Name change question

(15 Posts)

Can you use a different name without legally changing the name?

Devora Tue 09-Jul-13 13:11:37

I've posted about this before, but several months after dd joined us we got new information about security risks, and got quite freaked out about it. Raised this at a review meeting and to my immense surprise one of the sws suggested we could change her name. "I thought we weren't allowed to!" I bleated. They shrugged and said that most parents do.

So it seems that this may be an issue that a huge deal is made of in advance, but once the child is living with you they're certainly not going to disrupt the placement and so many parents wait till that point. In adoption it's all about knowing the game, isn't it?

I'm not advocating willy-nilly name-changing, mind: I think there's good reasons for them making you realise what a big deal it is. (And just not liking a name is not, to my mind, a good enough reason in most cases.) In the end we altered our dd's name quite minimally, just enough to make it less unique and pull us back under the radar (but similar enough that she could continue with the same shortened version she has used since birth).

Debbygiraffe Tue 09-Jul-13 12:46:30

Thank you all so much for your responses. Like most of you, I wouldn't worry too much about the name (I don't think - but it is an unusual one - and I'm not in their position) it's the fact that they had been up front and honest with SWs as soon as this little boy was mentioned, about possibly changing his name and it was never brought up as a problem. I honestly don't know whether they were given the chance to have him as long as they agreed not to change his name and they declined, but I don't think so.
I'm hoping to have a long chat with my SIL tonight and will pass on all your comments.
Thanks again
Debby

I guess I am also wondering about shortening a name for school. Imagine if someone had an amazingly long name that incorporated royal family names or pop stars names etc and you choose to use just one part of that long name as their given name in day to day use. Their friends would follow suit and use that name and so when older if they wanted to go on facebook etc they could do so without revealing a long and possibly identifying name. How does that sit with social services?

Lilka Mon 08-Jul-13 22:01:46

Will I need to curb that habit so as not to undermine the child's identity?

Goodness no! If you do that then IME you are putting too much emphasis on the name. I have pet nicknames for all my children, actually they each have several nicknames smile For instance, I sometimes call DD2 "hedgehog". She loves hedgehogs and was one day telling me all about how cute they are, and I just had this thought 'goodness, DD is so like a hedgehog, she has a very defensive prickly layer surrounding her but she's actually really vulnerable underneath that shell. And she's also gorgeous' smile So I just gave her a hug and called her 'my little hedgehog' and it stuck grin Nicknames can often be a lovely little family 'in-thing' slash 'in-joke' which no one else gets so it's kind of bonding.

I don't see how you could be undermining their identity by using a nickname. If you spend too much time focussing on retaining their 'old identity' (which can't ever be retained in whole) you risk making them feel out of place in their new one IMHO

As i said in the other thread, I changed my DS name, but that doesn't mean I don't value his identity or everything he got from his birth mum and past. I just don't focus on the original name beyond it being a middle name (which I felt was the right way to deal with the name issue, it stopped security being an issue but I was still valuing his original name) and I have told him that both his parents have now contributed to his name as well as his sisters (they had input into his new first name and new extra middle name as well)

He is happy with his new name, he has expressed to me that he is pleased I gave him a new name smile But then, he has changed from having some mild interest in his birth mum, to not wanting to know anything about his past.

How do nick names play into the whole identify thing? I wonder. I have a bit of a habit of changing people's names into nick names! I only do it with people who mean a lot to me, DD, DH, very good friends and even our now-beloved kitten.

Will I need to curb that habit so as not to undermine the child's identity?

If they like a nick name can that be used at school without actually loosing their given name?

Lilka Mon 08-Jul-13 21:26:00

Lilka you said "They might also say that his name is one of the only things his birth parents have ever given him, and it would therefore be important to keep it." Do you think that it is one of the only things birth parents give to children who are adopted?

No I don't. Forgive me for copying my post from the other name thread, I can't think of a better way to say it

"A name is not the only thing they bring with them. Looks, personality, talents etc. I have an open adoption with my younger two's first mother, and through our contact DD2 knows where her eyes, her smile, her love for knitting/sewing, some of her personality traits come from. Our children get much more than names from their original parents, and I hope that DS will never feel that by giving him a new first name I was choosing not to value all of his heritage. I do value his original first name, it's still part of his name. I also value many other things he has which I did not give him. The name is far from the sum of their birth parents contribution to their self."

So that. I obviously don't believe that DNA is important in order to parent, and I don't believe that DNA is an important component of a loving family but that doesn't mean that I disregard genetics. I do belive that our DNA is a significant building block of who we are as people. And our children get all their DNA and consequently probably quite a chunk of their innate being, from their birth parents. Interests, personality traits etc. And experiences, lets not forget the experience of the womb, and the first months/years of life, they get that from their birth parent too. A name is one small part of your being. That doesn't mean names are meaningless though, just that they are not the ONLY thing our kids get from their bith parents. In fact, I find that attitude almost a bit insulting- "you barely gave your birth child anything except a name" Really? That attitide just dismisses most of the relationship between birth parents and the child doesn't it?

But regardless of my own opinion, IME social workers often come out with that line when name changing is mentioned

Happiestinwellybobs Mon 08-Jul-13 21:19:31

Agree with Lilka completely. Dreadful that they were given mixed messages and for the match to be dissolved.

We were told at prep course that names could not be changed unless in extreme circumstances - security being the only reason.

DD had three names. SW quickly backtracked saying we could change her middle names if we wished. We kept one of them and her first name remains the same. It is the only thing her birth parents gave her, after she was born. We have added names to link her to our family history too.

Whilst not a name I'd have chosen initially (but have grown to love), I would have felt really uncomfortable taking that away from her and imposing our choice on her.

How awful Debbygiraffe were they told any more?

It seems very very worrying to be told one thing is OK and then told it is not, and that it seems to be such a big deal the whole adoption is not able to go through.

Crikeyblimey and Lilka I agree a name could be a part of someone's identity. Do you think this is more so for children or adopted children, more so in our culture or just a fact? Just curious. I have worked abroad where people adopt 'English' names for themselves to use day by day in English without losing their Chinese name or Chinese identity.

Lilka you said "They might also say that his name is one of the only things his birth parents have ever given him, and it would therefore be important to keep it." Do you think that it is one of the only things birth parents give to children who are adopted?

Piffyonarock Mon 08-Jul-13 19:53:43

We felt like that about DSs name, and felt that it was unusual enough to be a security risk. But once we'd spent the fortnight of introductions calling him by that name we kept it, as it was just "him". We still feel slightly uncomfortable about the security element, as it is an unusual name, and we probably won't let his name be published in the local paper or anything (which will be a shame if he excells at sports or something as he grows up), but birth family are local.

I'm surprised if that was the only reason for the match being off, your brother and SIL must be so sad. Was any other reason given? Would they offer not to change his name? It's interesting that his SW was on board, they would be the one you'd expect not to be keen.

Lilka Mon 08-Jul-13 19:06:16

Thanks for that link Punky I love the comment by 'DisappointedIdealist', I think it's brilliantly made

PunkyBruiser Mon 08-Jul-13 18:52:09

Funnily enough, I just read this on the Guardian today: m.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/08/whats-in-a-name-adopted-children

I'm just at the start of the adoption journey so no first hand experience, but I've read about people changing or modifying names because of safety reasons (eg if it's a really unusual name or weird spelling of a name that would make a child easily identifiable) but not just because adoptive parents "weren't keen". As the above article points out, a name is such a huge part of a child's identity.

It's heartbreaking that your brother and SIL have had mixed messages though - can they appeal against it if the agree not to change his name?

Lilka Mon 08-Jul-13 18:41:00

It was very unprofessional and wrong of them to lead your brother and SIL on like that, and then suddenly pull the rug. Of course they will be devastated by it sad

Names are honestly a bit of a complex area. There are lots of different things to consider, people have wildly varying opinions and experiences, but in my experience social services will often only support a name change when there is a security problem - eg. a name like Cinderella (I made that up, I don't know of any child called Cinderella) is a problem because the child could be traced as a child or adolescent, and you would have to never let the childs name appear anywhere etc

Whilst I can't say for sure why social services have said no to a name change, their reasons are (IMHO) likely to be - that his name is his identity, and changing it is therefore not good for him, only good for the parents. They might also say that his name is one of the only things his birth parents have ever given him, and it would therefore be important to keep it.

That isn't the opinion of all LA's/VA's or SW's by any means but those are IME the usual objections raised to a name change by SS

I changed my son's first name (but his original first name is a middle name) for many reasons, but a security issue with certain people was one issue. In my case, although the placing LA weren't initially on board, my son was actually placed with me before I talked name change, so there wasn't really anything they could about it. As it was, they came around a bit to my view on security, but it would have been easier if everyone was on board to start with (my own SW was fine with it, it was the placing authority, which is another example of different agencies having totally different policies on the same issue. Happens a lot in adoption)

We did have quite a long thread on here about first name changing and we were all expressing our own views and experiences - maybe you'd like to read it? It's here

Crikeyblimey Mon 08-Jul-13 18:13:54

A name is part of someone's identity. I know the members of my LA adoption panel don't like adopters changing a child's name.

The name could be a special birth family name etc.

The only time they don't object is if the name is so unusual that it would identify the child and possibly cause safety issues.

Debbygiraffe Mon 08-Jul-13 18:07:00

Hi, my brother and SIL have been approved and were 'up for' a little boy. They weren't keen on his name and wanted to change it (he's just a year old). At a meeting with placement SW, their own SW and his SW a fortnight ago this was discussed and OK'd and they were over the moon to receive a congratulation e-mail a day later. Then last week they were called to a meeting with the senior SW and told in no uncertain terms that they could NOT change his name and the match was off! Understandably they are devastated and I can't believe this is really the case. Please can anyone help me understand what the case is with first names?

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