Donor Conceived Family Publicly Embarrassed-What Would You Do

Dawn Davenport


Getting a Passport for a Donor Conceived Child

Do you have to tell the government your child was donor conceived in order to get a passport?

I received an email from a mom with a donor-conceived child who was reeling from being publicly embarrassed when trying to get a passport for her 17-month-old son. She asked that I spread awareness of this situation.

Jodi is a single mom of a 17-month-old son conceived via donor sperm. Prior to his arrival, she was a frequent traveler, and is now looking forward to sharing her wanderlust with her son. First he needed a passport.

The “authorized passport application acceptance facility” where she lives is the post office. She made an appointment, then showed up with her baby, the passport application, and a copy of his birth certificate, and waited in line, along with others mailing letters and parcels, to submit her application.

Where’s the Dad??

When she finally got to the head of the line, the Post Office employee said “Where’s the dad?” In fact, the passport application for a minor requires that both parents must appear with the child. If one parent cannot be present, they must submit a notarized “Statement of Consent” form. The reason for this requirement is to prevent one parent from “kidnapping” the child to another country without the other parent’s permission. However, in Jodi’s case there was no father – ever.  There was no person to fill out the Statement of Consent.

Jodi explained that she was a single mother by choice. She showed the birth certificate to the postman and pointed out that no father was listed. He said there had to be a father, and kept asking, “But where is the dad?”

Jodi bucked up her courage and said, “I used a sperm donor, so there IS. NO. FATHER.”

She explained that families can be created in many different ways, including sperm donation. When she had her son, she was prepared to explain this to him, not realizing that she would need to use the same language she prepared for a preschooler with an adult working for the US Postal Service.

Court Papers or Note from Your Doctor

The post office employee kept telling her that if the “dad” was not present or she did not have a notarized Statement of Consent from “the dad”, she would need court papers to prove that her son was conceived via donor sperm. Jodi explained that there was no court proceeding surrounding sperm donation, thus no papers. He replied, “then maybe you need to get a note from your doctor!”

Keep in mind that this conversation took place in front of all the other people in line and at the counter.

“May I Speak to the Manager?”

Jodi asked to speak to the manager. He arrived, but rather than come to the counter where she was, he stood two aisles away forcing Jodi to speak louder ensuring that even the people at the very back of the line would hear the details of how her son was conceived.

She told the manager that the postman she was dealing with had been rude and had publicly embarrassed her. The manager said his employee had not been rude, and she needed court paper to prove what she was saying. Jodi went back through her different types of families and no court is involved with donor conception speech. The manager clearly did not believe her. Finally, he said that the birth certificate needed to be an original, not a copy, and that she would need to make another appointment.

At this point she was embarrassed and worried about her son witnessing this encounter. She left in tears and sobbed all the way home.

Never Felt so Vulnerable

She told me that she had never felt so vulnerable.

“For the first time since his birth I felt that our family was wrong – that there was something less about my family.”

More devastating was the realization that had her beautiful son been older, he would have been made to feel lesser and that he and his mom were the wrong type of family.

Several weeks later she brought the original birth certificate to a post office in a neighboring town, hoping for a more receptive employee. The postal employee wasn’t rude, but told her that it used to be that an original birth certificate was enough, but now single mothers would have to fill out another official form explaining why there was no father.

Jodi has always been open about how she became a mom, but wasn’t sure how she felt about sharing on a US official form that her son was conceived by donation. She didn’t see any other way to get the passport, so she officially stated for the US government that her child was donor conceived, and turned in the form.

Last week she received her son’s passport in the mail, and the saga was over–for her, but she has heard that other single mother’s through sperm donation are experiencing the same thing.

Was This Situation Necessary?

I’m not an expert, but when I read the State Department website for applying for a passport for a minor, it seems clear that all this public humiliation was unnecessary.

Minors under age 16 cannot apply for a passport by themselves.

Both parents/guardians must appear in person with the minor and provide consent, authorizing passport issuance to the minor. If one parent/guardian is unable to appear in person, then the DS-11 application must be accompanied by a signed, notarized Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent from the non-applying parent/guardian.

If the minor only has one parent/guardian, evidence of sole authority to apply for the minor must be submitted with the application in the form of a:

  • U.S. or foreign birth certificateConsular Report of Birth Abroad, or adoption decree, listing only the applying parent
  • Court order granting sole legal custody to the applying parent (unless child’s travel is restricted by that order)
  • Court order specifically permitting applying parent’s travel with the child
  • Judicial declaration of incompetence of the non-applying parent
  • Death certificate of the non-applying parent

If the minor has two parents/guardians, but one is absent and cannot be located to provide parental consent in a timely manner, the applying parent must submit Form DS-5525: Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances.  The statement must explain in detail the non-applying parent’s or guardian’s unavailability and recent efforts made to contact the non-applying parent. The applying parent also may be required to provide evidence (e.g., custody order, incarceration order, restraining order) to document his/her claim of exigent or special circumstances. To protect against international parental child abduction, the Passport Agency processing the application may ask for additional details if the statement is determined to be insufficient. [Red highlight added.]

What You Can Do

Please help spread the word to other single moms so they will be prepared and bring with them a copy of the State Department statement that an original birth certificate listing only the mother and no father. Also let them know that if their child is old enough to understand, they may need to be prepared for having their family questioned.

Have you heard of this happening? Do you have a similar story?


Image credit: TiggerT

30/09/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 18 Comments

18 Responses to Donor Conceived Family Publicly Embarrassed-What Would You Do

  1. Avatar Pregnant Single Mother by Choice says:

    I’m terrified about this happening! I’m pregnant after using a known donor. 2 years of IVF and IUI attempts at clinics using frozen sperm failed, and, incredibly, I got pregnant using a donor from the known donor registry on first attempt!

    If I write donor conceived on the extenuating circumstances form – will this be printed on the passport?

    If I have no medical or clinic documentation will this present a problem? I was successful using softcups/artificial insemination at home and there is no medical paper trail.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      This is a great question for our Creating a Family Facebook Support group ( I’ll chime in with my thoughts over there. You’ll need to join the group, if you aren’t already a member. It is a closed group, so no one other than group members can see the posts. If you’d rather remain anonymous, let me know and I’ll post it for you.

      If you aren’t already on our weekly email newsletter list, please sign up. [] It is one of the best ways to stay current on what is happening in the world of adoption or infertility. I am so glad you reached out to us.

  2. Avatar AnonAP says:

    I would also ABSOLUTELY contact the State Department via email ( or through their phone system (1-877-487-2778) to report the misinformation and whole experience. I would do the same via USPS and let each agency know that you have filed a complaint with the other. I would also recommend reachign out to one other office: her Member of Congress. Seriously. This is bad, both embarrassing and incorrect.

    Next up: contact RESOLVE’s advocacy office and explain that this is not an isolated incident. If they aren’t aware of it already, they may wish to be to help raise awareness of the concern within Congress.

  3. Avatar Ranci says:

    OMG. I am at the research stage of using donor sperm. I have never heard of this happening. So glad you made me aware. I think I’ll get my child a passport right away, but will be prepared. Thank you and Jodi for letting us know this could happen. I love everything Creating a Family is doing to help me with this confusing process. I am much less scared than I used to be.

  4. Avatar Amanda says:

    Love your idea, Greg! When we adopted, we didn’t know that new birth certificates would be issued until about a month before finalizing. I realize now why it is done, but it also feels like the government was wiping away my children’s past. I am grateful in our case to have gotten originals from the caseworker. I don’t know how I will explain all of this when the time comes, but your suggestion would solve that problem. Or even stick with the one-pager, but have a box to check that says “updated” or “ammended” and include both adoptive and birth family info.

  5. Avatar NRB says:

    Doesn’t surprise me at all! I have dealt with some very incompetent US agency personnel during my intercountry adoption journeys for my children. I am also a single parent of intercountry adopted children. Knowing there might be questions, I brought all the appropriate documentation to my son’s US passport appointment to verify our intercountry adoption situation (US readoption certified copy of state birth cert. of foreign birth, certificate of citizenship, certified copy of adoption decree, certified copy of revised & original birth country birth cert.) YET…I had a similar situation like Angela above, where I was requested to write “unknown” in the father’s section of my son’s US passport application…WHAT? Just didn’t make sense to me, since “unknown” doesn’t even apply to a single parent adoption situation. So, I showed my son’s state cert. of foreign birth from his US readoption, where the father’s section is blank. Didn’t phase the DOS employee, she said it was “procedure”. Thankfully, we were in a closed-door, private window. If US Vital Statistics can get it…why can’t DOS?!

  6. Avatar marilynn says:

    What makes this story so bad for you guys? The child of course does have a bio father like any other child. I’t’s not like the kid does not have a bio father – it’s reasonable to think there should be rules where both parents have to give consent right? He could be the child of a woman whose fighting with her ex and trying to leave the country with their kid….how would a worker know that the kid was exempt from family drama.

    Be reasonable and I m not trying to derail the conversation – I’m just on the side of treating all kids the same all people with offspring the same so that there are no exceptions that can be abused. A woman could easily just say her child’s dad was a sperm donor….of course she should have a note from a doctor. It’s not against her or her child its for the protection of children generally. Her child was not created without a father he’s really just not around and if he is not around from time to time she might be called upon to identify him for her child’s protection and if she can’t she might be asked for a doctors note as proof what she’s saying is true.

    Think of the kids need to be protected to the same extent as other kids then you might not be so mad

  7. Avatar anonymous says:

    This office sounds confused as to the system in place to prevent divorced parents from flying out of the country, effectively kidnapping the child of their spouse. I am sorry the writer had to deal with a insensitive and rude individual.

    American-born DC adults will have no problems when acquiring a passport.

    People in the adoption community do not need to be concerned that adult DC individuals born in America will have issues receiving passports. Anyone born in the United States is a citizen of the United States.

    DC individuals have a single birth certificate. There is no confusion to the bureaucracy regarding place of birth.

  8. Avatar TAO says:

    Post 9/11 world is very different when it comes to passports. Adult adoptees applying for a first passport with a “date filed” on their birth certificate of more than a year after birth – have a birth certificate that is not considered proof of citizenship and must supply secondary proof from their list. Not all adoptees can do that (I wouldn’t be able to). Not surprised this happened at all in the DC community.

  9. Avatar foster adopt mama says:

    I feel outraged for this poor woman. I haven’t tried to get my adopted kids passports yet, but if I deal with moronic bureaucrats, I will seriously call my senator. What about cases of rape? Should someone be required to explain that on a form too?

  10. Avatar marilynn says:

    Wouldn’t it be a lot cleaner if the “donor” had had to go to court and formally have is parental obligations terminated that way Mom and Kid and Court would know for sure 100% that the father knew he was a father and was consenting to not raise his child?

    • Marilynn, I am only allowing comments that are directly relevant to this specific situation. All other comments will either be deleted or edited. There is a real person involved who is undoubtedly reading comments, and I won’t allow this thread to dissolve into a discussion of the ethics of donor conception. For others who are interested in that type of discussion, I suggest you go to our blog “Donor Conceived Adults Speak Out” and post your thoughts over there.

  11. Avatar Camille says:

    We had a similar situation getting our son his health care through the military’s DEERS system. They were super ridiculousness and wanted to call the judge to issue the adoption decree to make sure it wasn’t a forgery. And to make sure it was the same baby that we had in the office.
    I told them they were being super discriminatory and that was uncalled for. But what a mess!

  12. Avatar Greg says:

    This is exactly why those who suggest a “adoption decree” will suffice in adoption are wrong. In cases like this it wouldn’t be accepted.

    IMO, the solution is for everyone regardless of their conception and whether they are adopted have a two page birth certificate the first page lists the genetic parents and the second page lists the legal parents. If the genetic parents are the legal parents then they are listed on both pages. If they differ then it’s listed as such. These two pages wouldn’t be sealed either.

  13. Avatar Angela says:

    It happens with single parent adoption also. Even when I explained that I had adopted my children from foster care, I had to write “unknown” in the father space. Thankfully, mine was not in public as I was the only customer there, at that time.

  14. I hate to say it; but the issues that have been dealt with for adoptees ARE following along to hit the donor conceived kids. We have not learned anything as a society from the mistakes and issues in adoption and the legacy continues.

    If nothing else, there is good company:

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