BOOK REVIEW: Kramer & Cahn’s Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families

Kramer-Cahn-FamiliesFinding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their FamiliesBy Wendy Kramer & Naomi Cahn (published by Penguin Random House 2013)

Wendy Kramer, the founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, and Naomi Cahn, the Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at George Washington University, have written a tremendous book, Finding Our Families. While the book is intended for donor-conceived people and their families, the research methods and advice suggested make it an important book for adoptive families as well.

Finding Our Families is a comprehensive guide.  It begins with a discussion of whether to tell a donor-conceived child about his or her origins and very sensitively approaches some of the concerns parents have, as well as the impact of withholding information from the child. In a chapter on “How, When, and What to Tell Your Child,” the authors weave in stories of disclosure from a number of parents and help address questions their offspring want to have answered.  The next several chapters unpack the feelings both children and their parents might have, as well as the family dynamics that may be affected by the telling.

Later chapters address the decision whether to search for egg- and sperm-donors, when to search, and how to manage expectations.  A wide-ranging chapter addresses multiple different ways to search for donors, and even includes possible sample language to use in seeking information and in making contact.  Finding Our Families offers sensible approaches of ways to contact “unsuspecting” donors.  Finally, the book addresses “bumps in the road” in contacting donors as well as longer term suggestions for keeping connected and how to handle cessation of contact.

Kramer and Cahn have written much more than a “whether to” or even a “how to” book.   It is packed with empirical information that rests on studies of donors and their  behavior (such as that “sperm donor research reveals that 85 percent of their wives are open to communicating with their offspring”).

Finding Our Families is more than a book for donor-conceived individuals and their families; it is an extraordinary resource for finding and building relationships with larger family networks of many kinds.

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Nancy Levit is the Curator’s and Edward D. Ellison Professor of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

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