I am a parent of a donor-conceived person
Using a donor is becoming an increasingly common way to have a child. One in six couples experience fertility problems and one in 20 babies born in Australia have been conceived through IVF. However, choosing the donor treatment path is a big step. It has implications for you, your family and, of course most importantly, for your child.
Any form of fertility treatment can be stressful. Donor conception presents you with additional decisions and issues to consider both now and in the future.
As the recipient parent(s) you have full legal rights and obligations for your child born as a result of donor conception. You are the legal parent(s) and appear on the birth certificate.
In Victoria, donor-conceived births (births conceived through fertility treatment, including donor conception, self-insemination, surrogacy and IVF) need to be registered with BDM within 60 days of your child being born.
In Victoria, children conceived from donor treatment since 2010 will receive an addendum when they apply for their birth certificate as adults. This will inform them that more information is available about their birth. This means that they are likely to find out they are donor-conceived through this mechanism if they do not already know.
It is common for parents of a donor-conceived child to want to learn more about the person who shares some of their child’s genetic material. Under Victorian legislation, parents of donor-conceived children can apply for information about their child's donor. Parents do not need to wait until their child is 18 in order to seek information about their donor.
Many people conceived from a donor are interested to know more about them and/or other people born as a result of eggs, sperm, or embryos donated by the same donor (known as ‘donor siblings’). This is normal, healthy curiosity. It does not in any way reflect a negative view about their family who raised them. Children may begin asking questions from an early age, especially if they do not have a male parent in their family. It can be helpful to have some information about your child’s donor to help answer any questions they may have.
Some donor-conceived children are not interested in finding out about the donor and any potential half-siblings, while others will want to know as much as they can. You will need to be prepared for either scenario and to support your child through their choice.
What information can I find out?
You have the right to request both identifying and non-identifying information about your child’s donor. You can also request non-identifying information about your child’s donor siblings. Depending on what you are looking for, there are three options for you to access information:
- Make an application to VARTA’s Central Register.
- Add your information to VARTA’s Voluntary Register.
- Contact the fertility clinic where you had treatment. Clinics may be able to release non-identifying information such as the number of women treated, number of donor offspring, their gender and year of birth.
As a parent, you can apply on your child’s behalf before they turn 18 years. This enables you to gradually provide information about the donor to your child as they become older and more curious. The information you are able to access about your child's donor depends on consent from the donor. Your child can also apply for information themselves before they turn 18 years. If the VARTA counsellor considers them sufficiently mature, the donor’s identifying details can be released to them.
Once you have decided that you would like to connect with those you are linked to via donor conception, VARTA can assist you with the donor-linking process. Donor linking is the exchange of information or meeting between people connected via donor conception treatment. VARTA will support you throughout the process including where and how to get started, the registers and contact options. VARTA will make all reasonable efforts to notify you of any release of your information before it is released.
Your child’s donor may have lodged a contact preference. While the contact preference does not prevent identifying information about the donor being released to you, it is an offence for you to ignore the donor’s wishes about how or whether they are contacted. A contact preference states if or how they would like to have contact and decide whether to consent to the release of information:
- Pre 1998 donors can choose if or how they wish to have contact.
- Donors need to consent before identifying information is released to parents of donor-conceived children (under 18 years).
- If the donor has children younger than 18 years, they can also express wishes in relation to contact with their children.
A copy of any contact preference will be provided to you as the applicant and will last for a period of five years. This contact preference may be amended or withdrawn at any time during that five year period (unless there has already been contact between the parties). VARTA has responsibility to communicate with the subject of an application who has lodged a contact preference before the five years expire, with the option for extending it.
The contact preference may include:
- being contacted in a specified way by the applicant such as email, phone or letter
- using the services of VARTA as a third party to exchange information
- not being contacted by the applicant. If ‘no contact’ is specified, contact details will not be provided.
Free matching service for those connected through donor conception treatment.
Apply to add your information to the Voluntary Register. If your child’s donor, their donor siblings, other family members created from the same donor, or other parents who used the same donor have also added their information, VARTA will contact all linked parties.
On application, VARTA will conduct a search and outreach to the subject of your application. Application fees apply. VARTA is not always able to make contact with the person you are trying to connect with.
What information can I find out?
Information already lodged by a previous applicant. This could include:
Identifying information about your child’s donor (consent required):
Non-identifying information about your child’s donor or donor siblings:
Is consent required?
All parties must consent prior to information being released.
Pre 1998 donors can lodge a contact preference, choosing if or how they wish to have contact.
Donors need to consent before identifying information is released to parents of donor-conceived children (under 18 years).
If the donor has children younger than 18 years, they can express wishes in relation to contact with their children.
After you have made an application to VARTA, you may be contacted about receiving the information. Notification and/or consent will be required prior to release of information.
What information can others find out about me or my child?
Donors can find out more information about you through the Voluntary Register. Donors are also entitled to both identifying and non-identifying information about their donor offspring. Consent is required prior to the release of identifying information. As a parent of a donor-conceived child (under 18 years), you can lodge a contact preference.
Those who are connected to you via donor conception can also lodge information on the Voluntary Register. If there is a match, all matched parties will be notified.
You can find out more about DNA testing here.
Helpful resources & support
"It’s a real journey when you start wanting to have a child so we decided to tell our immediate family, because we knew we would need that support, especially if we did get pregnant and something happened." Eve
"We kept IVF very close to our hearts along the same lines as straight people. They don’t talk about their sex lives and whether they’re trying to have a baby so we didn’t want to do that either." Helga
"My immediate family knew we were embarking on it [surrogacy] so we had a full and frank discussion with them." Vien
"I’m delicately balancing the situation with my family and I think I need to give them the space to talk to me about things, but I have also set up some limits as to what I will accept in conversations." Maria
"Both our mothers asked who was going to be the bio-dad and it was quite apparent they wanted to know because there was a sense of ownership over the grandchild. Our response was always the same: the child has two fathers; the biology is not important." Rodney
"When we were approached by the registry to make potential contact by the donor family, it was a difficult decision. Both of us felt quite positive about it right from the start. There wasn’t anything negative about it. We just had to consider how we would link the donor family into our lives". Adrian
"I know in biology or health at school whenever we got kind of on the topic I was like, ‘oooh, oooh let me tell my story’ and so I got to tell my story and people weren't negative, they were just really curious about the whole thing." Sarah
"So many people I think go through treatment really quickly and don't feel comfortable ... it makes it difficult to speak openly about it. Then they can't tell their kids, their family, their friends. It's all got to do with the very beginning - just accepting what's happened and finding a place for it". Angie & Greg
''The journey to parenthood is different for everyone. To some it comes easily. For others, the journey is fraught with hardship. I actually see Jacob’s beginning as something special. Yes, being conceived via a donor egg does make him different …but in a wonderful way". Alison
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the common things donor-conceived people ask about?
- Medical history
- Who am I related to?
- What does my donor look like?
- What is their personality like?
- Are we alike?
- Why did they donate?
When can my child find out about the donor themselves?
Once they reach 18 years, a donor-conceived person can apply for information held on VARTA’s donor conception registers. Donor- conceived children can also access information earlier if a VARTA counsellor considers them to be sufficiently mature or if they have parental consent. They may also be able to find out if they have any donor siblings and potentially connect with them via the Voluntary Register
Does the donor have any legal responsibilities for my child?
Regardless of when the donor donated, the donor has no legal rights or obligations to a child born as a result of a donation. Donors are not the legal parent and do not appear on your child’s birth certificate. Donors are not responsible for maintenance or any financial responsibility towards your child.
Donor-conceived people do not have a legal claim on a donor’s estate.