outside all day without structure and protection just poses too many risks to the perfect developmental needs of today’s fragile, Bubble-Wrapped Kids.

Fortunately, like the person who created that streetlight meme, I am one of those kids who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. We were what you might call “free range” kids. It was the best of times, and it was the suckiest of times. Not only were we free to just be kids, we also had a ton more responsibility… and accountability. Many of us were babysitting other people’s kids by 12 years old and holding down paper routes by 13. We weren’t harmed or traumatized by our freedom or responsibility… we were enriched by it.

Kids today don’t have the level of independence we had back then and they don’t have even a fraction of the responsibility either. But it’s not entirely their fault. If today’s parents really want to be able to get back some of those good ole days that we enjoyed and which made us the great people we are today, they need to realize that kids cannot breathe, grow and thrive in a protective, layered world where nothing ever goes wrong and no one ever gets hurt. If they could even fathom following a few of the hands-off parenting methods that our parents and grandparents used with us, they may find their kids might actually take the opportunity to cut off the bubble wrap, get off the iPads and go play outside all day long… or at least until we text them for dinner.

To read the full piece on Huffington Post, click here.

Three Legal Parents

Things are definitely changing and evolving within the United States. Little by little, court decisions are changing laws and in some states, it is now legal to have up to three parents for a child. There are  many instances where this type of scenario would work for some families, and in the case of parenting partnerships, it makes perfect sense. We found a story of a sperm donor who later transitioned to babysitter, then uncle and ultimately became the child’s father, making him parent number three.

But not all are OK with this type of three-parent arrangement. More from the NPR story below:

The Skepticism

Not everyone thinks three-parent families are a good idea. There are religious groups that disapprove, believing that parenting and marriage should be between a man and a woman. And there are other skeptics, too.

Bradford Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia and director of The National Marriage Project, says this is uncharted territory.

“I think the concern here is that three parents will have more difficulty giving their children the kind of consistency and stability that they need to thrive as children and as young adults as well,” Wilcox says.

It’s often a matter of practicalities as well, Wilcox says, and co-parenting is often a challenging enterprise.

“It’s obviously challenging for many married parents navigating that shared undertaking, and you add one more person to the mix and I think it can become more difficult,” he says.

Wilcox does acknowledge that legal protection could give children more stability.

Forman believes his three-parent arrangement is a lot better than some marriages, and he says the kids know it.

“They have seen divorced parents where the mother and father are angry with each other. We’re not,” he says. “We get along, we do the swim meets together [and] we enjoy each other’s company.”

They’re proud of their two children, but this mom, dad and mom are also proud of each other.

To listen to the entire story, click here.

Another Parenting Study?

We couldn’t resist posting this amazingly funny comedic piece from the New Yorker by Sarah Miller. There are a lot of parenting studies out there and there will continue to be plenty more. In the end, what’s right for you and your family will depend on you and your family. You might pick and choose what works for you from one study, or agree wholeheartedly with a study and stick to it. Or maybe you will just avoid studies in general. We like to pick and choose what to share with our members and we do it only to share the option of having the information. Now take a moment and read below, it’s hilarious!

As seen in the New Yorker:

A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go f***ing ape sh*t.

The study was conducted by Susan Waterson, a professor of behavioral psychology at the University of Massachusetts and the author of zero books, because, Waterson says, “another book at this point would just be cruel.” In the course of seven weeks, Waterson interviewed a hundred and twenty-seven families about their reaction to articles that begin with a wryly affectionate parenting anecdote, segue into a dry cataloguing of sociological research enlivened with alternately sarcastic and tender asides, and end with another wryly affectionate anecdote that aims to add a touch of irony or, failing at that, sentimentality. “I wasn’t looking to prove there was too much of this content,” Waterson said. “I’m a behaviorist, not a sociologist. Only one part of this equation interested me—the f***ing ape sh*t part.”

Her study was focussed on families in central Massachusetts, but her findings were echoed by parents across the country.

Frieda Duntmore, a thirty-nine-year-old Baltimore-high-school teacher and the mother of twin six-year-old girls, recounted standing in line at a supermarket, reading a magazine article about how being a parent sucked, and then recalling that, that very morning, she’d read another article, which said that being a parent was awesome, and that anyone who didn’t have kids might as well just take their own life. “All of a sudden, I felt my skull start to split right down the middle. I put my hand up, and there was literally blood there.” Duntmore paid for her groceries and fled. “About fifteen minutes later, my skull pieced itself back together, so I figured I’d forget about it,” she said.

Paul Nickman, forty-five, was taking a coffee break at his Visalia, California, law office when he began to leaf through an article about the importance of giving kids real challenges. “They mentioned this thing called grit, and I was like, ‘O.K, great. Grit.’ Then I started to think about how, last year, I’d read that parents were making kids do too much and strive too hard, and ever since then we’ve basically been letting our kids, who are ten and six, sit around and stare into space.” Nickman called his wife and started to shout, “Make the kids go outside and get them to build a giant wall out of dirt and lawn furniture and frozen peas!” He added, “Get them to scale it, and then make them go to the town zoning board to get it permitted, but don’t let them know it was your idea!” Nickman has no idea how many minutes passed before he realized he was standing in a fountain outside a European Waxing Center, rending his clothes.

During Nickman’s three-day-long stay at U.C.L.A.’s psych ward, his wife, Anne, forty-four, brought him a pile of newspapers, one of which happened to briefly mention Waterson’s study. “I was so relieved,” Nickman said. “I turned to Anne and said, ‘I think I was just going f***ing ape sh*t, that’s all.’ And Anne said, ‘I think I might be going f***ing ape sh*t, too.’ ”

The Nickmans and Duntmore both got in touch with Waterson, and, following her advice, they began a protocol of recovery. They cancelled their Facebook accounts, and they go online only when absolutely necessary. If they leave their house, they wear horse blinders, which Waterson’s husband, an inventor, has adapted for human use, and which can be purchased on Waterson’s Web site. Upon greeting other parents, they hand out pre-printed cards (also available on their Web site) that read, “Please do not talk to me about my children or your children, or children, or schools, or schooling, or learning, or Tae Kwon Do, ballet., etc. Also, please ignore the horse blinders.”

“Most people just smile and walk away,” Duntmore said. “But, once in a while, someone wants to talk about Crimea, which is a treat.”

When To Be A Hands Off Parent With Adult Kids

We came across this great blog from a mother of adult children who discusses her thoughts on when to stop being a hands on parent and instead watch from the sidelines.

This article was originally published on Better After 50.

By Felice Shapiro

It turns out that my very odd upbringing ironically may have prepared me for the next phase of parenting — parenting adult children.

I walked a mile to school — I’m not kidding, and I wasn’t even from a farming family. I lived in downtown Boston and went to school in the suburbs. Actually, it was way more than 1 mile — I walked 10 minutes from my lovely home in Back Bay (so don’t feel sorry for me) — took the Green Line (rattily old trolley — the “T”) 45 minutes from Copley Square and THEN, after I dropped my little sister at her school, I walked a mile from her school to mine.

No surprise I started hitch hiking at an early age, until a creep with a riding crop on the dashboard picked me up and stared at my exposed legs for the mile ride. Freaky, scary and stupid. When my sister was old enough to travel on her own, I got a 10-speed bike for my birthday and rode from Back Bay to Chestnut Hill with books on my back — no helmet of course — down the commuter clogged Beacon Street — about 8 miles. I loved my newfound freedom.

I don’t remember my parents being particularly concerned about me riding in traffic. I don’t remember my parents being worried about anything I did. Actually the only time they got concerned was when I worried about stuff and got stomachaches. They would tell me there was nothing to worry about anyway — so I ultimately, never told them about my worries.

I didn’t tell my parents too much of anything. They were not on the front line of my life and our relationship was one of “checking-in.”

Parenting happened at dinnertime. I deflected the questions about grades and focused on my sports stuff. But to be honest, I was not the center of the dinner table talk — I was lucky to escape the veal sauce experiments, slipping the food into my napkin. My dad usually shared his take-aways on some article he’d read in The New Republic or Commentary and invited our OPINIONS, of which there were many. Mom was focused on whether the veal experiment would work for her next dinner party. Four girls sat around that table plus mom, for a few years until my two older sibs got smart and went away to school. Shortly after I left for college, my parents divorced, after 20ish years of marriage.

So basically, what I learned as a kid I taught myself — or my sisters taught me. Did they even have self-help books in the 60s? I could have used them. It turns out as a child of hands-off parenting, I relied on the wisdom and focused guidance of 1. my Nana who was around a lot in those early years, 2. Eugenia, our live-in help, who was truly my best friend and cheerleader, and 3. my two closest high school friends.

Not surprisingly, when it was my turn to parent, I was hell bent on being hands-on. I wanted to be on the front line of my kids’ lives, and the rewards were staggering. My husband and I purposely chose a community to raise our boys where they could walk to school, their friends were walking distance from our home and our work was nearby. We could, and did, show up at everything.

When just a short 17 to 18 years later the kids left the nest for college, we believed we were no longer on the front line as parents. But, in fact we were. The question, remained, how much of an impact would we have once they were outside the nest?

Despite their new grown up playing field of college (or not), of work disappointments and challenges, and the nuances of dating and relationships — which all happen outside of our homes — some of us are not letting go of our parenting front row seats as they move through their life’s performances — even though a shift is occurring.

At what point do we shift from shapers in our kids’ lives to observers and guides and become way more hands-off?

I don’t know too many parents who can resist helping their kids as they explore their new independent lives. But, when are we supposed to stop helping them negotiate daily life, i.e., make their own dentist appointments, take them off the family cell phone plan, stop booking their travel stuff because they don’t have time, or resist going into their apartments and tidying up… etc. When does this line in the sand get drawn?

When do we move off our kids’ stage, into the orchestra and ultimately the bleachers? When is it enough to say our parenting roles are limited to watching quietly as they stumble, fall and get up again without fixing or trying to? At what point do we zip-it and trust that they will figure it out?

As my eldest finishes up graduate school and heads to another part of the country to work and my youngest develops his music career — I know we are no longer on the front line. The process has been evolutionary, and surprisingly quite liberating. It does not feel like the loss I had imagined, as I am no longer “on-call” on a daily basis.

One of my most favorite parts of being post-50 is indeed this shifting role as a parent. Despite some frustration about sitting in the bleachers of our kids lives and dealing with obstructed views — my  husband and I are loving our independence.

Europe’s Own Starbuck

Wow, didn’t actually think this kind of thing truly existed. In the US, the movie The Delivery Man was released after the Canadian version, Starbuck was a big hit with critics and fans alike. The movie centered around a man who donated sperm over 600 times in a short period of time and through a mix up in the clinic, ended up being the biological father of over 500 children. In the movie, his sperm was apparently exremely virile, and apparently, extremely virile sperm is a very real thing.

A European man named Ed Houben has just fathered his 98th child. He considers himself a voluntary sperm donator, with one catch; he donates the sperm in the most traditional way imaginable, through intercourse. He has been helping single women, lesbian couples as well as heterosexual couples having fertility problems. Houben doesn’t draw up any contracts at this point as he depends on the goodness in those he helps. He also keeps a very legit spreadsheet of his offspring to prevent accidental interbreeding. In the movie version, the donor had no idea he was fathering so many children, but this real life Starbuck is 100% in the know as well as willing and able to continue helping those in need.

To read the entire BBC news piece, click here. 

Millennial Moms are Not Their Mothers

Each generation of parents are different from their predecessors, and when it comes to parenting styles, most new parents tend to develop their own methods and at times avoid some of the methods they grew up with at home. This couldn’t be more true with millennial moms. A recent study earlier this year from BabyCenter, the world’s leading parenting and pregnancy web destination, revealed what makes millennial moms so different from other generations of mothers.

“The Millennial Mom is more than you think she is,” says Mike Fogarty, SVP and Global Publisher at BabyCenter. “She represents a cultural and economic force that’s creating lasting change. Remember, this generation entered adulthood in the late 1990s with a tailwind of economic growth and global stability, only to see their future thrown into question. Millennial Moms are also bucking convention – in the way they raise their kids and the way they live their own lives.” Fogarty adds, “The media’s coverage of this generation as self-centered and entitled misses the point. Millennials are a study in contrasts. They’re underemployed but entrepreneurial, educated but in debt, digital natives fluent with technology and new media – but back to basics with a strong focus on the environment, health, and nutrition.”

Below are a couple key highlights from the release.

She’s Not Her Mother
Millennial Moms are the product of helicopter parenting and opt to parent their own children differently by adopting a more relaxed approach. Despite parenting pressures, Millennial Moms say their parenting style is loving (96%), encouraging (92%), supportive (90%), and involved (87%). When asked about their own upbringing, Millennial Moms are more likely than Gen X moms to say that their parents were protective (63% vs. 49%), worried (38% vs. 26%), and enabling (34% vs. 25%). However, when asked about their own parenting style, Millennial Moms say they are fun (88% vs. 82% of Gen X moms), forgiving (87% vs. 77%), relaxed (59% vs 48%), and aspirational (49% vs. 39%).

She’s Socially Selective
Despite increased social media activity, Millennial Moms are less concerned about posting pictures of themselves or their children to social networks. This may be due to the fact that they are more tech-savvy and know how to take security precautions. Four out of five Millennial Moms don’t settle for Facebook’s default privacy settings and three out of five turn off location services for photos and/or social media sites.

Millennial Moms are also happy to communicate with others digitally. Compared to Gen X moms, Millennial Moms are twice as likely to prefer communicating with their parents via text, and twice as likely to use social media to send birthday party invitations. In addition, Millennial Moms are 21% less likely to send a thank-you note via postal mail.


NY Bill Mandates Parenting Courses

Everyone can benefit from education, right? But what about parenting classes? Do they really work and who is to say how someone should parent? Everyone is unique and different and have their own perceptions on how to raise children. There are so many elements that could potentially affect a parenting style. The state of New York is considering a new bill that would make parenting classes mandatory. The bill would also force employers to give employees paid time off to attend the classes and would potentially hold children back at the sixth grade level if parents have not completed their required courses.

Here’s the bill, which is a short read. Section 1, “Requires parents of elementary school children to attend a minimum of four parent support instruction programs prior to the child’s advancement to the seventh grade. Requires employers to provide one day per year of paid job leave for the purposes of attending such support instruction programs.”

Section 2, “Provides that the topic of one such workshop shall be related to the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children.”

So what do you think? Imposing parenting classes on parents and holding kids back if parents refuse to attend. State-run parenting classes. Just the sound of that makes us cringe at the thought of how efficient they would be. Do you think parents need parenting courses to properly raise their children? Tweet us and let us know. @FamilyByDesign