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changing first names(72 Posts)
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
What do you think?
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
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I have come across plenty of competent social workers who would be prepared to state as fact things which I know to be out-of-date and not supported by evidence from other countries.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.
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.
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
The more that I read about adoption research, the more I agree with you. So where do we look for unbiased advice on adoption?
Not ignoring your question. Its complicated. I'll pm asap.
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.
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.
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.
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 ) 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.
Italiangreyhound, that was such a kind thing to say .
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.
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
I happen to believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how much I disagree with them.
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.
I happen to believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how much I disagree with them.
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Yes Lilka agree with your comments. Birth parents contribute/give a lot to their children, not just a name.
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