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The Parents Via Egg Donation Organization: November 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being Catholic, The Church, IVF, and thoughts from a Padre

The American Fertility Association is doing something that could be considered somewhat controversial, edgy, and hands down fantastic. They are going where other organizations have not regarding a much talked about issue which is being Catholic and undergoing IVF.

On Monday, December 7th, The American Fertility Association will be presenting an open webinar for the general public entitled Catholics and IVF: A Pastoral Approach. This webinar will help prepare Catholics who are considering IVF or other forms of assisted reproductive technology to have a productive and respectful conversation with their pastors.

The webinar will feature Fr. Jon Pedigo as guest speaker. Fr. Pedigo has been active in civic affairs and social justice causes for over 25 years.

According to Ken Mosesian, Executive Director of The American Fertility Association, "This webinar is not an opportunity to debate the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor is it an opportunity to promote or discourage religion or any one particular religion. Rather, it is simply a safe place for individuals to talk to a priest about the best way to share their lived experiences with their Pastors, so that Pastors can better minister to the families in their care". According to Mosesian, The American Fertility Association, a national non profit and non denominational organization, is hosting this event due to an outpouring of community need for this topic to be heard and addressed.

The U.S. Bishops may not agree. Earlier this month in Baltimore, The U.S. Bishops approved a document regarding the moral use of reproductive technologies for infertile couples. The document, entitled "Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology" condemns the use of assisted reproductive technology for family building, stating "simply because the desired end (of having a child) is good, it does not justify every possible means". The document goes on to call assisted reproduction of any kind immoral and without justification, even encompassing cancer patients who wish to freeze their eggs prior to treatment or men who are paraplegic and opt to utilize sperm donation as a means of building their families.

Catholic individuals may thus feel conflicted about their desire to get pregnant when grappling with infertility, and the stated teachings of the Catholic Church. The webinar on December 7th may prove to be a good starting point for much needed conversations about this issue to be aired.

REGISTER HERE for this amazing webinar!

As a fellow Catholic (practicing or not, once a Catholic always a Catholic, it's in your bones) and a mother via egg donation this is going to be especially interesting to me to listen to what a priest has to say about this topic because as we all know The Roman Catholic Church has plenty to say about IVF let alone Third Party Reproduction.

I can remember as if it were yesterday my very first conversation I had with my parish priest about my infertility, my losses, and my love for the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately for me my conversation was not productive. I walked away feeling ashamed, frightened, and terribly alone. Much like a child who has been caught doing something naughty. I heard words like "illegitimate", "adultery", "unnatural", "not of the marriage bed", "God's Will" all wrapped up in a conversation that I had hoped would be full of blessings and hope.

However, being who I am I didn't allow one conversation with one priest stop me. I just couldn't imagine or accept the God I love and know to reject me, or cast me to hell or more importantly not love my future child, or to view my future child as a product of adultery because my husband and I thought outside the box, and loved each other enough to use a donor egg to create our family.

In my search far and wide I did happen to find and talk to a lovely Jesuit priest who spoke to me more than once about this delicate and often troubling subject. And I was finally left with this from him, which I will cherish and hold near and dear to my heart forever:

"No matter where you are with your husband -- at home, at a hotel on vacation, on a business trip, travelling, or in a surgical suite, that's your marriage bed. It's the place where you two are together creating life with love, and really that's all that matters to God. Not what a church thinks."

I wept tears of joy and relief. I didn't realize how tightly bound I was in the concern and worry about The Church and her approval of my reproductive life -- after all The Church wants us all to go forth and procreate.

From that time forward I had a new attitude about The Church, my spiritual life, and my reproductive life -- thankfully our cycle was a success and I have an amazing child that I know God embraces, loves, and marvels at just as I do.

My child is a miracle and no church in the world can deny my that joy.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What PVED Does In A Month...

I get asked a lot "What exactly do you do? You are always so busy, either on the phone, answering emails or talking to clinics or agencies.

Here's what I did in the month of October:

We reached out and answered about 350 telephone calls regarding clinics, agencies, protocols, donor related questions, about the egg donation process.

We followed 19 pregnant women, called performing well checks, and we welcomed 5 babies into the fold!

We read and responded to over 1000 forum messages, and are you ready for this:

We responded to over 3800 individual emails for the month from Mom's and Dad's all over the globe who were needing support, information, and help regarding egg donation!

My day typically begins between five and six in the morning when the East Coast calls begin to roll in, I bring my email up to see what's filtered in from across the pond overnight, check our forum, put out any fires, and continue on with my day planning, or completing various PVED projects.

I may speak to a clinic or an agency in the morning, and tucked in between clinic conversations are emails, calls from parents, and I may throw together dinner in the crock pot or throw a load of laundry in the washer (I do work from home after all), or attend a telephone conference.

Afternoons are almost always reserved for meetings and conversations with parents, - as that's when folks usually either make time on their lunch to call, or the East Coast is getting home from work, in the privacy of their own homes and may need help with or encouragement with egg donor selection.

I take a few hours off in the early evening to spend time with my family catching up, running errands, and having dinner --and oh yes, putting away the laundry from earlier in my day. Once the family is settled for the night I begin to return the many emails and forum messages from the day, sometimes I even make a few telephone calls across the pond to our friends in Europe who are just getting up as my day is ending.

And then I go to bed and get up the next day and do it all again. And yes, I love what I am doing, I can't imagine doing anything else -- some months are busier than others -- October was a fairly typical month.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bloggers and Message Board Addicts – Blog and Comment with Care

Do you have a blog? Many of us do. In fact, if you don’t have a blog you are in the minority. There are all kinds of blogs – personal blogs, work blogs, product blogs, movie blogs, retail blogs, medical blogs, diet blogs, celebrity blogs, political blogs, product review blogs, the list is endless! Everywhere you turn there’s some blog spouting an opinion about something.

Next are message boards. They too come in all shapes and sizes offering information, opinion, support, education, encouragement, amusement, entertainment and often time’s criticism.

We live in a time where technology is an amazing tool. It can also make or break a business, a medical practice, or a person’s reputation. So much so that law suits against bloggers have risen 200+% in the past year.

I think because people think they are anonymous they become extraordinarily brave. There is this veil (or so they think) of anonymity that separates them from those they communicate with, it’s called your computer monitor. I have witnessed some of the nicest people become downright ugly when they sit down at their computer, some even morph into “internet bullies” and troll message boards and blogs only to comment about anything that is disagreeable, contradictory, or inflammatory, just because they can. What’s even more interesting is learning that there have been clinic and egg donor agency employees who pose as patients and complain (in this instance) about infertility clinics, physicians, egg donor agencies, lawyers, or therapists.

Mind blowing for sure. I ask myself – “Who would do that and more importantly why?”

There are several highly travelled infertility blogs and infertility message boards (that shall remain nameless as I don’t want to be sued) that come to mind where I have seen some pretty inflammatory stuff up close and personal, and folks it ain’t pretty. These sights bash clinics, egg donor agencies, physicians, egg donors, and in some instances name staff at various clinics and comment on their personal character. And the sad and scary part is that stuff that’s written on the internet stays there forever – longer than bad credit on your credit report. Just Google yourself sometime and see what turns up. – I dare you!

Because we live in a society where technology is readily available and the internet is at our fingertips 24/7 people flock for information. Google is their weapon of choice and folks can Google anything. Anything at all. The other really bizarre thing that I have noticed is that the internet is the dumping ground for bad stories. When I was pregnant with my son I experienced a subchorionic hematoma which is basically a blood clot from bleeding that occurs behind the placenta. I was already stressed out as I had been trying to have a child for many years, finally succeed to get pregnant, and then bleed. As I began to search the internet for this very foreign term all I read on many message boards was doom and gloom stories. I got myself worked up into a snit to the point that my Perinatologist actually got a little tough with me and ordered me off the internet as I was driving both me and his practice crazy with my many calls about how I just knew I would lose this pregnancy.

I heeded my doctors orders and went on to have an amazingly healthy baby even though I had him miscarried and buried many times over in my head because of my fear.

After his birth I went back and researched my complication and again found many many many horror stories and not many success stories. I then began to wonder if I was really lucky or was there more to this. And so I did what I normally do dug and dug until I found answers and the answers I found were startling. I discovered that 75% of the stories we read on the internet like our national news broadcasts are bad. And only 25% are positive and good.


Because the internet is an emotional dumping ground for individuals to offload their stress by posting their story on a public or private message board and then disappear. It’s free, it won’t cost you 150.00 (the price of a therapy session) to bang out our horror story, vent about whatever you need to vent, click the publish button and post.
All from the convenience of your home – anonymously. (or so we think).

So the next time you are angry at your fertility clinic or egg donor agency and want the world to know you have been wronged, and they need to make it right or everyone’s going to know how horrible they really are -- remember a few tips that will keep you safe and out of lawsuit’s grip:

If it’s true it isn’t libel. Report just the facts. Don’t add a thing.

Remember if you are stating your opinion you have to present it as YOUR opinion and it also can’t be libelous. I can’t encourage you enough to be honest when stating your opinion – rant and rave all you won’t but wow don’t be a troll and make up stuff just to increase your blog views. Make sure your opinion reads truthful

We live in a lawsuit happy society. We may think we have free speech but do we really? There are people out there who think they can sue for anything and in the USA sadly for the most part I think that is true.

You can’t make up facts. And people don’t get sued for making up facts.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Through The Eyes Of An Egg Donor...

Having been both an egg donor as well as coordinating over 4000 cycles, Wendie Wilson from Gifted Journeys has a unique opportunity to share her experience with others exploring the egg donation journey. Wendie’s article is focused primarily on the questions she is asked regularly by recipient parents. Wendie is not only sharing her own first person perspective as an egg donor, but the perspectives of egg donors she has interviewed and coordinated cycles for throughout the years.

Wendie also sits on the PVED Advisory Board as one of PVED's egg donation advisors.

Will I feel as if the child is mine?

One of the concerns I hear from many intended parents, most especially intended mothers, is, “Will I feel like this child is mine?” The answer is a resounding YES! Biology does not a parent make. It's all about the heart. When we remember that it's the heart that considered egg donation that will carry your child or support your surrogate and feel the joy as you experience all of the "firsts" that accompany walking with your child through the world, it makes a lot more sense. Your egg donor is the catalyst to the much more important part of the journey: parenthood. It's the combination of your heart and an egg donor's heart that make this possible.

What if the egg donor is not honest regarding her profile?

An obvious and valid concern is whether what a donor states on her profile is true. Some things are relatively easy to find out, while others not so much. There are also things the donor may simply not know, such as the health history of an estranged grandparent or cousin. On the other hand, an SAT score of 1600 should be relatively easy to verify. Additionally, you can always request a background check on your preferred donor through your agency, and most will be happy to assist with the process for a nominal fee. However, it is the agency and doctor’s offices jobs to extract as much information as possible and share this with you.

An agency is responsible for setting up a donor with a genetic counselor who will draw up a detailed history of your donor’s personal and family medical background. This consists of both a report and a “map” outlining the possible genetic predispositions of the donor’s offspring. What we hope, of course, is that the donor is both honest and knowledgeable about the questions asked on the profile.
Secondly, an agency is responsible for having your donor take a psychological evaluation, usually a MMPI, which requires that she test within the average range for the typical egg donor. In addition to the MMPI, an agency or intended parent could request an in-person consult with a licensed psychologist. This additional examination can double-check for consistency and the right motivations for becoming an egg donor.

Lastly, an agency is going to do everything they can to ensure that the donor is everything put forth in her profile. A responsible donor is an agency’s dream and an irresponsible one a nightmare. There is no motivation for an agency to work with a donor who will ultimately cost everyone involved money, time and emotional distress. A reputable agency will listen for any red flags that may arise if the donor were to cycle and ultimately choose to omit her from their program.

Egg donation is a detailed process, especially given that you've already been through so much on your journey. Putting your trust in both an agency and donor that you don’t personally know is a big leap to take, but one filled with faith and hope. The author of Eat, Pray, Love made a comment that seems poignant for recipient parents: “The inability to open up to hope is what blocks trust, and blocked trust is the reason for blighted dreams.”

What is the donor’s motivation?

Young women often have several motivations for becoming egg donors. The monetary motivation is obvious, but what we hear most often is a more altruistic one: their ability to understand the desire to have children. Our donors who already have children can’t imagine life without them and most donors without look forward to families of their own one-day.

In my experience, most donors are initially motivated to learn more about egg donation when they see that there is a fee involved for their gift. However, it does not mean that a donor would be motivated by just anything. I know that I would never have responded to an ad that said, “Donate your kidney: $5000 compensation.” Donors learn through the education process that

a.) They have many thousands of eggs – more than they could possibly use before menopause
b.) They would like to help the intended parents, and
c.) The fee for their gift will help pay off student loans, save for a down payment on a house, pay off their car, etc.
When I became a donor it was, to date, the most amazing thing I had ever done in my life. Prior to that experience, nothing else that I had taken “action” about had given someone as much joy as a positive pregnancy test. It was a landmark in my life, helping a couple’s dream come true. So much a landmark that it became my life’s work. Since becoming a part of this industry, I have not spoken to one donor who has undergone retrieval who has regretted her decision. The overwhelming feelings are those of joy, excitement for the couple, and the desire to know that her efforts have been successful.

Will the donor want to contact the child in the future? Will she think of the baby as her child?

A big concern for many recipient parents is whether or not the donor will consider their baby to be “her” child. The fact is this: donors rarely want contact, much less a continued relationship. The most open donations I’ve seen have always been initiated by the intended parents and agreed upon by the donor. On the rare occasions that donors do request future contact, it is along the lines of wanting to know the child is healthy and free from any noteworthy medical problems, not to know the child him or herself.

With the worries of parenthood ahead, there are so many additional reasons why this should not even be a concern for recipients. Donors are not the birth moms and simply do not have the bond to the “egg” they way they would if they initiated the process for their own family. There is a disconnect and they perceive their eggs as "genetic material" they are willingly donating to another family. It's the same reason a blood donor would not seek out the recipient of that gift.

Additionally, an egg donor understands that she has plenty of eggs to fuel her future desire for a family. She will have many more cycles and opportunities to have her own children. She would also rather have her future children with the partner of their choice than ever seek out the children of her recipient family.
How will the donor feel several years down the road?

As with anything in life, we make the decisions that are good for us in the moment and hope for the best possible outcome. Donors have a tendency to view their gift as something that will benefit them now and in the future. For donors who don’t yet have children or know whether or not they’ll have children, they feel confident in their decision to help recipient parents achieve their dreams of family. For donors with children, they are in the midst of their own parenting experience and are thrilled to share it with others. In either case, you have a young woman who views the future outcome as something positive.

For those of us who have donated several years ago (myself included), the experience isn't at all regrettable. While I haven't yet had children of my own, I feel grateful every day that there were recipients who could expand their family as a result of my donation. There are no feelings of guilt, longing or desire to see or meet the children. I think about my recipients from time-to-time with a smile on my face, though. Other women I’ve talked to have a similar outlook on the experience, stating that their donations are something about which they will always feel a great deal of pride. Several women I spoke to specifically said that unless someone else brings it up, they forget about the donation altogether. Most donors have an amazing experience, bring great joy to their recipients and then move on with their lives - better for having been a donor with the most unique of memories possible.

My goal with this essay was to couple my personal experiences as an egg donor with my expertise in coordinating hundreds of donor cycles, creating a go-to resource for the most commonly asked questions by donors and recipient parents. Naturally, each journey toward family differs, but you can find comfort in knowing you are not enduring your journey alone.

What’s important to remember is that, as with many things in life, there is a leap of faith associated with the decision to move forward with egg donation. While I can’t promise that everything will go smoothly without adding a few more bumps along your path, I can say that this is a journey well worth the challenges along the way. The gift of family is waiting for you and I hope I've helped comfort, clarify and encourage you that the path you travel is one you'll never have to walk alone.

by: Wendi Wilson, Egg Donor Agency Advisor, Los Angeles, California

In my early 20’s I donated my eggs to an amazing young woman who was in remission from breast cancer. After seeing the opportunity that was given to her by the technological advancement of reproductive medicine, it occurred to me that this was the single most amazing experience of my life to date.

Ever since, I have committed myself to the field of assisted reproduction still going strong nearly a decade later. I graduated from the University of Washington in 1998 w/ a degree in Speech Communication, spending several years doing competitive speech and debate at the national level. I’ve used my public speaking skills at many assisted reproduction evens and symposiums to speak with intended parents and potential donors about family building opportunities.

With the support of several IVF clinics, doctors and staff members that I had become close to throughout the years, I was encouraged to start my own egg donation agency. From this support, Gifted Journeys was born. I plan to continue spreading the word about Egg Donation and the opportunities that are out there for both recipients and donors. Implementing my belief that all loving people who want a chance to start or grow their family, without judgment or bias, and with equal opportunity and support, should have that option.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sorry Charlene, you've filled your quota…

The industry’s talked about it. Patients are talking about it. Wendy Kramer took the bull by the horns and created a donor – sibling registry because at the time no public outlet existed for mutual consent contact between people born from anonymous sperm donation or egg donation. And so Wendy started her website which became an organization to help make those connections.

As I was having an exchange with another recipient parent she made the remark that there needs to be some something more, something that protects the egg donor and recipient alike. – Something that is simple that can receive information about a potential egg donor and either give the egg donor the green light to donate or spit out: “Sorry Charlene, you’ve filled your quota”

It’s more than bothersome to read about egg donors who lie to their care providers about the number of previous donations. Actually, it’s downright scary. Medical professionals really don’t know how many times an egg donor should take stim meds, and undergo retrievals. There’s no way of telling how many times an egg donor has cycled unless she’s honest. It’s not like a clinic can leave a little time and date stamp on an egg donors ovaries showing they’d been there.

Currently, there are no standards set by the ASRM to track donor participation in programs that would ensure compliance. Essentially, each clinic sets its own standards. Limits to the number of times a donor may donate are related more to the concerns regarding the repetitive use of fertility drugs, hyperstimulation, anesthesia, and oocyte aspiration. Presently, most programs limit donors to six cycles in an effort to safeguard them from procedural risks – how they selected the number “6” is beyond me.

And then of course there is the issue of “Inadvertent Consanguinity” (referring to the property of being from the same kinship as another person – in other worlds being half siblings and not knowing it)
ASRM states that Inadvertent Consanguinity resulting from oocyte donation could occur if: [1] a given donor has donated to two or more families and [2] the offspring were unaware of their specific genetic heritage. (This is why folks it’s imperative to be honest and tell your child early and often the truth about their origins) Previous guidelines on therapeutic donor insemination and oocyte donation, published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, have advised an arbitrary limit of no more than 25 pregnancies per sperm or oocyte donor, in a population of 800,000, in order to minimize risks of consanguinity. This suggestion may require modification if the population using donor gametes represents an isolated subgroup or the specimens are distributed over a wide geographic area.

Honestly, I am not as concerned about “IC” than I am about the egg donor undergoing repetitive stim cycles and retrievals. I can remember in the 80’s when “herpes” made its debut and it was the gift that kept on giving. We all thought it was a wretched and horrible thing to receive from an intimate partner. And then HIV reared its ugly head and that’s when we all literally started playing for keeps. Instead of couples running to the doctor for that all mighty blood test that was required to rule out Syphilis (which prior to the emergence of HIV, was the most deadly venereal disease for humanity), they were running to their doctors and clinics before marriage and having an HIV test to make sure they were HIV negative before taking an intimate relationship to the next level. Now days many of us who are smart will have already been upfront with our kids and told them about their origins – and we will also be as inquisitive about who are children are dating, and you can be rest assured if my son’s girlfriend mentions that she’s a product of egg donation then a pretty straight forward DNA test will be done to rule out any sort of “consanguinity”.

But don’t you think life would be so much easier for the entire “industry” if there was an egg donor registry that housed information about our egg donors? And clearly not for the sake of seeking them out or hunting them down, or sending “our” children to their door steps to say “Oh hi, remember 18 years ago when you were an egg donor and you helped my parents...” But for things like health issues that can crop up from both sides. If an egg donor develops a medical issue in her life, that information can be added to a registry, and the registry can contact recipient parents. Or if a child created by an egg donor develops a medical issue, that information can be added to a registry and that information can be shared with any of the half siblings this egg donor may have helped create. And it can be done so anonymously. And last but not least, there is something to be said to have a way to track how many egg donor cycles an egg donor truly undergoes. The idea that I might be recipient number 12 and could possibly contribute to an egg donors health issues 20 years down the road makes my hair stand on end, let alone how many children could possibly be born through one specific egg donor is concerning.

I am not sure of the answer – I just know we have a problem and it needs to be addressed. My only concern is that the powers that be are going to drag their feet like the government does when testing drugs that save lives. It’s going to be like getting Elephants to mate, it’s done at high levels, It's accomplished with A great deal of roaring and scream. And it takes years to produce and results.


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Sunday, November 8, 2009

For an industry that continues to do little to police itself, this is yet another black eye…

You could say I am irritated after reading The Spin Doctor, Andrew Vorzimer’s piece about Angels In Waiting Surrogacy Center out of Illinois who’s involved in a lawsuit with an infertile couple claims an unregistered surrogacy center was in cahoots with a woman who used an alias to donate her eggs more than a dozen times, in violation of industry guidelines. The couple says that when they demanded their money back from Angels in Waiting Surrogacy Center, its owner, Dianna Watschke, closed the company down and reopened under another name.

Like Andrew, I am sadly not surprised in the least bit. This is a sad state of affairs for those of us working in the Third Party Reproductive arena. History is repeating itself as this isn’t the first time an agency has closed its doors after being accused of violating industry guidelines, or even more serious allegations like fraud, or theft. And it’s also not the first time an agency has reopened with a different name or again like Andrew so aptly stated “a new look so as to mislead clients about their identity or attempt to escape liability.” To me that’s pre-meditated fraud, and isn’t that against the law?

Economic times are really tough right now – and while we as recipient parents have always been at the mercy of our egg donors to be honest regarding their egg donor profiles, there’s now a disturbing development of egg donors who are lying about where they have cycled, when they have cycled and how many times they have cycled.


Because ASRM states that egg donors are to donate and undergo egg retrieval six (6) times. That’s it. It’s for the safety of the egg donor and to limit the number of genetically related children that may meet as adults.

Do all egg donor agencies follow this guideline? Most yes, all? No. Should they? Absolutely. All egg donor agencies should be following ASRM’s guidelines regarding egg donation to the letter. That means that if they come across an egg donor who they might even suspect has donated more than 6 times they need to remove her from their program. That also means more work for clinics, as they are going to have to be even more vigilant in regards to vetting egg donors who cycle through their own programs.

Now I will say it can be tough for an agency to identify a donor who is withholding important health information about her previous egg donor cycles and retrievals. And while it’s the agencies responsibility to obtain all medical records regarding egg donation cycles from its prospective egg donors they can only gather that information from the physicians and clinics the egg donor lists and identifies. At the end of the day if an egg donor knowingly commits fraud there’s nothing an agency can do because we don’t have any sort of national registry or database.

What’s chapping my hide regarding this case is that the couple who’s suing the agency owner is stating that the agency owner has ALL the medical records of the egg donor who shows this egg donor has donated TWELVE (count em) TWELVE previous times. TWELVE FOLKS. Six more than what the guidelines allow.

This industry is the first to bitterly complain about not wanting the government to step in and regulate them. But come on folks – you are not policing yourselves. Infertility patients have enough to deal with emotionally, physically, and monetarily. What we don’t need is to put our trust into an agency that isn’t following the guidelines or worse yet knowingly deceiving the consumer – you.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The NYC Gathering Presents - Families Created through Donor and Surrogacy

Conversations for Parents!
The NYC Gathering Presents Families Created through Donor and Surrogacy

Professionally-led workshop created by

Co-sponsored by
SARA AX E L ,Peer Support Group Leader


THIS WORKSHOP IS FOR PARENTS AND PARENTS-TO-BE who are seeking thetools to talk with children about family origins. Hear from professionals,parents and children who will bring to life the disclosure process andprovide guidance on how to create meaningful family stories.
Participants will learn how to:

. Develop comfortable, age-appropriate language for the disclosure process
. Identify the different ages and stages children go through in understanding their genetics and family origins
. Answer children's questions with confidence
. Decide when and how to share with friends and family
For further information call (973) 746-7370 or (212) 819-1778.