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Real Housewives’ Feud Spotlights Dilemma of How To Tell Kids About ART

Since December the Internet and celebrity media outlets have been abuzz with the feud between Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (RHOBH) stars Brandi Glanville and Adrienne Maloof. Apparently during the taping of a segment for the new season, Glanville revealed that Maloof had used a surrogate to have her twin boys, Christian and Colin, now 6 years old. Setting aside for a moment the largely irrelevant issue of the supposed feud, the publicity surrounding what is and should be a completely personal decision has raised awareness of a question that every parent of a child born through surrogacy faces: When, how and what do I tell my child about his or her birth story?

I wrote earlier about the decisions that intended parents have to make when considering surrogacy. Most of those decisions have to do with choices made before the pregnancy and birth of children born via assisted reproductive technology. What the Glanville/Maloof story points out is that the challenging decisions don’t stop with birth. Parents of children born through surrogacy or other forms of ART continue to face decisions unique to this evolving technological miracle as their babies grow up and begin to ask questions.

After the story of her surrogate births made headlines, Maloof revealed that she was advised to talk to her children about their birth, but not until they were 10 years old. Not all child development experts and parents agree, however, and the growing number of children being born via ART increases the need for more and better information. A 2009 New York Times article reflected this challenge.

So many parents are trying to figure out how to tell this new story that Judith Kottick, a licensed social worker in Montclair, N.J., provides counseling in just that area. “What kids want to know is that they’re in the family they were meant to be in—that they belong to their mom and dad,” she said.

She advises parents to start telling their children’s birth story early. “You want them to grow up with the information so it’s not a news flash,” Ms. Kottick said. She also recommends some of the new children’s books that are tailored to the story of birth through surrogacy, like “Hope & Will Have a Baby: The Gift of Surrogacy” by Irene Celcer.

How and when you decide to talk with your child about his or her birth story can be influenced by the role of the surrogate in your family’s life. For Jeffrey T. Parsons and his partner, Chris Hietikko, talking to their son about his birth will include an explanation of the role of Jessica, the surrogate, whom they see on a regular basis. According to Parsons, a psychology professor, when son Henry starts to inquire about his birth story, the conversation will go something like this:

I would probably relate it to one of his friends. I’d say, “You’ve met your friend Michael’s dad and mom. You have two dads, right? Well, it takes a [woman] to make a baby because they grow them in their tummy. That’s Jessica.”

As parents of children born through surrogacy, it is our responsibility, to the best of our ability, to figure out the best way to talk with our children about their birth. This includes being prepared to address all the psychological, medical and even legal issues that may cause your child worry or concern. As the number of children born through surrogacy continues to rise, the body of knowledge and shared parental experience about how to communicate with kids about their ART births also will grow. Staying informed and educated about your child’s specific concerns is a lifetime endeavor—an endeavor of love.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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