Naming an adopted child? (Hypothetical)

[name_m]Hi[/name_m] all. Lately I’ve become much more serious about the idea of adopting one day (in leiu of having biological children) and I have to admit that giving up the ability to name my child would/will be really difficult for me :sweat_smile:
I have always imagined being able to make lists while pregnant & then choosing the name after birth. Since I am leaning to adoption and possible/likely through foster care, I am wondering what my chances are of being able to name my infant/toddler adopted child (I’m aware once the child is older, a name change becomes more complex). I’m assuming this varies from case to case, and depends on the child/situation.

Has anyone named or had some kind of input for the name of their adopted child?

Thanks :slight_smile:


I’d also like to have some input from this

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Definitely depends on the case but an adoptive parent can always change a child’s name if they choose to (just like how a biological parent could always change their child’s name at any point). I know some people choose not to change names after a certain age, but I’ve also heard of families who will change their child’s name even if they’re older if the child wants to. Usually for babies it’s easy to change their name, and I’ve even seen people change toddlers names and just had a period of adjustment where they called the baby birth name-new name as like a double barrel and then slowly dropped the birth name.


I am adopted (was as an infant) and have three siblings. Two were not adopted, one was.

[name_f]My[/name_f] name was changed, and my parents also named my adopted sibling.

[name_f]My[/name_f] name change was before my living memory and was never an issue— I even changed it again as an adult!

I was not a foster adoption, but my sibling was. The only thing different there was the process. Also, I’m a lot older than my sibling, who is still school age.

I know a couple people who were adopted as toddlers and their names were also changed, in both with the “original” first name kept as a middle name. If it matters, both were international adoptions.

I think that it’s highly situationally dependent, of course— if the kid already knows/responds to their name it’s a different thing than having a baby or young toddler who may not know their name yet well enough to have a hard time adjusting.


There’s some great insight here that I agree with!

One other aspect to consider, adopting from foster care may mean that family can have contact with the child. Not necessarily the parents (possibly tho), but sometimes a grandparent or aunt cannot raise the child, but really wants to be involved and a judge will allow that.

If the adoption is fully closed, no contact with anyone, and the infant happens to not be from a local family, you could rename him or her without issue.

Ultimately, you are the adoptive parent, but if there is some family contact or the family is local, a full rename may get the relations off on a bad foot.

Also, you won’t know any of this information for a very long time, most likely. If you’re adopting from foster care, the child will already be in your home. You’ll be used to calling him/her by their birth name, and so will your entire family. Generally, when people change a child’s name, it’s as soon as they receive the baby (not usually thru foster care) or the process takes time with the child’s involved in the decision (so at least 5 or 6 years old).

Infants removed from their parents care and immediately placed in a foster-to-adopt home is also pretty rare. Judges want to give the family every opportunity to allow someone blood related to care for the child. The mom would have to be a frequent flyer of having babies and getting them removed, in which case, they also want to try to keep the siblings together as much as possible anyway.

This is just my experience from working within the foster care realm for… idk, I guess 4 years total… something like that :woman_shrugging:t2: :sweat_smile:


Wanted to reemphasize this point, thank you for bringing this up! In my initial response I had honestly forgotten open adoptions were a thing— I don’t know anyone with an open adoption— but they absolutely do exist and it’s an important difference.

The infant (well, not anymore but she was back then) I know that was adopted from foster care was abandoned at the hospital— it’s true that being placed directly into foster to adopt is relatively rare.


Yes, this is called the [name_u]Baby[/name_u] [name_f]Doe[/name_f] [name_m]Law[/name_m] (actually something that is fascinating to research). I’ve worked at a hospital on-and-off for 5 years… Only seen 1 baby abandoned under the [name_f]Doe[/name_f] [name_m]Law[/name_m]. Super rare. And let me also say, that baby had an adoptive family lined up in probably under an hour after the situation was fully investigated and released as a lawful adoptee.


That was basically the case with the adoptee I know as well. Six days in the hospital, released directly to the family that adopted her; she’s known no other parents and never will.


This is true but also not a completely closed book on being able to change the names. I think in the end it comes down to each individual case and while may have some effect it’s not a complete black and white situation. I have friends who received a pair of siblings via foster care. The younget was a baby the oldest toddler/preschool. They remained foster children for several years. Until the youngest was about 4. Then they were able to be up for adoption and once that changed my friends brainstormed entirely new names for these kids and the change was rather easy for everyone to adjust to. The oldest was actually super excited about his new name…… I still remember his celebration when the judge announced it. So definitely case by case.

I do know if other situations where the given name just clearly wasn’t the best for the child so a name change even though the child was older 5+ was for the best regardless of age.

Me Inwas adopted as a baby and my parents kept part of my original name. I do know it’s often recommended when adopting and looking at name changes to consider the culture/ heritage of the child regardless of age.


One of my work colleagues adopted a child at 9 months old. The child was removed at birth but had older siblings who had also been removed. The family that adopted her siblings couldn’t take her too. Her adoptive parents changed her name but she was the only child given her birth name that year.

They gave her part of her original birth name as her new first name. Her adoptive mum has to write a letter to her birth mother every year using her birth name.

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I think you’ll end up loving the names of any kids you foster, because of associating the name with a kid you love!


Thank you for pointing some of these things out. I do believe I may be a little naïve when it comes to the idea of adopting a newborn from foster care. That is why I extended my question to toddlers, and depending on what age you define as a toddler, I’ve read that ages 2-5 make up the largest percentage of children in foster care waiting to be adopted. I am hoping this is true because I do want to adopt younger children (I am not against adopting older kids but I have always been a nanny to babies and toddlers so it is the age I feel most comfortable starting with).

You also brought up how the biological family of the child may feel about me renaming them, and I of course would have to consider that too. If they disapproved of the first name being changed, I would respect their wishes (unless my child wanted to be renamed) but l would probably still change their middle. It’s hard to know for sure until you are in that situation, though, so it is a matter of time will tell.

Thanks for your response x

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I agree, but the name nerd in me will still have a really hard time letting it go! I would at least want to change their middle name! :sweat_smile:

If the adopted child has contact with their biological parents, I think if i were adopting I’d want to find a name that both sets of parents (biological and adoptive) can all agree on. I see it as a lovely way to keep the biological parent involved in such a big decision, rather than their child’s name be changed without them knowing. <3

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That would be so hard. I’m very opinionated about names and the thought of having to compromise with a whole other family makes me itch. Still is probably a good thing to do though.

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I am so particular about the names I like, and I feel like my ability to initially bond with my child would be slightly affected by me not at least having a say in their name. I’m not sure if that’s rational, but it is how I feel.

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It’s definitely possible to change their names at any age! I don’t foster yet, but I follow a lot of foster parents on Instagram who have adopted their foster kids. One case was a sibling set where they completely renamed all of their kids because their old names had too many bad memories associated with them (for the kids). The kids were happy to get a new name and a new start! In another case, the foster mom got the foster kid as a baby from the hospital and called him by the name she wanted to give him since birth (I believe they knew he was on track to be adopted and not return home). In another case, the foster mom had screen names for her foster kids online so she didn’t have to disclose their real names, and when they adopted her foster daughter they changed her name to the screen name they had been using because it fit her.

If I were to foster and then adopt a kiddo I would probably use their birth name as their middle name post-adoption unless the child specifically asked for a new middle name too. I think it definitely helps the adoptive parents and adopted child to bond when a new first name is chosen, and it commemorates a fresh start without completely erasing the child’s heritage. I think it’s definitely a case-by-case thing though because I babysat a few foster kids and I could not imagine coming up with new names for them at the ages they were unless they specifically asked for it. I think it would’ve been too much change for them and would’ve added to the trauma they had been through already.

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I totally agree with this! I’ve worked with little kids for the past two years and there have been many names I’ve come around to just because I grew to know and love a kid with that name!

I have a child through adoption, and we did change her name. I also had wanted to adopt instead of having biological children and struggledwith the idea of not being able to name my children. We cared for my daughter from infancy, but she had a name given to her by her first foster family. When she was about 16 months old we received permission to pursue adoption, and we changed her name. The other name was a top 5 name, and it just never seemed like her. We tried out the new name for a couple of weeks and within a month she had forgotten her old name. I was confident that she would be able to make the switch well because I’d seen her respond quickly to new pet names and nicknames. The complication is that the legal process is still going on, four years and counting, so her legal documents still have the old name. Someday that won’t be an issue. We had some issues with our community adapting to the new name - particularly people who knew the first foster family and felt the change of name was a slight against them, but it’s been four years and most of those people aren’t in our lives anymore. She’s 100% her “new” name, and it’s hard to imagine her ever being called something else.

Adoption through foster care makes it less likely that you’d be able to name the child. Some countries have rules to protect family-given names. The primary goal of the foster care system is reunification so if kids do become eligible for adoption, it would likely be later. There’s a lot to juggle with decisions around adoption: is the original name usable, does it have a positive or negative connection to the child’s past, are they young enough to easily make the change, are they old enough to weigh in on that decision, how would the biological family respond, should their name reflect their cultural or ethnic heritage?

But when it happens for you, you’ll know the circumstances and your child, and I’m sure you’ll know what’s right for your family. I know families who made slight adjustments like keeping the first name but changing the middle or vice versa. Other families have chosen names close to the original name - I know an adopted Ben whose name was originally Banny. Some parents work with the biological family to come up with a combo that is meaningful to both. We haven’t been able to adopt again because we’re still in the first process legally so we’ve continued our family with a biological child, but I do dream of adopting or fostering again in the future and the naming question still comes up. It’s hard to plan for it, but there are lots of options. I hope that helps.