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Renaming an adoptive child?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
One of my husbands co workers is going through the process of adopting an 18mo baby girl and asked him to ask me to make a list of my favorite baby gear for her. I was really excited to do this for her... until he told me that her and her husband are planning on changing the childs name. I am not adoptive parent and do not know much about the process, but somthing about this just made me feel funny I guess? Was just wondering if it would be ok to say something to her about it?

ETA:they would be changing her first and last name
post #2 of 24
You're right, it's not your place. I'd let it go.

We renamed our adopted daughter. She will be allowed to change her name back to her Vietnamese name if and when she wants to. But the name given to her in Vietnam basically is the equivelant of "Jane Doe" and was given to her by the policeman who found her. The name we gave her is very meaningful to us and has a family root. Like I said, she has the option of changing her name back if she wants to. We did keep part of her Vietnamese name (her first name) as her middle name. But the only name we have records of her having in Vietnam is not the name her birth parents gave her (we have no idea what that was) and was just a generic equivelant of "Jane Doe".

Renaming an adopted child is a very personal and private decision. If you're really willing to defriend someone because of it...well...I guess I can say that my own personal feeling is that you're overstepping your boundaries, big time.

ETA: Well, now my post makes no sense because you edited out the part about wanting nothing to do with the adoptive parents and being sick to your stomach about them wanting to change the name...
post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by AllyRae View Post

ETA: Well, now my post makes no sense because you edited out the part about wanting nothing to do with the adoptive parents and being sick to your stomach about them wanting to change the name...
Thank you for sharing your personal experience, I really didn't want to offend anyone and edited my post because after reading I realized I unintentionally sounded really offensive. I have a friend who adopted a 2yo and I asked her the same question or if she had thought about changing her DCs name and she said that maybe if the DC was an infant but her DC already had an identity attached to her name and she felt it would have been wrong to change. Again, I am super sorry if I offended you, I totally did not mean any harm at all.
post #4 of 24
: It's forgiven. :

You'll find there is a huge range of thoughts...some people are completely and utterly against it, and some people don't think there's anything wrong with it. Most of us are in the middle and do combine the new name with the old name, especially adopting infants or adopting internationally.

Maybe ask why they are changing the name (not in an accusatory way...just in a curious way)...maybe they are giving an Americanized first name (or a first name that is really meaningful to the family) while keeping the given name as a middle name?
post #5 of 24
'the naming discussion' is one of the more controversial and heated subjects in the adoption community, so you will likely get a lot of different answers... personally, I think it depends on the circumstances in each and every child's life, and you should probably just assume the best of these parents, unless you know them well enough to really get into a deep discussion with them about it. You could ask questions, but if it were me, I don't think I'd offer my opinion on the matter, unless they say something like "we're renaming her because we've always wanted an Isabella in our family, and her original name is too ethnic" ...or some other equally awful statement that totally disregards the child's feelings on the subject.

we were going to change our kids' names, but now I would like to add a new first name and our last name (bookend their current names, essentially) but call them by the names they are used to, or both names, unless they express a preference. I want to give them a name, but it will be up to them if or how they use that name.

I get how this would make you uncomfortable, and at 18 months, it is a little questionable, but kids usually do adapt to new names easily, and I don't have an issue with people changing kids' names IF the kid is open to it, it's done respectfully, and the old name is still honored. It's really sensitive, though, and I think usually best NOT to change a child's name if possible. I have had to get used to our son's name (he's not with us yet) but I'm glad I've had time to do so, because I realize I was being silly about my aversion to it (it's my uncle's name, which is MY issue, not my child's.)

If you want a way to sensitively bring it up with her, you could maybe ask her how she plans to handle the name change, since it could be confusing or disrespectful, or the girl might feel that her name was rejected as she gets older. I would start with the assumption that they will handle it well, and just present your worries as questions.

but ultimately, no, it's none of your business.
post #6 of 24
You know, I can understand. I use to be a kindi teacher and had a new student join me from Russia about mid year. His parents decided to rename him from Serge to a more American name at age 5. It really bothered me at first... like they we "stealing" something from him. But, I've learned (as I became a parent) how important the naming process is for bonding and for family oneness. Plus, I am sure his parents were afraid his name would forever state that he was adopted and "not a normal American kid."

Think the best of others and let them parent how they want to. They are given the right and authority to make those choices for their child, not you. They need more love and support than critics right now.
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post

If you want a way to sensitively bring it up with her, you could maybe ask her how she plans to handle the name change, since it could be confusing or disrespectful, or the girl might feel that her name was rejected as she gets older.
My husband asked her out of curiosity and she said they simply didn't like her name and would like to give her one they did like. The child is still currently living with her aunt as well (and I guess the birth mother is still not entirely sure that she wants to give her baby up or not).

Regardless of what her and her husband decide in terms of names, the more I think about it, it would be best for my husband and I to be supportive of their family (even if it does make me feel funny, and initially sent a 'bad vibe' jolt), she really gets on well with my husband and trusts him enough to confide in him about the whole thing.
post #8 of 24
I am not a fan of name changes, except when absolutely necessary. My dd's name wasn't my favorite, but it is one of the few lasting things she received from her first mother. It grew on me. I did shorten my daughter's name by two letters, but decided very intentionally to refrain from additional changes to the name. (My dd was placed with us at six months old, and we finalized her adoption when she was three.) With my son, we kept his name, but we also had two names to choose from because there had been a dispute in his first family about his name and there were two names they had been calling him. We chose the one that had many fewer votes in his first family. The reason we chose it is that we liked it better, and we were told at the time that it was his first mother's favorite of the two names. We wanted the name to be his, and we wanted to honor his first mother with it. (My ds was placed with us at 1.5 days old, came home from the hospital to us at one week old, and his adoption was finalized at thirteen months old, so in his case we were the only parents he ever really knew outside the womb.)

We did change the middle names of both children to family names. Parents name their kids. That's what they do. We are the parents who are raising our kids, and the act of giving them middle names of significance to us felt important. dd's original middle name was very, very odd, and according to the social worker was an unintended naming due to intoxication. ds's original middle name was the one that we eventually took as his first name, and the first name on his birth certificate was the one we dropped.

Of course, the kids also received our last name, and they know (because we've talked about it) that this is the name that identifies us as family.

A common conversation in our family goes like this.

Mom: Do you remember where your name comes from? Who gave you your first name?
Kid: My birthmother.
Mom: Yes, she did. Where did your middle name come from?
Kid: I'm named after _______.
Mom: That's right! And what is our family name?
Kid: _______. I'm ________ _________ _________. I'm smart, and I like to swim.
Mom: Yes you are.

OP, I can understand your concern, and I share your sense of concern over name changes. However, in fairness, there may be factors you are not aware of in the decision. For example, when we chose to drop the two letters from dd's name, it was partly related to safety. Her mother's right to parent her had been involuntarily terminated, and she had already sought out the social worker in the social worker's home, demonstrating not only her desperation, but also her instability. Some families also change or modify names due to difficulties of pronounciation and other reasons.

I understand this action on the part of the parents has brought up a visceral reaction for you. This is clearly a parenting decision you don't feel you'd make if in their shoes, though you may not know all the reasons behind the decision. I have, at various times in history, had a visceral reaction to the parenting decisions of others, from the decision to let a baby cry it out to the decision to "train up a baby" via the Pearl method. Ultimately, you have to decide the degree to which you need to agree with the parenting decisions of others in order to have a friendly association. That's a decision that is uniquely yours to make.
post #9 of 24
(P.S. Sorry, this post took me quite some time and was interupted by dinner, so I hadn't read anything but the first two posts when I posted.)
post #10 of 24
I'm a birthmom. My ex-husband and I placed our daughter at birth with friends. When discussing names, we considered naming her and letting her parents re-name her. Instead, we decided to name her together - they chose the first name and we chose her middle name (well, we picked a few and they decided on the one they liked the most of those.)

I can understand feeling strange about a re-naming of a child. It's considered "bad luck" in my family to rename a child (or pretty much anyone.) It's a tough decision on all sides, even if all sides are involved.

As a birthmom, would I have been hurt if my daughter's parents chose to change her name? No. She is joining thier family and they may need control over her identity with them from the start to feel the bond, connect or simply feel fully engaged in the process of becoming a family.

post #11 of 24
I agree that it's not your place, but I also get why you might feel weird about it. So I'll give you an example of a late name change being positive, albeit a situation completely different from what you are talking about.

I work in foster care, therapeutic foster care, and we work with some really tough kids, who have been through and witness a lot. We rarely get young kids, but sometimes we do.

Just over a year ago, siblings, aged 6 and 2, were adopted by one of our foster families. The younger child's name was changed, but in a very slight way, basically a letter was added that changed the name, but the name still sounded similar. The child adjusted very well.

But the older child was named after his biological father, he was a Jr., who had been horribly neglected and mistreated by his biological father. He knew, very clearly, that he didn't want to have that name his whole life, even if his late name changed, post-adoption. He had lived with his biological parents until he was 4.5, so he had very clear memories of what had transpired. He was given the option to change his name, and his foster parents wanted him to choose (within reason of course). So today, he's still a Jr., he shares the same name as his adoptive father, because that's who he wants to be identified with.

For months prior to his adoption, even though he legally still had the name of his biological father, his foster parents, caseworker, therapist, and teachers and friends started to call him by the name that he chose. It was very empowering for him.

FWIW, we usually do adoptions with older kids, and it is not uncommon for kids to want to change some aspect of their name, whether it first or middle, or even to keep their last name the same.
post #12 of 24
My son went into foster care at 22 months and I adopted him at almost four. I lengthened his first name (like Tom to Thomas, as an example,) kept his bio middle name, and gave him my last name. My son came into care with two biological sisters. The kids were adopted by different families and all kept their first names and got new middle and last names. So, that's the new "normal" in our extended family.

I'll be adopting my daughter in September (fingers crossed.) She went into foster care at eight months and turned three in the winter. Her first name sounds BEAUTIFUL. I love it. But, it's not spelled in a way that makes it pronouncable in the way that her birth mother intended (for whaver reason.) So, I'm planning to change the spelling of her first name, change her middle name (which she doesn't even know,) and give her my last name. She identifies very strongly with her first name (and her nickname) and I wouldn't change it. It's her. However, it's slightly hard to pronounce. It's got a "v" in the middle and whenever either one of us say it, we get the "What?" We have to repeat it 90% of the time. Which get's really annoying. Lots of people think her name is Fabiola. Not even close. She'll keep her name, even though she'll get the "what's" and the "huh's." And, of course, people asking what kind of name it is (people assume it's Russian." But, she'll also have a more common middle name she can use if she ever chooses to do so.
post #13 of 24
If you were more closely tied to this family, I'd say it was something you could bring up delicately. But as it is, I'd say it's probably not your place.

This child may grow up really upset that her name was changed/taken, or not care in the least. It's hard to know. It's also hard to know the motivations behind the name change, or if the adoptive parents will still make use of the name in some meaningful way (if not in her legal name, then in conversation, memories, lifebooks, etc.) during the child's life.

I think there are some adoptive parents who really think they can wipe the slate clean, and pretend that the children they adopt didn't have a life before the adoption. Re-naming can be part of that illusion. Other people, like one of the OPs, have well-intentioned reasons behind the name change...those people are doing it, for better or for worse, for child-centered reasons.

Personally, I believe that preserving the name of the child, no matter who gave it to them, is really important. It's a huge part of their original culture and life, and a part of their identity that we can respect and incorporate into our lives (rather than erasing it with a name change). It's a very obvious way of saying/showing that we know they had a life before us, and that life is important to us. That being said, we gave our daughter an additional first name and our family name, keeping her entire Korean first/last name as her middle names. We wanted to give her our family name for obvious reasons, but we also wanted to give her a first name that had personal and family meaning to us. The way her name is arranged:

Englishname Koreanname KoreanFamilyname EnglishFamilyname

...will hopefully allow her to legally use whatever combination of names she prefers in different parts of her life.

Everyone seems to do it differently. Sometimes the motivations are icky, sometimes not...it's hard to tell without knowing the adoptive couple well.
post #14 of 24
I changed the name of my adopted son. He was placed with me at three weeks old, as a foster placement. Very soon after placement it was pretty clear there was a very high chance of it being permanent. I did not really like his birthname, it didnt seem to fit him, and was not a name i'd ever choose if i had the choice. I did not ( and still do not) feel that it was some gift his birthmom gave him that should be honored. I do not think its fair to have the huge honor and responsibility of naming a child (something that will likely remain with them for life unless they choose to change it) but not even want to see your child after you give birth (she chose not to pursue reunification services.) I wish there was some part of his name that i wanted to keep because i would have. I considered for a time keeping his original last name as a middle name but it didnt really fit/flow. His middle name is after my mom, and i still wish i had chosen it as his first name instead as it seems to fit him better than the one we settled on.

I never called him by his original name but rather "the baby" mostly, for several months, so there wasnt anything new for him to get used to. TPR took place at four months old and we started calling him by his new name shortly thereafter.

I have kept all documents and anything else that has his original name on it, and would never keep that knowledge from him. I've read accounts where adoptees find out at an older age they "should have been..." such and such name and feel betrayed and it makes me wonder if that would have been lessened if they had ALWAYS known their original name.

With my foster son that i am adopting...i considered changing his first name, but it would be too weird for me at this point, and the addition of his birthsister to our family i think would make it very difficult. He definitely identifies himself by his name. He was placed at 16.5 months old and is now over 2. His name is one that "fits" with the naming tradition of my other kids, and while its not a name i would have chosen it fits him, and isnt a name i dislike at all. (When his bmom told me she didnt even want to name him his name, but rather another name but conceded to bdad, i considered using that one instead but decided to just stick with his name.) I will be changing his middle name, which in many ways i feel bad about because its his bdad's name but its a name i have a strong aversion to, and i'd really like to choose SOME part of his name. I'm not a huge fan of two middle names for practical reasons so im picking a new one, havent decided yet what it will be.

When i told fs' sister, who is 8 yrs old, that i was giving her brother a new middle name she was SO upset. I think its a loss of control for her, because i would be making this decision for him. She was more than willing to change her OWN name so i was surprised by the reaction. Because she was sooo willing to change her first name, and then would say she didnt want to, and then go back to saying she would, i decided we would keep it. The name is fine and totally suits her. But its my sister's name which makes things more complicated (we end up saying Big L and Little L which is funny.) Its cute because she was named after a birth aunt, and i tell her you still have an aunt with your name in your new family!

I'd like to change her middle name, she doesnt even know how to spell her middle and doesnt use it. But i'm not sure what to use instead, i've always wanted to give a daughter my middle name (like, since i can remember, since i was a little girl i thought my daughter would have my middle name as her middle)...its my grandmother's name....but its so short and our last name is short and her first name is short, so while it sounds fine its not perfect. So i dont know. I also toyed with moving her last name to the middle. not sure what we'll do in the end.

My friend is adopting a 6yo, 4yo, and 3 yo, and have chosen new names. The kids seem to be adapting well and it seems to be important/significant for them that their new parents have chosen new names with great thought put into it. Its been hard for me to remember to use their new names, but i am trying to make more of an effort. If i were her i think i'd keep the old names as middles but i think they are choosing new ones. The sw seemed horrified and tried to say that after age 3 its "not recommended" but i dont think that takes into consideration the experiences of actual people. I know lots of people online who choose new names, and in many of those situations the kids are happy to do it and actively involved in the process. Esp with foster care adoptions, there may be alot of negativity and heartache associated with the original name.

I think as long as you make choices with respect and sensitivity and educate yourself about all the different issues involved with naming there is no right answer.
post #15 of 24
We brought our son home as a newborn and we were told he didn't have a name. So we chose a name.
Then we were told his birthmother chose a name.
So if/when we adopt, we will just add the names together and he'll have an extra middle name.

Edit: I was really really torn about it for a while because I did not like his birth name at all. Its a religious name and it triggers some negative reactions in me. Honestly, I surprised myself. I thought I would be more immediately accepting. And maybe I would have been more accepting if I knew the truth from the start and if I didn't pick a name I loved. I have trouble letting go of the name I chose, so... That's where we are right now.
post #16 of 24
I can see exactly why you would find renaming disturbing. But this seems to me to be a case of needing to walk in the other person's shoes to understand their reasons.

Renaming can be done in many ways, for many reasons. A very important aspect of adoption is making sure the child fits well into the family and becomes one of the group. Having a name that doesn't seem to fit can make a difference. If it makes the child an outsider, I can see why a family might choose to change it.

My brother was adopted from another country at the age of three. He had a name, of course, but no one was sure if it was his full name (first and last) or just his first name. He had been abandoned so no one knew.

When he moved here, my parents gave him a new name. Not only did it sound American, but it fit with the names they had given their three biological children.

We always knew his other name, it was like an extra bonus name. It was never forgotten or banished. I think this was especially important given his very different heritage, culture and his background.

Now my brother is an adult and is an artist for a living. He uses his original, foreign name with his art, but in the rest of his life he uses the name our parents gave him. I think he is quite happy with this, and doesn't want to go further into renaming himself his original name. He has talked about getting a tattoo of his orignal name (he has no tattoos now.)

My brother's case might be extreme (foreign culture, vaguaries of being abandonned, etc.) but I think the basic reasoning for name change can be the same in any adoptive situation.
post #17 of 24
It's not your place to say anything, although I agree that this is a controversial issue. I think every situation is different.

Our kids were adopted at about the age of one from China. The names they came with were not given by their birth parents, but by orphanage personnel, and were mostly generic to the year and orphanage.

They are not considered good or lovely or desirable names by any of the Chinese people I know. They are considered odd names. They are hard to spell and nearly impossible for Westerners to pronounce. Most of my Chinese colleagues give their children English names, and don't understand why we would consider keeping their orphanage names.

We thought about it long and hard. Their orphanage names were one connection to their pasts. We ended up keeping those names as middle names and giving them new first names.

My oldest is almost 13. Some days, she hates her middle name, because it is hard to spell and pronounce. Some days she hates it because it reminds her of being abandoned at birth. Some days she likes it and is proud of it. Some of her friends use part of it as a nickname, and she tends to like that.

We are happy to call her whatever she wants to be called, but so far, she's happy we did what we did.
post #18 of 24
My friend changed her adopted daughter's first name. On the surface one might say they just didn't like the original name but it really sounded like a made up stripper name. The girl's brother had a perfectly ordinary very popular name and it wasn't changed. She was 2.5 and the brother was 1.5 when my friends got custody of them. I used to occasionally hear the brother call her by her former name and it was always jarring.

My daughter's birthfamily really liked the name we chose. We come from very similar naming traditions.
post #19 of 24
Look at it from the aspect of safety. We just adopted two and changed their names. We were also able to change their SSN also. If it is a closed adoption and you don't want the parents to be able to locate them, a name change is needed.
post #20 of 24
I worry about safety, too. We are hoping for older-child adoption, and have no plans to change first or middle names unless they are something truly offensive like a swear word in another language ot the name of a body part or something, but I can totally see myself ten years hence saying, "you are not going on Facebook with that name! Use your Hebrew name."
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