By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor


Many ways to create a child

Quite apart from the various family situations a child may grow up in (Module 1), a child may be created in different ways, using new technologies.

A child in your classroom may have resulted from an IVF procedure (in vitro fertilization, in which eggs are fertilized by sperm in a laboratory dish, then placed in the uterus to grow). She may owe part of her genetic heritage to donated eggs or sperm.

Consider the people who may take part in creating and raising a child, and the terms used to describe them:
• A woman provides the egg and a man provides the sperm (genetic mother, genetic father).
• A woman carries and bears the child (gestational mother, surrogate mother). (If the child is later fostered or adopted: biological mother, birth mother).
• One or two people raise a child (legal parents, nurturing parents, social parents, stepparents, foster parents, adoptive parents).

Sometimes another man donates sperm or another woman donates eggs to the legal parents; these donors may be known or anonymous. Also a surrogate mother may give birth to the child on behalf of the legal mother. In instances of donated eggs and surrogacy, the other woman may be well known to the legal mother: she may be a sister, cousin or close friend.

Often it’s the same man and woman at all three steps, that is, the legal parents conceive the child, the legal mother gives birth, and both raise the child. But you can’t assume the traditional pattern is always followed. A mother may share her child’s genes and yet not have given birth to her (surrogacy). A woman who gives birth may not parent the child (surrogacy, adoption).

You can see that a child may have a number of different mothers and fathers, depending on how the child was created and raised. And the child may not have information about her genetic background.

Classes in genetic origins and family history need to allow for children of new reproductive technology.

There’s a wider lesson, too, about the importance (or unimportance) of genetic connections. What makes a family anyway? Not inherited traits: children can look very different from their genetic parents. There are many types of families and one type is no better than another. Families may look different on the outside, but inside they’re all the same—they’re made of people who care for and love one another.
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"From Family Helper,


ONE—Many ways to make a family
TWO—Many ways to create a child
THREE—Biased class assignments ... and how to fix them
FOUR—Teaching the language of adoption
FIVE—How to introduce adoption in elementary school
SIX—Answers for the pregnant student
SEVEN—A suggested classroom presentation
EIGHT—Research points the way
NINE—Adoption resources for teachers and students
TEN—Glossary: the ABCs of adoption
"Teacher's Guide to Adoption" by Robin Hilborn was published in print in Family Helper 45, "Adoption Goes to School", 2004, and online since Jan. 5, 2005.