We're nearly done with our wait for our foster son to be adoptable by us- yahoo! He's been with us for 15 months and is now nearly 5. He's stabilizing, as are we. The birth mother has an appeal goint thorough it's courses that should be over within a month or two (99% sure in our favor) and the birth father has been awol for nearly a year. No visits or contact with anyone for a year for a variety of reasons.
My post is for two reasons:
1. Name change: he has an online presence created by his birth mother. We've left it alone in order to monitor her activities. We figure we can call the authorities if his page gets a large number of hits and becomes an online sensation. However, we're eager to change his name once we adopt him so that she has a more difficult time finding him. He's resistant to this and I feel evil when I push him at all. The other day I pointed out that most children in families have the same last name as their siblings (our older child is adopted and has a hyphenated last name). He said nothing and the atmosphere in the car felt heavy. Anyone else have stories or advice on changing names of older children?
2. Local run-ins with relatives: We met another relative randomly the other day in the city. This person called to him and he thought she was her mother. I clarified who she was and told him. I said nice to meet you before continuing on our way. This family has a lot of drama (police action and otherwise), so we've dropped trying to connect with anyone. I guess I'm just unsure if there's anything else I should do about these random run-ins with cousins and aunts. No one is asking for more than I give (i.e. a hello) and he's not running up to hug them. Is there anything else I should be doing in my approach with him? I asked him if he wanted to talk about it and encouraged him to ask me any questions, but he's not interested. Should I whip out my camera phone for posterity pictures??! Ok, that was a joke, I think.
Mama to Ru cutie (a. age 3, fall 2006) and foster to adopt wonder-child (arrived a. 3, 2010)
As far as the relatives...i dont have a lot of advice there, sounds awkward but that you handle it well.
Name change...are you wanting to change his first as well as last name? At five years old, i would not make the LAST name an option, he'd be getting my last name regardless. My then-8 yr old daughter balked at first at changing her last name, and i told her that all of my children will have my last name, period. Had she been an older child such as a teen, we may have considered other options.
If you are considering a first name change obviously you have to tread more carefully. Unlike some people i am not 100 percent opposed to total name changes as i can think of very good reasons why it might be considered. Of course, the older the child the more carefully you have to handle it. Is his name one that you could keep the same first name but make his LEGAL name something different (trying to think of an example....like maybe his name is Andy short for Andrew but you change his legal name to Anderson, he'd still go by Andy...that sort of thing)...dont know if that would help address the safety/privacy issues you are concerned with. Is it possible to keep his same first name but make his legal name NewFirst, OldFirstAsMiddle, New Lastname?
With my daughter, she really used naming as a control issue...when she thought i really cared about giving her a new middle name (which is my middle name and my grandmother's name...a name that is VERY important to me and one i always always wanted to give my daughter, since i was a child) she didnt want the middle name, made it into a huge deal. When i finally said ok, fine...she suddenly wanted that middle name. I told her no, she clearly was conflicted so i would make it easy for her by having her keep her middle name. We kept her first name even though its fairly uncommon for a girl her age and is also my sister's name which is confusing. Had she considered changing i would have done it. By the end, i told her she could even keep her last name if she wanted, or hyphenate it with ours, or make it her middle name, or have two middle names (current middle plus last name) and i think that freaked her out (almost like i was saying oh you wont REALLY be one of us) so in the end she choose to keep her first and middle and change to our last name.
That wasnt very helpful probably. I think as long as you keep the child's needs in mind as well as all of the other stuff like privacy concerns you'll do fine. I would def. change his last name though.
Thanks for all the ideas and possible hoop jumping tricks. Yeah, the first name will stay- there's no doubt that's who he is inside and out. We plan to transition the spelling by buying letters for his bed that represent his nick name (very common and therefore difficult to trace) and then changing the spelling of his legal first name to match a more generic fashion, again untraceable (like Aenndrew to Andrew, following your example). I realize that with his extended family in town, his whereabouts will always be known. The issue is his future online presence that he creates. A friend has a daughter who is socially delayed and they went through a very scary period with FB. I want to decrease the possibility for any problems I might have control over. OF COURSE, he'll surprise me in one way or another and I'll be flummoxed, but at this moment this is what I'm looking at- how to protect him online in his future re. any unwanted contact.
I'm also thinking we may make use of his adoption case worker. So far he's not been stellar, but I've heard great reviews and hope he'll be more useful when we get closer to the legal adoption phase. My hope is that he may be able to suss out any remaining issues re. the name change. I am aware that the last name may be a hot topic since the biological father shares that same last name. One possibility is that this has been pointed out to him time and again and though his 3 1/2 year old mind couldn't grasp the entire concept, he might have grabbed the central theme that his birth name is terribly important.
I'd love to hear from anyone else who's "been there."
Mama to Ru cutie (a. age 3, fall 2006) and foster to adopt wonder-child (arrived a. 3, 2010)
I understand your point about wanting to limit contact with the bio family and their abusive and/or criminal behavior. As someone in very similar circumstances, I can tell you what we've done. As dysfunctional as they are, I want to maintain some contact between me and the bio family. They have invaluable information about my child's history and genetics and I find out more all the time. I think it is far healthier for him to see me appropriately interact with them and to set healthy boundaries than for me to completely cut the entire family out of his life. They are just as much a part of who he is and where he came from as I am and for his sake, I think I should leave a firmly guarded door of communication open.
I have a PO Box and an open invitation for them to write me. I am clear that anything that is sent to our son will go through me and will only be passed on if I find it appropriate. I allow short, closely supervised family visits with clear ground rules. And I would have totally pulled out the camera for pictures before heading on. One of just them, one with him and them, and one with all of us together if possible. Then I would have said how lovely it was to bump into them and said goodbye.
And at 5, I would take into consideration the child's input and emotional needs, but the child would not have a deciding vote in the name. I think the fact that you've already given him a say and he's made this a battle of the wills is going to be hard to emotionally undo, but you can. I wouldn't forge ahead, though, because he's likely to carry the resentment for a long time. I'd take the time to back up and remove the battle and then to go forward again on the topic of what it means to be adopted and how that will affect him, including his name. You should definitely have therapy available through the caseworker to prepare him for adoption in this way.
The person I ran into who was related to my other son was married in and on the side of the family that actually elped get him to safety, so that wasn't so bad. I dropped off a prescription and she said, "Oh, I know him. How's he doing?" I did givebher some vague info and did ask her to let her (safe) side of the family know that he is doing well. After awhile I felt comfortable enough to tell her he was with my husband in the grocery cart and point0ed him out.but if this was any member of the other side of the family, I don't know what I would have done. I mean she has my full address and everything on the prescription!
We are changing both boys' names (they are too little to voice opinion) so that should help.
It is creepy to have your child on someone else' social networking page. One of the boys' birthmother has his picture on Facebook and posted about missing him on his birthday. The birthfather had his picture as his profile pic, which really freaked me out. He soon replaced it with one of himself, but it still exisats. I wonder if you do have any leverage to get caseworkers involved to take down the page if th ings get out of control. Like you, I left it alone as it gave me some insight into the parents' psyches which could help as we're working on diagnoses for my son. But at some point after the adoption if things are ever over the top, I've thought about going through Facebook help to report that someone has pictures of my child without my consent, which it seems like should be some sort of violation.
Good luck with everything. Regarding your son's first name, I like your plan of transitioning to more common spelling at least. My sister is doing that with her kids who came to her already knowing their identities. She's also transitioning them to nicknames that incporporate their given names, but alter them a bit.
Maybe older kids sometimes feel like their whole world has changed and that they (and maybe their identity) are the only constant. In some cultures kids have a birth name, then help choose their own name as they grow.
Both of our sons are named after their fathers at least in part, so changing them was important to me. As they grow I hope to make clear that my intent was not to erase any part of the boys, but to give them a freash start in life. Their cases were the two biggest child cases in our community and covered heavily in the newspaper. Of course the boys' names weren't printed, but knowing the fathers' names sure gives a good clue as to who they are.
(Apologies for the typos. My phone browser doesn't let me go back to correct errors! Weird.)
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