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More of a who is right.....adopted daughter

(135 Posts)
MmmPercyPigs Mon 01-Oct-12 18:04:24

Two of my colleagues have recently had a big falling out. We are in an expat community in a Russian speaking country and colleague A (America) has recently adopted a daughter from Russia. Her DD is nearly 3 years old, and seems to be a lovely girl.

Colleague B is Canadian but of local heritage. She is furious, because colleague A has changed the girl's name (from a very obviously Russian name to a more 'Western' name) and colleague A has forbidden her nanny to speak in Russian to the girl (the girl speaks no English). Colleague B voiced her objections and the two have fallen out.

I don't really have an opinion on it, but I was interested in hearing a few more point of views.....

TheHeirOfSlytherin Mon 01-Oct-12 18:08:09

I agree with colleague B. Just because this girl is adopted doesn't mean her start in life didn't happen, and if you live in a Russian speaking country why on earth wouldn't you want your dc to speak the language!
And also, her name is her name! At 3 she is too old for someone to change her name.

How confusing it all must be for her, poor thing! sad

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 18:08:44

Nobody's business but the parents hmm.

Exactly as if the girl was born to them - any parent can change their child's name if they want to.

Colleague B needs to butt out. Because the most important thing is the relationship between the child and her new parents - and talking English to her will help her to learn English.

My one worry is the presence of a "nanny" - I hope the girl's primary attachment is to her new mum and dad and not the nanny.

But either way, it is absolutely nothing to do with anyone else, and if I was colleague A I would have nothing whatsoever to do with colleague B if I could possibly avoid it.

Bigwheel Mon 01-Oct-12 18:10:07

As the child is 3 and not a baby I agree with colleague b. I might be tempted to try and introduce a nickname for her though. Surely being able to speak Russian or any other language is an advantage. She'll pick up English soon enough anyway living in an ex pat community.

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 18:10:21

In fact, I suspect banning the nanny from speaking russian is to stop her primary attachment being with the nanny. It is time enough later to talk to her in Russian and teach her about her heritage.

Anyone who knows nothing about adoption will of course disagree with me. But I bet if you posted this in adoption, the vast majority of adopters would agree.

whatsforyou Mon 01-Oct-12 18:20:51

B seems way over the top but I do think she's right. Whatever happened to this little girl to warrant her being adopted was probably quite traumatic and it is difficult enough for adopted children to settle into their new families without the added pressure of a new name and a language you don't understand. The name thing is a biggie for me, a name is such an important personal thing and I personally don't think that A has the (moral) right to change it. It is article 7 of the UN convention on the rights of the child that every child has the right to a name. It seems really sad to me that A seems to want to remove any trace of this child's history sad
There is a scary number of adopted children handed back as their adopted parents (however well-meaning) have no idea how difficult it can be taking on a traumatised child and think that 'love' will sort everything out. Unfortunately in many cases it takes a lot more than that. Really hopes this works out for the best.

MrsTerrysChocolateOrange Mon 01-Oct-12 18:35:55

You shouldn't change a child's name just because they are adopted. It is their name. English sounding nickname might be fine but that needs to develop. I would also be a bit sad to think that this girl has someone in her life she can talk to in her native language and that person is banned from speaking to her in this language. I agree with B. It may not be her business and all that but it takes a village.

x2boys Mon 01-Oct-12 18:37:10

years ago i visited my friend who was au pairing for a family in amerca there kids had benn adopted from russia at aboutv 2and four when i visited they were 9and eleven they did nt speak russian any more but then thy were living i massachaucetts?/sp however as delightful as the kids were they appeared to have anxiety problems and been seemingly been brought up by a sereis of au pairs not sure why the parents adopted them as they seemed to have little to do with them maybe they just thought they should have kids as thats what you do!

honeytea Mon 01-Oct-12 18:38:11

I think Colleague B needs to but out of it really, it is ok to have an opinion but it is not ok to voice it unless asked in situations like this.

I do feel worried that the child is recently adopted and has a nanny. Maybe the parents could use some russian words with their child and slowly stop using them as their dd becomes more confident in English.

I would wonder what sort of school they will send their dd to, if they opt for an international school and they only speak English at home I personally feel like it would be wrong for them to take the opertunity of keeping hold of the russian language from their daughter. I think it would be very difficult to be adopted in a country where your first language is spoken and be absorbed into a community that was outside that culture. I feel like any strong ex pat community is in a way damaging to the children, I won't be sending my kids to an English speaking school unless the specifically ask.

As for name changing, I think it depends on the name, if it ment something rude in English or it was not an easy name to say then I'd think fair enough but if it was just to identify her as being part of the ex pat community then I think it is a little unfair. I have an adopted sibling who changed her name back to their birth name as an adult, at 3 a child recognises their name and maybe an anglo nick name would be more appropriate.

These are just my opinions and I wouldn't tell a new adoptive parents this unless they asked for my advice.

Congrats to your friend!

KitchenandJumble Mon 01-Oct-12 19:17:35

Many issues here. There is considerable debate in the adoption community about the advisability of changing a child's name. I know many people who have adopted from Russia, and most of them changed their children's names. Personally, I am opposed to doing this if a child is old enough to have a sense of identity, and a 3-year-old is certainly well aware of his/her name. (As an aside, some of the people I know didn't even bother to learn how to pronounce their new child's Russian name properly. I think this is frankly appalling.)

As for the nanny, Maryz raises a good point about ensuring the primary attachment will be to the parents. At the same time, it seems odd that the parents don't want their child to maintain her native language. Growing up bilingual is always an advantage, and I would have thought it to be especially beneficial in a community of Russian speakers. If the child loses her first language while gaining a new one (subtractive bilingualism), there are some serious drawbacks to consider as well. It would be perfectly possible to maintain the first language and work on attachment to the adoptive parents.

Adopting a child from another culture is a true balancing act. Unfortunately, I know far too many people who are ill informed about the country of their children's heritage. Many of them seem to want to erase their children's early years entirely. Or worse, they say unbelievably negative things about that country and culture. I can only imagine the conflicts that must set up in the children's minds, especially as they get older and begin to question their identity and place in the family and the world.

Lilka Mon 01-Oct-12 19:45:20

Colleague B needs to butt out. She is welcome to have her own private opinions but sharing them is insensitive

But seriously, most adoptive parents do not just make decisions on a whim about names, language etc etc. Whatever decisions Colleague A has made, I suspect were made afer much careful and considered thought, and were what Colleague A considers to be in her childs best interests. It isn't nice to have your very carefully thought out (sometimes very difficult) decisions questionned by people with no experience of it whatsoever

I would think that given they are still in a majority Russian speaking country, the child is not going to lose all their Russian language. School, preschool, friends etc. It's not quite the same as adopting a child and bringing them to an English speaking country. But she does need to learn English somehow

Having a nanny may be a necessaity for them. I think it's easy to forget (I mean for us in the UK and other western european countries) that other people do not get good maternity/adoption leave. I speak with American adopters and foster carers online (living in the US) and many of them can only take days to a couple of weeks off before their child goes to daycare for a large part of the day. A nanny may have advantages, given it keeps the child within the safety and familiarity of the new home rather than putting them in another entirely new environment

Naming is no black and white issue, and we recently had quite a long discussion on it over on the adoptions board, which you could read if you were interested in the issue

Teapot13 Mon 01-Oct-12 19:59:35

If a child is being raised in a Russian-speaking country but in an English-speaking family, it is normal for the parents to want her to speak English at home. The Russian will take care of itself. Lots of bilingual families do the "minority language at home" method.

That being said, I don't know whether it is too much for a 3yr old to be put in a new family, given a new name, and expected to speak a new language all at once. I just don't know enough about adoption to say. But I kind of doubt the judging colleague does, either.

CrapBag Mon 01-Oct-12 19:59:39

Nothing to do with colleague B. Not their DD so they should mind their own business. Certainly shouldn't be falling out about it.

Are you one of them OP?

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Mon 01-Oct-12 20:06:18

I agree with colleague B. she is right in what she is saying, but that domestic give her the right to say it. She would be better off putting her complaint to the adoption agency who have allowed a child to go to people that won't allow a three year old to speak her own language. sad

I work in Early years, and we have to allow children the opportunity to acknowledge their heritage if they are EAL.

honeytea Mon 01-Oct-12 20:09:19

The Russian will take care of itself. Lots of bilingual families do the "minority language at home" method

They do, infact in my experience a home and school language split is the best option for bilingual kids. I wonder if the parents will choose to send their DC to a russian speaking school, from the desire to change her name it sounds like they are trying hard to make the child as English as possible. If the child goes to an ENglish speaking school there is a high chance that she will forget Russian entirely.

KitchenandJumble Mon 01-Oct-12 20:20:24

The Russian will only take care of itself if the child goes to a Russian-language nursery or school or has consistent language input from others. However, it sounds from the OP that they live in an English-speaking expat enclave. Under those circumstances, it would be entirely possible for the child to lose her Russian. That would be a real shame.

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 20:24:34

ffs, the child has been with them how long exactly?

And already the parents are being assumed to have decided to "make the child as English as possible", to "now allow her to speak her own language" and not to "allow the child to acknowledge her heritage".

Just how do you all know this?

Maybe, just maybe, they have thought this through. They want to build up a strong bond with their own child. They want (quite rightly) to be the only ones to bond with her, to communicate with her, to make her comfortable in her new family.

Let them get on with it.

Unless of course, you are all experts on adoption and on attachment issues hmm

MrSunshine Mon 01-Oct-12 20:27:03

Agree with Maryz. Too many people with too little experience but big opinions nonetheless. hmm

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 20:29:39

And what Lilka said (as usual). I accept her point about the nanny as well - it isn't ideal to leave a newly adopted child with a nanny, but is a necessity if you have to work. In which case it is even more important for the child to know who is mum (and dad) and who is temporary nanny.

CaliforniaLeaving Mon 01-Oct-12 20:29:39

Whether we agree with Colleague B or not, it's really not her business to tell Colleague A how to run her family. She needs to butt out.
One of our local adoptive families adopted a 3 year old, and name changed, and kept the original name as a middle name. It was done for security reasons, as birth family are local and not stable. They changed it slowly over about 6 months, hasn't seemed to have any ill effects on the child.

KitchenandJumble Mon 01-Oct-12 20:40:05

I agree that it really is none of Colleague B's business. The decisions are entirely up to Colleague A. However, that does not mean that we should automatically agree with Colleague A or assume that all her actions are right. Since none of us (with the exception of the OP) know the people in question, it seems perfectly reasonable to discuss these issues in the abstract. And issues of identity and language/culture preservation are well worth pondering, IMO.

UserNameNotAvailable Mon 01-Oct-12 20:42:54

My main concern would be that the child can't communicate with the parents, unless the parents can understand Russian. Could she ask for a drink and be understood or be able to tell anyone she felt poorly etc. I remember being in Cyprus and we went out of the touristy parts and even trying to buy a can of baked beans was really hard and frustrating so god knows how his little girl feels.

Why can't she be raised bi-lingual? Surely that makes more sense especially for her circumstances atm.

I always feel a little ache in my heart for kids who are recently or waiting to be adopted sad

honeytea Mon 01-Oct-12 20:47:03

I have experience of ex-pat communities. Even if I was giving birth to a child in another country if I intended to send that child to school in that country I would give them either a first or sir name from the country they lived in.

I'd love for my baby to grow up with an english name and speak only english at home but I think for a birth child or an adopted child it is unfair to give them only your own culture when you live in another country.

As the child knows the nanny speaks and understands Russian she may well feel like she has done something wrong or the nanny is rejecting her when the nanny will not talk to her in Russian. I think it is one thing to get an only English speaking nanny but to get a native Russian speaking nanny to speak English is different. So much of our nurturing language comes from how our parents spoke to us, for example my Swedish is decent but I don't know nursery rhymes in Swedish I don't feel I can portray my emotions as well in Swedish.

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 20:49:17

But your last paragraph is a reason for talking to the child in English, surely, isn't it?

mirry2 Mon 01-Oct-12 20:53:00

I wasn't adopted but when i was about 6 my parents decided to change my name from a nickname I'd always been known by, to my actual name which I didn't know I had. I remeber that it was strange for a few days but after that it never bothered me in the slightest. What is strange now is reading letters and school reports of that time where I am refered to by another name.

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