changing first names

(72 Posts)
Lovesoftplay Tue 11-Sep-12 17:09:41

I am just wondering what everybody's opinion is about changing the first names of children who are adopted?

No particular reason other than it seems to come up all the time during discussions with other adoptive parents.

Our LA did not encourage it throughout training or during homestudy, however, they had no issue when we changed one of our children's names when he was placed with us. We changed it to a name that is less recognisable, as his birth first name was very awful unique.

What do you think?

korvonia Tue 11-Sep-12 17:19:13

As an outsider, I think it is a good idea to change it if the dc's original name is terrible. I know an adopted dc with a name equivalent to Chardonnay. Her adoptive parents didn't change it even though the mum says she cringes every time she says it - can't see how that is good. You could always keep the original name as a mn to preserve the link.

shockers Tue 11-Sep-12 17:34:11

We changed both of ours because they were, like yours, extremely awful unique and the bp were still in the area.

The judge did raise an eyebrow when he asked us if we were keeping any part of DD's name and we said no.

We've always told them what their original names were, they both say they're glad we changed them!

miacis Tue 11-Sep-12 18:05:52

Sw are taking a more relaxed view about this now as often it is in the docs best long term interests eg to avoid tracing by bps through Facebook etc. this is a growing problem made easier if child has unusual name.

Lilka Tue 11-Sep-12 18:51:21

I moved DS original first name to be the second middle name. Gave him a new first name, kept his first middle name

It was mainly a security issue, though there were other reasons. He didn't have a popular name, but it wasn't unique either. He would still have been among the only x's in the area though, so recognisable

I chose his new name with the girls and he liked it. It was pretty easy actually as he just really suits his name and I thought of it almost immediately! It's a very popular name, I definitely did not want another uncommon name just in case. Mind you, I have nothing against popular names anyway, I admit I don't understand some parents desperation to find a nice name outside the top 500!

I can't say that SS wwere happy though, no. It was not my LA, but his LA. They did back down eventually. Not that they have a choice, because you can change the name after the AO goes through, but it's simpler if everyone is on board to start with

My opinion is that it can be a very good thing sometimes. Lots of people do have security issues, and some names are too recognisable. It can give them another link to you, even if you only add on a new middle name. DS loves his name, and he says he prefers it to his old one. I do think you should be honest with your children and tell them they used to have a different name

On the other hand, I don't always think it's necessary. My DD2 only changed surname, and DD1 kept her first name, and it hasn't made a difference. I love them for who they are, names included. given everything they've been through, I don't feel the need to change any part of them just to fit in with me, I will change to fit them as far as possible.

I do remember reading some online posts from parents going abroad to adopt older children (aged 6-8 or so). The children were from Russia/Ukraine/other EE countries, and mostly had names that work fine in English (Viktoria, Alexandra, Maxim etc) but the parents, without ever meeting the child, were picking out new names for them. These were 6-8 year olds! So i guess the kids were introduced to their new parents, who quickly told them they have a new name as well as moving countries. Having adopted older kids, that felt really wrong to me

Lilka Tue 11-Sep-12 18:55:07

ps. DD2 elected to change her middle names, and picked them without any input from me. Even if I hadn't liked her new middle names, i wouldn't have said so. With the exception of picking a name which is rude/offensive, it was entirely up to her. With older children, I think you should be as child led as is possible while still being reasonable

Happiestinwellybobs Tue 11-Sep-12 18:59:44

We were advised that we could not change a first name unless it was identifiable. We were concerned about how awful unique a name may be, and were relieved when our DD came along. No I wouldn't have chosen it myself but it is pretty, she won't be one of 20 with the same name and it isn't spelt with a silent z, a hyphen and three 'e's grin.

Having said that we have got rid of one of her middle names (hideous!) and given her our own with links to our family.

calmlychaotic Wed 12-Sep-12 00:42:09

Glad someone brought this up, as a childminder I have looked after children with . .interesting names. I cringe when I have to shout them across the park! Was under impression couldn't change names. Now I know I can then I would if it was terrible. People judge you on first impressions by your name and that's right through your life.

Offredalba Wed 12-Sep-12 00:47:06

I have to confess to feeling pretty shocked by this thread.
I would have thought that renaming a child is a way of reinforcing the notion that there is something wrong with them and that is why they have been removed from their families. It gives them the message that they are not valued for their own qualities but for their ability to mould themselves to the expectations, and to fulfill the needs, of their new family. It smacks of rebranding a commodity.

With no disrespect intended, I think I'm with the LAs on this one.

I wait to stand corrected.

Devora Wed 12-Sep-12 00:47:25

It depends on so many factors: security concerns, child's preference etc. Generally, social workers advise you not to and I do think that it should not be done without really careful thought. I don't think it's acceptable to do it because their name is not to your taste; you need to be really careful about messing with a child's sense of their identity.

Having said which, we did alter our dd's name. It was a long, frilly name with 'unique' spelling, and we shortened it to a more common version of the same name. For daily use, though, we kept the even-more-shortened version she has had since birth. We did this for security reasons, as details about the birth parents began to emerge. I got very freaked as the level of the potential threat began to be apparent. When I discussed this with the social workers (ours, dd's, and the reviewing officer) they basically shrugged and said, "Well, you should change her name then". I said, "I thought you wouldn't let us" and they said that most adopters do, so it seems that although they forbid it they expect it to happen anyway.

I was pissed off because if, at the point of matching, we had known the size of the security threat and that the social workers would not actually stop us changing her name, we would have done so. I particularly liked the idea of using her birth mother's middle name, which is a name I have always liked. But we were matched when she was 6 months; we had this conversation with the social workers when she was 18 months. I think it's easy for a child to have her name changed at 6 months; NOT at 18 months.

By altering her name we have reduced the security threat, but not by as much as we would by changing it altogether. I hope that she won't in years to come feel we have disrupted her identity, but she still may.

Devora Wed 12-Sep-12 00:57:54

Offredalba, generally I agree with you. Except for the 'shocked' bit. I think that this is a real issue for adopters and one that they should feel able to discuss.

There are some very good and valid reasons for changing a child's name. I've already disclosed mine. Sometimes the child prefers it, as a way of making a fresh start.

I have already said I don't agree with changing a name for personal taste, but some names are so ruddy awful that they mark a child out. I can't have been the only potential adopter who spent nights wondering if there was some acceptable nickname for Armani-Fashionette, because they sure as hell would stick out among all the little Ellas and Olivias at our local school. Our adoption agency placed a child with a name so uniquely awful that they made it a REQUIREMENT that the adoptive parents change it. They actually saw it as another act of deliberate abuse by the birth father.

Finally, there's a natural tendency for adoptive parents to want to name a child, to claim them, perhaps to give them a family name with huge meaning. I think this must be particularly strong where this is their first child (I adopted after having a birth child, so had had my opportunity to use 'my' names). I DON'T think this need trumps the child's need to retain their own identity - quite the opposite - but I'm sympathetic to it and don't think these parents need telling off. What they do need is to really understand what this means for the child, and some help in grieving for one of the losses involved in adoption.

EchoBitch Wed 12-Sep-12 00:59:52

I'm adopted and am old.
My parents changed one letter in my christian name and changed my middle name.

Dbo kept his original christian name as a middle name and my parents gave him a new first name.

It's no big deal.

But i can see that if a child has a very unusual name then problems could arise if the adoption was not what the BPs wanted.

Devora Wed 12-Sep-12 01:03:43

I should probably add, before I get flamed for it, that Armani-Fashionette is a made-up name (well, obviously, but I mean made up by me for purposes of illustration, not a real child). But anybody who has spent time perusing 'Be My Family' will know that it's not far-fetched.

I'm not an adoptive parent (yet) and I think different people have different attachments to names.

I think security should be the main issue, not embarressment about a certain name. As long as the name is not offensive then I would not mind too much what it was. I do think very unusual spellings are unhelpful. Most very small kids can't spell their own name and so changing a spelling should not be too difficult. It must be horrible to go through life having to spell out or re-pronounce your name because it is so unusual.

If the child is quite young I don't see the problem with changing it. I am just curious how people do it. Do they just start using a new name, or use the old and the new at the same time, explain to the child or ???

I do think maybe I have a more fluid view to names than some other people. I know some people do get quite hung up on names. I know a few people who have names they don't like but stick with them because that is what people call them (and their birth names are different! Adults, I mean who are always called by their middle name).

When in France with a guy called Mike he got very offended that I wanted to call him the French version, which sounds like Michelle! I always changed my name to the version in whatever country I travelled in, I mean introduced myself in the version of my name for that country. So for me names are not quite so fixed, if you see what I mean. People in other cultures also sometimes have this dual idea, both names are very important and have great meanings etc, but also can be changed to a westernised version for simplicity.

Also I know of an adopted child who changed her name herself. I am not sure exactly why she did it.

I would certainly take security as very important, especially with facebook etc. I am sure there must be a good way to explain to a child that they are going to be called something different?

I don't think it makes me think that the child themselves is not valued, or not loved, they are more than a name. But their name is a part of their identity, like their hair style and all kinds of other stuff. So exactly how to tackle it is very difficult and different (I would imagine) for different people.

After the security issues I would say that a child could be offered the choice of a new name, and maybe they would like it. I certainly wanted to change my name as a child!I also couldn't wait to get married and change my horrid old surname. That's not why I got married!!

Sorry am rambling.... if anyone would be willing to say how they changed the name, or if any children later regretted having their name changed, or regretted not having it changed, I would be interested.

EchoBitch Wed 12-Sep-12 01:31:19

I cannot see how an adoptive parent could possibly change the name of an older child without incurring huge problems.
A baby maybe,but a child who answers to his own name then NO.
Whether or not the adoptive parent likes the name is immaterial,it is the childs name,it is part and parcel of who that child is and has to be respected.
How on earth can a child be expected to answer to a new name?
And why should he/she?

Offredalba Wed 12-Sep-12 03:33:37

Devora, perhaps surprised would have been a more suitable term. As you can see from my final words, I was actually inviting clarifying discussion.
I can see that security could be a justifying issue in a few cases, but surely that has to be balanced in each instance against the detrimental effects. I completely agree with you on the vanity issue. I would never underestimate the grief of any parent who has chosen adoption as a means of building a family. However, I hardly think that they are going to alleviate it by taking steps which may hurt their child, by indicating that there was something about them that wasn't good enough. Surely, parenting is all about making sacrifices.
Most families adopt affectionate nicknames amongst themselves. Is that not a possible solution?

Kayano Wed 12-Sep-12 03:45:56

My name was changed from Catherine to Victoria as my mum saw me as 'a victory' after her struggle to become a

Also I was named after my bio mum so she didn't want to be accosted
With that every time she said my name I suppose grin

I think it's a good thing!

Lovesoftplay Wed 12-Sep-12 08:37:01

Offredalba I think you are right in that a child should not be made to feel they aren't good enough because they have an unusual name, however, security risks are a very real problem for many (not few) adoptive parents. Modern technology means people are very easily found through a variety of social networks, so why should that child, or the parent, be constantly worried that their extremely abusive birth parents will try and further torment them by contacting them through unregulated mediums?

NinePeedles Wed 12-Sep-12 09:24:14

My adopted child has a name that I would never have chosen!
However, it was the only thing those birth parents had given, and was in fact a name after one of the child's grandparents, so part of that child's heritage really.
On a day to day basis we use a shortened (nicer) version, but the full original name is on the certificate.
I think it is quite a big thing to take away a child's name.

Lilka Wed 12-Sep-12 11:11:04

Italian - I changed DS over gradually, by combining both names and then switching. Combining one syllable of the old name with one in the new name made a wonderful nickname which he still has. I should note that not once did he ever seem confused or upset by this. If he had, I would have stopped or slowed down. Within a couple of weeks, he knew his name was Y. He was 2 at the time. And now at 7, he is happy to be y, and says he's happy I gave him a new name

I think names should only be changed for good reasons, as I said before I don't need my children to change just to fit in with me, but you can't underestimate the security threats people face

My oldest daughter kept her first name (she was 10) and now as an adult one of her biggest worries is being identified. She is thinking of legally changing to her nickname, but it's so much harder at this stage

Kewcumber Wed 12-Sep-12 11:21:26

I don't think its possible to generalise as each case is so different that I'm not sure what value there is in making a pronouncement on it now! Discussing what reasons people chose to change/not change their child name will of course give you an idea of what other people have done.

Offredalba - I'm not even sure you can be sure that changing a name would make a child feel unwanted. I think it equally has the potential to bond an adoptive child and parent more closely in the simple act of allowing an adoptive parent to name their child.

I doubt its something most adoptive parents do lightly. Adoption generally is not something that lends itself to doing things for trivial reasons!

I made DS's name his second name and renamed him with a new first name which worked in all three relevant languages (not an easy task) his previous first name is easily shortened to a swearword in the UK and I felt it not the most appropriate name to start primary school with. The decision was made easier for me by the fact that he was named by an anonymous hospital doctor rather than either birth parents.

In any event even if named by birth parents, I think adoptive parents are entitled at the very least to consider changing a child's name. They are our children - we will raise them to adulthood and hopefully long beyond that, like most other parents we will try to do the best for our children and (as I said above) I fell we are less likely to trivialize decisions like this than birth parents.

Being an adoptive parent doesn't make our opinion less important than birth parents and if in an adoptive parents view it is appropriate for a name change then that's good enough for me.

Whether a child grows up secure in their family is the sum total of a million small and large decisions name changing only being one of them. Changing a child name may be a big deal but it may still be the right decision in the long term and parents should be allowed to make what they feel is the right decision without other people's judgement weighing heavily on them.

Having said that, I've never come across a single adoptive parent who has changed their child's name without a great deal of soul searching.

Lovesoftplay Wed 12-Sep-12 11:26:40

Kew, I love your posts on any thread, but your last post is perhaps your finest!! You always know what I want to say but can't quite get the words written down right smile

Lilka Wed 12-Sep-12 11:33:56

I agree with Kew. Blog please!!

Happiestinwellybobs Wed 12-Sep-12 15:27:52

I agree - having reread my own earlier post, I realise it seems quite flippant, and not how it was meant to come across. We would not have changed our DD's name, apart from any security reasons. She is young enough for us to have considered it, but we did feel that it was part of her identity. The reason we changed one of her middle names was that it was very unique, and we also wanted to give her a name to link her with our family history - we feel this is really important.

We are also aware of a family who were told that they had to change the child's name as it was detrimental to that child's welfare and safety.

Names are important to individuals - people do judge them (look at the amount of threads on MN on baby names!), but I agree that adoptive parents would not change a name lightly.

Kewcumber Wed 12-Sep-12 15:30:58

I didn't think it was flippant wellybobs. AS it happens DS's name was my great grand-fathers name (first name and surname) and he likes the fact that he is part of my family line by name in the same way as his cousins are (we have a family trend to use family names as middle names). He has enough about him that is different - he doesn't need a name that makes him more different and less a part of his current family.

We were fully prepared to take on what ever name our child came with as so much time was spent on our training day about the significance of birth names.
If it had been a worst nightmare such as Chardonnay Fricasee then we would of found a way to shorten it for day to day use.
I would of worried that using the full version when meeting family/friends extra judgments would be made about the background and birth parents which is not helpful or fair to the child.

As it turns out we were asked to change the name for security as birth mother had insisted on a totally unique/inappropriate name which s/s felt was her way of guaranteeing being able to trace him. We've chosen one which is common but lovely.
No one other than dh and I know his original name at the moment as we plan on telling him it "at an age appropriate" time and letting him tell people if/when he wants.
That's the plan anywaysmile

Just realised that my previous post sounds like I'm a hairy handed bridge dweller as my other thread is about waiting for intros's to start.
We were asked by the s/s to give a name already as the paed was worried about him being confused with the change.
The thought being that the earlier f/c could start calling him by the new one the easier it would be.

Offredalba Wed 12-Sep-12 19:50:46

I don't think any of us can be sure of every issue that may hurt our children, and I do take your point that adoptive parents may be more likely to evaluate the possible significance of naming children than most birth parents will find necessary. There can be no doubt that adoptive parents have the right to make this change, or we wouldn't be having this discussion.
Clearly some children have become available for adoption, who have the need to be protected from their families, and no one could question steps which preserve their safety. Why then do adoption professionals advise against name change?

Here are a few quotes from adoption UK:
And changing a name can have a long-lasting impact on some adoptees as Amy, whose name was changed at six weeks of age, recalls: “I did not discover my birth name until I was 24, and it had a huge impact on me. I almost felt schizophrenic, who was I, X or Y?

“I felt as if part of me had been rejected by my adoptive parents. I felt like a ‘thing’ rather than a person. I felt that my birth mum (who had wanted to keep me), had been dishonoured."

“Maybe other adoptees feel differently, but my name change gave me another issue to deal with that my adoptive parents could have spared me.”
If you look further at some of the adult adoptee blogs, you will see many such comments and many of them expressed more forcefully. It seems to be an issue for adopted adults.
While renaming an adopted child may prove helpful in assimilating them into families and communities when they are young, it may resonate quite differently as they move through adolescence and into adulthood.

Lilka Wed 12-Sep-12 20:31:22

I've seen adopted adults who did not feel entirely happy with name changes, I've seen adults who were entirely happy. I've seen adults who wish their names had been changed. Every adult feels differently, and there is little you can really generalise when it comes to adoption

And as the nature of adoption has changed somewhat since the 60's, some issues that will be faced by this generation of children are different from those faced by previous ones. Which is likely to generate a different range of feelings

Either way, none of us has a crystal ball, and none of us knows how our children will feel as adults. Maybe my DS will always feel the way he does now, or maybe as an teenager/adult he will feel more connected to his original first name or wish things could have been different

But however he feels, I will be able to look him in the eyes, and tell him that I made the decision I felt to be the best with what facts I had available to me at the time, and that I made a decision loving and thinking of him and his interests, not my own. And that's really as much as any of us can hope to be able to do, I think

Fishwife1949 Wed 12-Sep-12 20:35:01

I think also a name change mite be needed if its so out of step with your birth children it will mark them out

Eg ou have a janet a max and then adopted children valentnio usher jay i think people would always be a bit baffled

Sadly bening a foster carer turning adopter this is a issue wth the names often ill thought out by the birth parents popular drinks, labels and pop singers are common

It will depend how old the child is babys then fair enough but older children thats a tuff one

But also dont under estaimate people giving their bc odd names so they can tack them later but in all fairness i dont think the names are thought through and are very common with looked after children

Kewcumber Wed 12-Sep-12 20:53:30

Offredalba - I'm not sure you can compare standard adoption practice and preparation of adoptive parents currently with what would have been acceptable 20/30/40 or more years ago which is what you are referring to when you talk about adult adoptees having an issue with names changes. I would also suggest that much of the problem you refer to specifically "I did not discover my birth name until I was 24" is not about a name change but about secrecy and trust. Decades ago there was not the understanding of the issues around adoption, identity and belonging that there is now.

If you search and read any of my posts over the past 6/7 years you will find I am 100% against keeping any information secret from an adopted child. Any at all.

DS knows (and has always known from before he really understood what it meant) what his name was before he was adopted by me. He understands that he has a name given by me, a name given to him in the hospital and a family name which is now our family name. He also understands that he used to have a different family name which was the family name his birth mother gave (false) - in the same way you can change your family name when you marry so that everyone in the family has the same name.

I don't believe having this explanation will damage him any more than having a first name which is easily shortened to a swear word equivalent to "Shit". Of course I could be wrong, such is the lot of a parent. I still believe it was the right choice for him. I'm still not convinced that even in the long term he will feel any stronger attachment to a name given him by an anonymous doctor and a false surname given by his birth mother than a first name given to him by me, a second name given to him by an anonymous doctor and a family name the same as the majority of people he loves.

You really don't need to educate me about the feeling of adoptees (adult or child) albeit well-intentioned, I am quite well versed in the various issues and opinions and also live with it on a day to day basis.

Parenting as I'm sure you'd agree is a series of impossible decisions, adoptive parenting even more so because you are starting from a point of pain and loss. Maybe one day my DS will come on here and agree with you that I have got it completely wrong and maybe he (and you) will be right. But he won't be able to complain that I wasn't open and honest with him and that anything I did was after a great deal of thought and with his welfare in mind.

Kewcumber Wed 12-Sep-12 20:54:43

and I took so long to phrase that carefully that I cross posted with Lilka believe it or not (who kinda said what I did but MUCH shorter!)

Offredalba Wed 12-Sep-12 21:13:41


I believe that these are three separate quotes, and only one of them relates to secrecy, which I entirely agree with you about.

Since you are well versed in this topic, can you explain to me why the professional advice to not change names is wrong? Can you also explain to me, how the differences in adoption nowadays would impact on adoptees feelings about identity and name change?
You said that ...

Decades ago there was not the understanding of the issues around adoption, identity and belonging that there is now.

...... but is that not why different advice is given nowadays about identity issues such as names?

I would genuinely like to hear answers about this, and offer no criticism of any decision that anyone on this discussion has made.

Lilka Wed 12-Sep-12 21:45:04

It isn't about 'right' and 'wrong', whatever any professional says....when it comes to this type of issue, there is no right and wrong, no black or white, no blanket and magical answers. And you know, I'm sure most adoptive parents would love a big book of answers to every difficult, soul searching decision they ever have to make, a definitive guide to doing it right. But there is no such thing, and no advice from anybody applies to all situations

Adoption now is very different to then. There's the secrecy aspect, we are much more open now about everything. Attitudes have changed enormously. Contact has changed, and now we have to contend with facebook and social media and the potential fallout.

But the main difference is in why adoption in the first place. Years ago, children were adopted when they born to single mothers who felt the full force of society's condemnation. Nowadays, there are very very few relinquished babies. Nearly all children are adopted because they were taken away from their original parents...violence, neglect, sexual abuse, drugs exposure, mental illnesses, chaos, abandonnement....our new openness includes talking to our children about their frequently painful stories. I think their feelings about certain adoption issues, maybe names included, are likely to be impacted by that.

Incidentally, I am aware that some LA'a are now much more amenable to name changing now, as they have become aware of the dangers of tracing, social media etc

Kewcumber Wed 12-Sep-12 21:51:59

I was not given any categorical advice not to name change. No-one batted an eyelid (social worker or court) when I said I was changing DS's first name when I explained the reasons.

We discussed in our prep courses issues around changing name including whether who named the child, security issues, name appropriateness for their new life etc. It was also a subject raised on the home study and discussed with my social worker. There was no intention (and I haven't come across it since either) on the part of adoptive parents on my prep course to name-change just because they fancied naming the child themselves which is what the norm was decades ago. These days far fewer people change their child's name because most people understand the trade off between the possibility that changing a childs first name will turn out to be a problem for the child in the long run and the real problems that living with their original name brings.

What it boils down to is the weighing up of the possibility of identity issues versus the problems that are already obvious with the existing name.

It is also in my, possibly limited, experience vanishingly rare in the UK for parents these days not to keep the first name but add another name which is used publically. So the child would have a name from each family, both birth and adoptive.

My point about there being changes to attitudes and training these days wasn't perhaps well explained. My experience of adoptions years ago (I do have personal experience to base my views on) is that the issues about name-changes are rarely about name changes alone. Adoption wasn't discussed, it wasn't encouraged that adoptive parents did this, birth parents weren't talked about, life story books weren't used as a tool for a child to make sense of the different parts of their life and how it adds up to the person they are.

Leaving a childs birth name isn't going to create them a sense of identity on its own and neither will changing their name "steal" their identity.

I originally said that I didn't see the value in making a general rule because every situation was so different and I stick by that. I suppose I would ask you to comment on my specific case.

In my position what would you do...

The child you adopt has been given the name Shitto Gryzinsyzk.
Shitto was given by a doctor at the maternity hospital where your DS was born but there is no record of who that was. Local staff express some surprise as the name is a masculine version of a slightly uncommon girls name and its rarely used for boys - say Hilary in the UK. The consensus of opinion locally is that the doctor had probably had a bad day at work.
Despite this you become quite fond of the name Shitto and seriously consider keeping it.
Gryzinsysk is the family name given by the birth mother at the hospital which has subsequently been shown to be false. You make efforts to trace her to no avail.
Your surname is Thomas.

What would you do?

Kewcumber Wed 12-Sep-12 22:04:28

"I would genuinely like to hear answers about this, and offer no criticism of any decision that anyone on this discussion has made."

I do think that is slightly disingenuous - you don't think adoptive parents should change their children's names and you have made that quite clear and clearly don't think we realise the potential problems it can bring. I don't have any real issues with this you are entitled to your own opinion.

Most of us either have in the past or continue to use Adoption UK forums and I don't know how many real life current adoptive parents you know but on the whole we are a fairly well considered bunch. We have had every possible lifetime problem our (potential) children may have thrust upon us at various stages of the adoption process and have had to face up to our own possible inadequacies in dealing with these problems in order to get as far as parenting the real children we now have. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we are fairly robust about dealing with criticism/judgment - you don't need to pretend that you agree with our choices.

Kewcumber Wed 12-Sep-12 22:08:59

Sorry that last post doesn't quite say what I intended it too. In my defence DS is back to having sleep issues since his return to school so I'm a bit sleep deprived and I'd forgotten what it feels like!

Kew I think you did the right thing and as you say, or Lilka said, you make decisions on the best knowledge you have at the time etc.

I also agree identity is about a lot more than a name.

Anyway, I just wanted to chip in. You know tons more than me, and your honesty is very informative so thank you for sharing and I am sure your little lad will be happy with his name because he will be happy with himself and you and wider family setting (just my opinion! wink

Devora Wed 12-Sep-12 22:22:05

Offredalba, IME social workers generally advise against name-changing for two reasons. First is that, generally speaking, it is good advice (and most children are adopted at an age when they know their name). Second, because inevitably on prep course you get given general advice, not advice tailored to your particular situation.

Sometimes, frankly, the social worker simply doesn't think through the situation carefully enough. In my case, we adopted a child intending to keep her name intact, except for regularising the spelling (we'll never know whether the bm was trying to be unique, or was simply illiterate, but it simply isn't fair for a small child to have to constantly insist that yes, their name IS spelt that way). As the months ticked past, information kept trickling out about the birth father. Not accepting of the adoption as we had been told, but deeply bitterly angry and distressed. Further, we discovered that this is a man with a big track record of extreme violence. The social worker kept saying ooh, I bet he's got criminal contacts EVERYWHERE, you'd better watch your back (stupid, stupid woman). This was AFTER he had been told who we are, that we have a birth child etc.

I didn't feel safe. I didn't feel I could keep my children safe. The social worker agreed we weren't safe (without any apology for not having assessed this risk right at the start, before she gave him essential information about us). The only solution she could offer was to change dd's name.

If I'd known all this when we were matched, when dd was a small baby, damn right I would have changed her name. She could have kept her birth name as a middle name, and the risk of her resenting this in later years seems to me a small price to pay for the safety of the entire family.

I do not believe this situation is very unusual. Remember that very few birth parents relinquish their children - most are angry and distressed (understandably) at having their children taken away from them. And remember that a high proportion of birth parents have problems with drugs, alcohol, mental illness, antisocial behaviour. Security risks are a big concern for many if not most adoptive parents.

Like most adoptive parents, I take very seriously my responsibility to keep my child connected with her past. She is only 2, but we talk about her story, I show her photos of her birth parents, she has a lockable box in her room where I keep the things she was given by her birth family. Her name is part of that, but it's not the only way to show respect for a child's birth identity, and sometimes there are more important considerations.

Devora Wed 12-Sep-12 22:23:16

Kew's son has one of my favourite names in the world smile

LocoParentis Wed 12-Sep-12 22:24:47

Kew in your circumstances I would have done exactly the same.

However I don't know how I feel about changing the name of a child. Especially one who already knows their name.

I think it's got to be different in each situation and sometimes its the right thing to do and sometimes its the wrong thing to do.

I don't really think it's fair for anyone to sit judgement on another parent for making a decision they felt was in the best interests of their child.

Interesting thread, very interesting to get other peoples views on this.

When discussing our potential DC's my DH and I have taken to giving them imaginary unusual chavvy names to prepare ourselves for shouting them across soft play in the future!

Offredalba Wed 12-Sep-12 22:50:59

I think I would take very similar action to you, and I think that your child would be unlikely to disagree with you on it.
However, I think that you are missing the point about identity and name change. In adoption, children have lost their parents, grandparents,uncles, aunts cousins, pets, schoolfriends and fairly often siblings. There must have been excellent reasons for the courts to take that action. They are left with one thing which connects them to their biological heritage and that is then removed from them too. Can you appreciate that it may indicate to a child, or even an adult in retrospect, that there was nothing of their original life that could be valued in their adoptive family? Since many children already mistakenly absorb blame for their own adoptions, I think that name change needs a very substantial justification.

I assume that is the rationale behind the prevalent advice from adoption agencies, but I don't know, and that is why I have asked.

I do think that we need to listen to what adoptees say about their experiences, if we are to do the best for our children. It is laudable. that secrecy is no longer acceptable in adoption, but there are still issues of guilt and shame, and telling a child that their biological parents couldn't even pick out an acceptable name for them could be seen as another way of saying to them that their genetically inherited traits are not good enough in this family either.

Devora Wed 12-Sep-12 23:10:06

Yes, Offredalba, I do understand that. Upthread I said, "I do think that it should not be done without really careful thought. I don't think it's acceptable to do it because their name is not to your taste; you need to be really careful about messing with a child's sense of their identity."

I went on to say: "There's a natural tendency for adoptive parents to want to name a child, to claim them, perhaps to give them a family name with huge meaning... I DON'T think this need trumps the child's need to retain their own identity - quite the opposite."

And then later, I said, "social workers generally advise against name-changing for two reasons... generally speaking, it is good advice".

So I don't know why you think I am missing the point, or that I don't understand the issues. I am simply pointing out some of the exceptions to the rule, and suggesting that this issue is not as clear-cut as it may seem at first.

Can I just ask: are you an adoptive parent? If so, didn't you go through all this stuff in prep course? Or are you a non-adopter who thinks that this is new information for us?

Offredalba Wed 12-Sep-12 23:20:03


Sorry, I did not make it clear that I was responding to kewcumber. I did see your previous commnents and thought that they were spot on.

Devora Wed 12-Sep-12 23:24:38

Ok I'll stop being arsey then grin

bran Wed 12-Sep-12 23:32:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lilka Wed 12-Sep-12 23:45:00

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.

Yes Lilka agree with your comments. Birth parents contribute/give a lot to their children, not just a name.

Lovesoftplay Thu 13-Sep-12 08:16:35

I have certainly achieved my aim of finding out what everyone's views on name changing are!

I totally agree with Lilka about our children being more than a name. I look at my youngest especially and he looks so much like his birth mother that it's scary really. I haven't met a child look so like a parent before.

Names are a contentious issue, and I see why people become very adamant about their views, however, in principle I do agree with name changes. This is for a variety of reasons, however, security was the reason we changed our son's name.

I find it hard to be lectured on about how I should feel as an adoptive parent, and I certainly do not grieve because I am an adoptive parent. The opposite really, I feel that I am extremely lucky to have my sons and fully accept their past (names included) as being a part of what makes them so fantastic. Their resilience is to be commended and they have come through trauma that most adults would not cope with. That, our input now, and their personalities are what make them who they are. Not something so simple as just their names.

Kewcumber Thu 13-Sep-12 14:59:01

Offredalba - you really don't need to teach me about what my child has lost out on by being adopted - it is something he lives with and by extension so do I, it is a part of the fabric of our life.

I'm slightly confused by your approach to this discussion which appears to be to try to teach me what I don't understand about adoption and the losses my child has suffered and implying I that I really haven't understood this and how I need to listen to adult adoptees.

I have read adult adoptees views extensively - more to the point I have close personal contact with adult adoptees both as friends and family and every one of their opinions is totally different on almost every matter related to their adoption. It helps inform me on the choices and discussions I have with DS but can't substitute for my own judgement in what is right for him (particularly as none of them agree!).

I can't really go over everything I've said again because it was too verbose in the first place and everyone else might lose the will to live so I shall just repeat a couple of points.

"I don't think its possible to generalise as each case is so different"
"What it boils down to is the weighing up of the possibility of identity issues versus the problems that are already obvious with the existing name."
"I've never come across a single adoptive parent who has changed their child's name without a great deal of soul searching."

I am not suggesting that parents should change their childrens names, but sometimes there isn't an ideal solution, just a least bad solution.

Its a difficult decision to make and not one that birth parents have to face and not one that should be taken lightly and I'm happy to expect adopters to justify their decision to their social worker (even though that is a moral obligation not a legal one). I also expect to justify my decision to DS. But not to anyone else.

Kayano Thu 13-Sep-12 15:08:07

Just to say I am an adoptee and I live my new name. The mother who raised me gave it to me because she loved me, I didn't lose anything because of this.

I didn't loose any identity because ar gave me my identity as a staple confident adopted child who knew the vast majority the facts of my adoption

Saying you need to listen to the views of adoptees is stupid because they are individuals with differing views just as much as you are

Things depend on:
Age of child
Upbringing of child
Have they been told the facts
Letterbox or closed adoption


Devora just wanted to say (having read your post) that I am so sorry you were put in a difficult position.

As an aside please could I ask, without hijaking this very interesting thread, how much birth parents are normally told about the adoptive parents? (Actually will ask as a seperate thread generally so no worries.)

Anyway, just wanted to say you sound like an amazing Mum Devora and the social worker sounds awful.

Offredalba Thu 13-Sep-12 16:57:43

I'm really sorry that you have been offended by my remarks. I was never at any stage referring to the personal choices that you made, and indeed I agreed with you that I would probably have acted in the same way that you did.
Of course individual cricumstances are different and deserve unique consideration. However, adoption is a life long process and sometimes we have different perspectives on the effects of some actions at different stages of our lives. Naturally adult adoptees are going to have different notions about how name change has affected them or not. If we only consider these issues in terms of our own anecdotal experiences, I'm not sure that we get a balanced viewpoint. What I am saying is that the professionals who have access to statistically tested social science research, mostly seem to be opposed to name change and a quick trawl of adoptee blogs on the internet would seem to ratify that. I have always been open to someone explaining to me why the rationale that removing a name may seem disrespectful to birth families and hence undermining to children is wrong or irrelevant in current adoption.
I'm not condemning anyone here. I'm asking for views and information(as did the OP).

I would never dream of describing someone as stupid or implying so.

Kayano Thu 13-Sep-12 19:54:06

Some birth families don't really deserve respect though?

A rose by any other name and all that

It's how you raise them
The love you give them
The support and security you provide

As long as they are honest and don't lie and the child is young enough then I see no issue with name change

Kewcumber Thu 13-Sep-12 20:39:59

I'm not exactly offended Offredalba, I'm a little irked at the tone of your posts which seem err on the side of explaining to adoptive parents what they are not understanding. No doubt I am being too sensitive about it but I'm not keen on being lectured about something I live with everyday. This is why I asked how much experience you have of real life adoptive parents because I'm sure if you knew some, you would understand that most adoptive parents bend over backwards to be respectful of their childs birth family (even when it is patently obviously not deserved) and that includes respecting the name they gave their child.

I still believe that there are situations in which it is appropriate to change a childs name and that adoptive parents have the moral as well as legal right to do that.

I also think believing that everything social workers promote as being right is based on "statistically tested social science research" is naive. For example, there is good evidence from other countries that transracial adoptions can be just as successful as same race adoptions but the prevailing view in this country is that it is bad for the childs identity. This view perpetuates based on very old research done in many decades ago in a very different scenario to large swathes of the UK now and in the context of a completely different attitude to adoption and identity generally. This view is slowly changing but has resulted in large numbers of BME children growing up in foster care (often with white foster parents).

Offredalba Thu 13-Sep-12 20:42:47


I happen to believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how much I disagree with them.

Offredalba Thu 13-Sep-12 21:10:03


I'm here to try to understand adoptive parenting better, and that is why I am asking questions based on information that I have resourced elsewhere. I don't have an agenda.
The OP asked for opinions and I was genuinely astonished that some posters originally appeared to be treating it fairly lightly, almost suggesting that names could be changed to avoid embarassment relating to class differences. Devora cleared that up really well, and others came back and made pretty sensible follow ups.
I have learned from the posts and thank those who have informed me. If I have over exemplified in some areas, it wasn't to be insulting, it was because I genuinely had not picked up any sense that there was an appreciation anywhere in the thread of the way that this action may impact on someone later in life.
I do appreciate that most of you are picking up the wreckage of some catastrophically bad parenting, and I applaud you for it. I don't think that you are supported nearly well enough, financially or otherwise. Some of us are picking up the wreckage of some very hurtful mistakes in adopting which have had long term consequences for people that we love. Many of those mistakes were made by good people with good intentions. We get no support at all, where I live.

Offredalba Thu 13-Sep-12 21:11:45


I happen to believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how much I disagree with them.

FamiliesShareGerms Thu 13-Sep-12 22:06:07

I don't think I can add much to the excellent posts on here from Devora,
Lilka and Kew in particular, except that we were very glad that DD's given name was lovely (it was on the plus side of our list when we were deciding overnight whether to proceed with the match!) and it "worked" with our DS's name (important to us, not because of snobbery etc, but because a very different name that we obviously didn't give her would have immediately and always marked her out as different and there's no reason why she should have that to deal with. As it is, no one could use her name to work out that she's adopted, she / we get to choose who knows)

We changed her middle names to reflect important family members, as DS's middle names do

Devora Thu 13-Sep-12 22:53:05

Are you adopted, Offredalba?

Devora Thu 13-Sep-12 23:01:22

Italiangreyhound, that was such a kind thing to say smile.

I'm not sure how much information is passed to birth parents as standard. I know that my dd's birth parents were told a bit about us, that we have a birth child. They were told we are both women (birth mother's reaction: "That's good, that means dd will be safe" which was one of the saddest things I've ever heard). Birth father liked that we are well educated, which implies he was told about that as well.

We had appointments to meet the birth mother, but she repeatedly didn't turn up. So of course she would have learned a lot more then. There were never plans for us to meet the birth father, but we are in indirect contact, so I suppose it is up to us how much we disclose to him.

Oh Devora that is such a sad thing for the BM to say. I am sure your little one is very fortunate to have your protection and care. I KNOW I am not meant to say that because you are lucky to have her etc (Yes, have read lots of posts from Kew wink) but in this one instance I did want to say that you are very brave and caring and wish you all the best.

I am feeling very excited about adoption and terrified in equal measure!

This thread had been very informative on the subject of names.

jenny60 Fri 14-Sep-12 09:14:27

Can't add much to excellent posts by Kew, Devora etc... But want to point out to Offredalba that the notion that social workers have fool proof data on anything to do with adoption is frankly laughable. We don't even have agreed statistics on adoption breakdown or success, constantly shifting views on the benefits or othwise of contact, keeping siblings together etc... Most adopters have heard utter nonsense about adoption and our own children from social workers. Excuse me if I sometimes disagree with the 'experts' and get on with doing what is best or my children.

cory Fri 14-Sep-12 12:01:33

Interesting to read this thread. My db was a foreign adoptee who had a new first name added and kept his old one as a middle name. In hindsight (talking 40 odd years here) it does perhaps sound like a violation.

Otoh, keeping his old very foreign name would have affected the expectations people had on him: basically every time he met somebody or sent his job in for an interview, they would have expected somebody with roots in a culture which he remembered nothing about and had no contact with.

His new name came to reflect the person he came to be: a person with very firm roots in his new country. He was very young at the time, travel was more difficult, the internet did not exist, no relatives were known and there was no way he could stay the person that name would have fitted. I haven't asked him but I suspect he feels his new given name reflects the identity he actually has.

KatieMorag Fri 14-Sep-12 17:29:51

I am an adoptee. My first name was changed from the one my birth mother gave me. She had custody of me for about 3days. When I was placed with adoptive parents they gave me a new first name and surname. The first was optional and the second required by law.

I really don't feel that the name I had for a few days or weeks is somehow more real or mine than the one I had first.

There was no security issue. Also the trend for unusual and "unique " names was not around them, so both names I had were quite "normal"

Then when I was an adult I changed my surname too. I know lots of people who have done this voluntarily and don't seem scarred by the experince. I the contrary, many of them see it as symbolic of forming a new family unit.

There is no evidence that I have ever read that supports the suggestion that children are automatically traumatised by being given a new name. What is often quoted is simply anecdote, there is no research on this that I know of. If I am wrong I would be very pleased to get the details so I can read it .

IMO it completely depends on the child's age and circumstances. I know many children who were desperate to have a new name to distance themselves from abusive and neglectful birth parents or to get rid of an unusual name that marked them out from their peers and made them a target of bullying.

Offredalba Fri 14-Sep-12 18:28:15

Not ignoring your question. Its complicated. I'll pm asap.

Offredalba Fri 14-Sep-12 18:35:42

The more that I read about adoption research, the more I agree with you. So where do we look for unbiased advice on adoption?

Kayano Fri 14-Sep-12 19:19:38

With Katie As an adoptee too

Lovesoftplay Fri 14-Sep-12 19:23:40

Offredalba, I would think the best place is with current adoptive parents and their children-grown up or young. I have the utmost respect for our social workers, and even quite like them, however, sometimes they talk bunkum smile

Devora Fri 14-Sep-12 21:51:35

We also have to remember that how individuals develop and sustain a sense of identity is endlessly variable. I am from a mixed heritage family and have 2 siblings. I identify quite closely with one of our ethnic/cultural heritages, one sibling identifies closely with the other ethnic/cultural heritage (which I feel very distanced from), and sibling 3 has no interest in 'roots' whatsoever. We all know adult adoptees who have been obsessed with a sense of loss, with a need to know where they come from, who cannot have a complete sense of self without that information. And then there are others who are quite happy to leave the past in the past, who feel no sense of connection to their birth parents.

As adoptive parents we are told to assume that our children will need us to foster a sense of connection with their birth heritage. And I think that is probably the right assumption. But equally we shouldn't be surprised if our children turn out to be indifferent to it, maybe even angry at our insistence at harping on about the things that make them different to the rest of the family. Who knows?

There is not much helpful research evidence, as adoption has really changed. Social workers can only provide general advice based on what they think is best (and remembering that a generation ago they were advising that it was kindest for adopted children to 'start with a clean slate'). Adoptive parents will carry on trying to do the best for our kids, aware that in twenty years they may well turn round and tell us we got it all wrong.

I don't automatically support the choices every adoptive parent makes on this. I was appalled when Angelina Jolie changed the name of her newly adopted 2yo (or was he 3?). But I do believe that there are no certainties on this issue, just assumptions, trends, and guesses into the future.

Kewcumber Fri 14-Sep-12 23:07:09

Certainly Devora, although I do believe every case should be decided on the facts at the time, I too have been known to wince at the things some adoptive parents have done but manfully kept my mouth shut. Mostly though they are Americans and they do tend to have a different approach there and partly because they are usually odd celebrities.

Best adoption research, in my experience, isn't done in the UK as a rule (and probably won;t ever be) because we don't have the money, we don't have a big enough sample to do large scale studies and we don't have an adoption culture in the same way the US do.

"Social workers can only provide general advice based on what they think is best" - I think this is true of the best of them however I have come across plenty of competent social workers who would be prepared to state as fact things which I know to be out-of-date and not supported by evidence from other countries. I came to the conclusion that they were still using text books written in the 70's in the absence of anything better written since. But of course I may be completely wrong.

IMO the best social workers don't really need to rely on research to do the core parts of their job well - identifying a child in trouble, identifying when no-one in a birth family can step up to the plate, assessing who would make a competent adoptive parent, making sure they are as prepared as they can possibly be. It doesn't necessarily need the latest research to get that right.

shockers Sat 15-Sep-12 09:02:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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