Naming adopted children - your thoughts?

First, let me start by saying that I don’t want this to turn into a heated argument. I realize this can be a hot topic, so please keep it civil.

[name]How[/name] do you feel about naming adopted children? At what age or in what situation (if at all) do you feel that it’s okay to change the name of an adopted child? Is it okay to change the child’s name completely? Is it okay to change a part of the child’s name? Is it okay to add a name?

As someone who hopes to adopt, I appreciate any feedback, especially feedback from those with personal experience in this area. Thanks, everyone!

[name]How[/name] do you feel about naming adopted children?
I think that as long as a child is young enough, the adoptive parents should be free to change their name. I also think it creates a special bond between adopted child and parents and makes the child feel more like a part of the family if their name is similar to their (potential) siblings.

At what age or in what situation (if at all) do you feel that it’s okay to change the name of an adopted child? Is it okay to change the child’s name completely? Is it okay to change a part of the child’s name? Is it okay to add a name?
I think that once they’re elementary school aged, it should be their choice as to whether or not they want to change their name. Before then, I think it’s perfectly okay to change a child’s name. It’s okay to change the child’s name completely but it’s not something I would do. If I adopted a child named [name]Dominic[/name], I’d probably change it to something I liked more and leave [name]Dominic[/name] as his middle name. If the name was creatively spelled, I’d probably change the spelling but I’d still leave it in his name somewhere. Yes, it’s okay to add a name in all situations, especially a middle name for an older child.

I think it’s okay to change the name to any extent if that is what you want. I look at it as the birth parents gave up there right to their child and that includes naming rights. Now I wouldn’t go changing the whole name of a child who was already responding to it. Lets say the adopted child already responds and goes by [name]Bella[/name] but, you want a more formal name. I think changing her name to [name]Arabella[/name], [name]Anabella[/name], [name]Mirabelle[/name] ect. is just fine as long as you keep the consistent nickname. I hope I didn’t speak out of term at any moment. I don’t want to upset any women who believe differently.

Over the age of 3 I’d think it would be really confusing for the child. They are already experiencing a ton of change and in some circumstances I think it’s better just to keep it as is.
Of course it would depend on what their birth name was. If they were adopted from [name]China[/name], giving the kid an English name is totally appropriate.

If the child is 6 and you just don’t happen to like the name [name]Ashley[/name], I’d say no, keep it, unless she’s really excited and wants to change it.

I agree that keeping a name in a similar feel is a good idea for kids who are already talking. Suddenly going from [name]Lin[/name] to [name]Penelope[/name] would be very strange.

I think I personally would have a difficult time changing the name of an older child. Only way I could imagine doing so was if they had a horrible name and I am not talking about trendy mispellings…my friends adopted two girls through foster care named Krimsyn which is “ew” but the others was Lingerie! They changed Lingerie to [name]Rachel[/name], she was 7 and fine with it. [name]Reason[/name] I think being that they called her “[name]Rae[/name]” since she came into her house as I think a 3-4 year old. People always assumed “[name]Rae[/name]” was short for [name]Rachel[/name] anyways.

But anyways, I am fairly picky about names, but for children who have gone through so many changes their names may be all they have had stable in their lives for years. My neice was adopted from [name]China[/name] and my [name]BIL[/name] and his wife live in [name]America[/name]. They gave her an American name and had one of her.Chinese names as her middle. I like that idea for a child under one. But past one, it would feel strange to one day just change things up. I know my kids all recognized their names early on.

I think it’s all right to change a child’s name, provided the child is at an age where they won’t remember the change.
My mom was adopted when she was 11 months old, and her parents changed her name when they brought her home. She didn’t find out her birth name until she was like, 45.
I do think it’s a case-by-case kind of thing, though. And it’s cultural, and it’s personal.
If the child was over the age of 18 months, I personally don’t think I’d change the name. Not that a kid won’t know his/her name at 18 months, but there won’t be a memory of the change. I do think at that age (and older) they’d get much more confused about having their name changed, so I’d personally prefer to avoid identity confusion, if I could.

Obviously if the birth name was something absurd, like @jemama’s recount of Lingerie, I would definitely change it if the child would be too young to remember, or would discuss the topic of a name change with the child and see if he/she wanted to change it. The thing is that, at age 7 or so, if you tell a kid named Lingerie what their name means, and they say, “No, I want to keep it”… I’d find that hard to deal with, to be honest. And I’d fear that people would talk negatively about the name and would say, “Oh, she’s adopted” and not be respectful about the new family dynamic.

There are many-a fine line.

If the child is over one and a half/two years old, I’m very much against renaming it. At that point he/she has probably been called by the name for quite a while and then it’s almost like robbing the child of its personality. I have a friend, [name]Kamilla[/name], who was renamed at her adoption at age four and she’s been really mad about it. Her original name, a very beautiful Korean name that is easy enough to pronounce, was a part of her and she’s described it as if her adoptive parents were trying to cut her off from her origins.

As someone who wants to adopt I’m torn about it. It really is a case by case basis.
If the child wants to change their name then fine. Change it and let them have their say on it if they’re old enough to understand what a big decision it is. If they’re 4-5 and want it changed let them pick off a list you put together. And I would always put their original name as their new middle name.
However if the child has some crazy unpronounceable name then I would try to explain to the child that many people could/will have a hard time with their name and let them decide if they’re older (say 4-5+). If they’re younger either give them a more familiar middle name or make their original name their middle and give them a more familiar first name. But if you do this I would explain to them throughout their life this is why we did what we did and I would support their decision if they wanted to use their original name.
I recently read a blog where the author mentioned a Korean (?) adoptee who always felt a bit on the outskirts of her family because of them having to have special food or go to special celebrations for her. I would think if you have children with familiar names and then one with an obviously Korean/Chinese/Russian/Hispanic name it would stick out like a sore thumb and it might make them feel as if they aren’t really the “same” as their other siblings. Again, I would discuss this with the child.
And adding a familiar middle name is always an option to me if you’re keeping their original name in its entirety.

I have no personal experience with this, so I should disclaim that up front :slight_smile:

[name]Just[/name] wanted to say that I love when the parents maintain some of the original name when changing. Either by moving the original first into a second middle slot, hyphenating the last name, etc. [name]Just[/name] as an element of respect and acknowledgment to their life before joining their forever family.

I was adopted at birth and my name was completely changed from what the birth mother chose. I think this is the best decision when a child is adopted as a baby/toddler because it creates a special bond with the new family.

My brother was adopted at 5 years old. My parents chose to give him a new first name and move his original to the middle. I really like this because it gave him a way to bond and connect with his new family and country while still having a piece of his past. It was not confusing for him because he was old enough to understand that he was joining a family and moving to a new country. He loved his new name. The hardest part was learning a new language not changing his name. However, after a year he picked English up and was pretty much caught up with his peers.

As a PAP, I believe that changing a child’s name at any age is an unforgivable violation of their identity, heritage, and autonomy, and there are no good reasons for doing it. This is something I feel really strongly about.

I also suggest anyone considering adoption read the blogs First Mother Forum and [name]Harlow[/name]'s Monkey, and the book “The Connected Child”.

I only know 3 children who have been adopted and all three of them were placed with their families as infants in foster care. 2 of them joined a family with a first letter naming trend (all Js). It made so much sense to give them a J name to help them feel like part of the family. Can you imagine what that would be like if your parents and biological sibling had matching names and you didn’t? They kept the original names as middle names and one of them even goes by a hybrid of his first and middle name. The other child was named [name]Angel[/name] de Cristo by his birth mother. He was not of Spanish-speaking or latin descent so it was not cutting him off from his culture for them to name him [name]Michael[/name], as in the [name]Arch[/name] [name]Angel[/name]. :slight_smile:

We adopted our son at birth. His birth mother asked us what we wanted to name him, b.c she wanted to put the name that we chose on the birth certificate. She did not want to give him a name and she did not want his name to change. She liked the name that we chose, but if she had some objection to it, we would have offered a different name. We had a list ready, b.c we weren’t sure how she would feel about it.

We were not really expecting to name our son. We thought that his birthmom would name him, or we would name him together or something. I don’t know if we would have changed it if she had, I mean, we literally took custody of him when he was less than ten minutes old. I do know that if she had named him and we did change it, we would have kept his original name, too. We just feel that he deserves to know all of the parts of his story, if that makes any sense. I am glad that we got to name him, though, it was amazing to be able to do that. We also love his name.

Had we adopted an older child, we would not have changed his or her name. Babies generally can recognize their names by four months. I think there is certainly room in our diverse nation for all kinds of names from all kinds of places. I will say though that among my Chinese and Korean friends, it is normal to use an American name if you live in [name]America[/name]. It’s just sort of a nickname. So I don’t know about that. If you bring home little Fang-Hua from [name]China[/name], she may want an American name once she hits kindergarten. I feel like there is a kids book about this exact scenario?

In response to an original name keeping a child on the outskirts of a family, I don’t know, it’s a valid concern. But there are ways to embrace a child’s birth culture without using it to isolate them. It’s more that the whole family has to become transracial/transcultural. So you’re not a white family who happens to have a black son or Chinese daughter, you are a transracial family and everyone in the family participates in both the birth and adoptive cultures. It can be a huge problem to just ship the adopted kid off to culture camp, though.

I have heard of people adopting older children who ask to be renamed or to choose a new name- however, this can be problematic, b.c children can feel like a new name is magical, like they are shedding their past with their old name.

I had a teacher in high school who adopted a baby girl from [name]China[/name], her birth name was [name]Xia[/name]. They changed her name to Emmaxia ([name]Emma[/name]-see-ah). I think it was such a nice way to incorporate her birth name and heritage.

I think it all depends on the context and situation. I was adopted by my step father at the age of four, as my biological father died when I was an infant. My mother changed my surname to match the family and I’ve always been sort of sad to lose that connection to my father and his family. Granted, I know that this is not the typical adoption scenario and I am not advocating that adoptive parents shouldn’t change their children’s surname! This is just an example about how things are not clear cut.

If my mother and adopted father had decided to change my first name (which, at the time, I would LOVED), I would be far more upset. My name is the only thing I have that my father gave to me and that makes it one of the most precious things that I own. In certain situations, a name can be an important connection for an adopted child to an important figure in their life whom they will likely never meet.

If the child is old enough to remember the first name, then wait till the child is old enough to choose a name from a list that you and your significant other have chosen. If the name is inappropriate then change the name right away.

I would keep the given name at birth as a middle name. As a first name, I would use a name that runs in the family. This will create a greater connection and make the child feel like she/he is an integral part of the family.

My husband was adopted at 10 months and his name changed from the perfectly fine [name]Michael[/name] (most popular name that year) to [name]Sean[/name] which as a redhead suits him much better and is far more distinctive and unusual. He’s totally fine with it and is glad he wasn’t the sixth [name]Michael[/name] in his class.

I was given up for adoption at birth but not formally adopted until 13 months. In the interim, my foster parents called me by the name my birth mother gave me, [name]Elaine[/name]. When I was adopted, my parents renamed me [name]Renee[/name]. I’m fine with being renamed, though when I was a kid, I always hated my name… now I love it lol

So many good points have come up, and I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s feedback.

My aunt gave up twin boys for adoption in 2011. She chose names for the boys knowing that the adoptive parents would likely change them. As it turns out, the adoptive parents changed the boys’ names completely. The strange part of it is that the parents gave Twin B’s name to Twin A and then gave Twin B a different name. My aunt doesn’t care that the parents changed the boys’ names, but I was a bit troubled by it for two reasons: 1) the names my aunt gave the boys were a lot cooler and 2) my aunt gave the boys each a “J” name, something they share with their two older brothers who are also twins. I liked that connection, but the adoptive parents were clueless about it. I’m not even sure they were told what my aunt named the boys. Anyway, given some of the things that have been said, I’m curious to find out how the boys will feel about their name changes down the road.