Sperm Donor Siblings Find Family Ties

Children, Moms Using The Web To Find Anonymous Relatives

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access

This segment was originally broadcast on March 19, 2006. It was updated on June 21, 2007.

All over the United States, new kinds of extended biological families are springing up that no one ever anticipated or dreamed possible. These families are made up of something called "donor siblings," and if you don't know what they are, neither did we until we began working on this story.

As correspondent Steve Kroft reports, an estimated 30,000 children are born in this country each year to mothers who have been artificially inseminated with sperm from an anonymous donor. Most of these children grow up never knowing their biological father — but now, with the help of sperm bank records and the Internet, some of them are finding half-brothers and half-sisters they never knew they had, who were sired by the same anonymous donor, forging family ties they never knew existed.

Wade Anderson is a pioneer of sorts, an unwitting participant in an unanticipated drama. He was conceived four years ago with the help of an anonymous sperm donor, a man that neither he nor his mother, Robin, have ever met.

Robin and her partner, Cindy Brisco, had been together for 15 years when they decided they wanted a child; they went to a San Diego sperm bank, looked through a donor catalog, and paid $320 for two vials from a man identified only as donor "48QAH."

Asked what she was looking for in a donor, Robin Anderson says: "What was important to me, was heart. That the donor had heart. And I didn't know how we were gonna find that."

They knew from 48QAH's profile that he was a doctor, one of many who have helped defray the cost of medical school by donating sperm. He described himself as 6'4", 190 pound with brown hair and green eyes and an interest in caring for critically ill children.

"And I thought, this is a sensitive man," Cindy says. "I like this. I like the way this feels. This guy's gotta be deep."

As it turned out, 48QAH proved to be a popular choice. At a party last summer, Robin was introduced to a single mother named Maren, who said she had conceived her daughter, Lila, after a visit to the Fertility Center of California.

"And just then, Cindy walked up. And she said, 'Oh, that's where we went. What donor number did you use?' " Robin recalls.

Cindy told her they had used 48QAH.

"And she said, very calmly, 'That's it.' And we're like, 'What?' " Robin says.

In that moment, the three women realized that this was more than a just a coincidence. Their two children were half-brother and half-sister.

"And to think that this baby girl was his half-sibling," says Robin.

Cindy and Robin say they really consider Wade and Lila to be brother and sister.

"They have each other. They don't have the donor, the father; they have each other," Robin explains.

The two children live just 10 minutes apart. Their mothers talk frequently on the phone, get together every few weeks, and say they have begun to raise Wade and Lila as siblings.

"We love Maren, the mother. We love baby Lila. I mean, we have a lot in common. We're a great family match," says Robin.

"But you have to admit this is a little unusual," says Kroft. "I'm still trying to get my mind around it. This is not a traditional family in any stretch of the imagination."

"I mean, what is a traditional family today? I mean, I didn't have a father growing up," Cindy says.