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Name Change

26 replies

SLMorris · 15/03/2019 20:22

Hello all, just wondering if anyone has had any experience with changing the name of your adopted children. our SW is totally against it and I do understand why. In my head I've always dreamed of naming my child and want something that suits our family - we are looking to adopt under 2 years but I know that they will have an identity even then. we're in the matching phase and I really dislike the name of our potential match.
If you've done it could you tell me how that went for you??

OP posts:
Gertruude · 15/03/2019 20:53

Amongst social workers it is generally considered inappropriate to entirely change adopted children's names nowadays but not impossible. I know people who have changed or rather amended a name as they felt it was too identifying. Or added middle names and then just called them by nicknames/middles names until it stuck.

I think social workers see it as remanence of grief for your own fertility and they try to promote positive identity for the adoptive child by encouraging you to keep their birth name.

At the point in time that you officially change any name it's kind of too late for the social workers to argue. We naturally found we called him by a nickname / pet name and then just added it along with a family name as middle names and by the time the paper work was completed out AS was pretty much known by the other name anyway tho we do use his birth name too.

butterflywings37 · 15/03/2019 20:57

We were told we could change our daughter's name but actually liked
Her first name and gave her new middle name ( and surname) which has been fine. I've also know people change the first name to something similar e.g Angel was changed to Annie. I think you do what feels right for you and the child

jellycatspyjamas · 15/03/2019 21:27

We changed the spelling of our DS name to a more conventional spelling and gave both children family middle names.

I think there are many reasons for not changing a child’s name unnecessarily not least that they loose just about every other part of their identity in adoption - bad enough that you move to a new home, with complete strangers, change school, nursery, friends, new adults in your life, old adults not in your life and you don’t even get called by your own name? I think if we honestly understood how bloody terrifying the adoption process is for children, we’d be less concerned about their name “fitting” and more interested in keeping as much familiarity as possible.

The dream of naming your own children is totally understandable, but is part of the grieving process when you come to adoption - it’s one of the many losses for adoptive parents and often poorly understood but, I say this as gently as possible - adoption isn’t about finding a child that fits in your world, it’s about finding the right parents for the child. It’s one of the many varied sacrifices you make as an adoptive parent because your child’s need for some kind of continuity is more important than naming them after great aunt Maggie.

Of course naming a child can be part of the claiming process, but I’d use the name they are familiar with unless there were actual safety reasons not to - in which case your SW would most likely be suggesting that anyway. In time, as your relationship grows, you’ll find your own pet names and nicknames, my DD has her original name but 2 years in she also has a couple of nicknames and we use them all interchangeably - but her name is her name. In her case it’s literally the only thing she has from her birth family and I’m loathe to take that one thing away.

tldr · 15/03/2019 21:37

I’ve heard of matches falling through because sws disapprove of name changing. So I’d keep quiet for now and much further down the path (ie applying for adoption order) you can do whatever feels appropriate then.

Gertruude · 15/03/2019 22:20

Wow well said @jellycatspyjamas totally agree

donquixotedelamancha · 15/03/2019 22:29

adoption isn’t about finding a child that fits in your world, it’s about finding the right parents for the child.


We actually changed DD2's name, but it's not something I would recommend lightly. Once the child can recognise their name (ours was too young) it should only be when essential.

We changed ours party for risk of identification (with two kids) but more because we didn't want her lumbered with an awful name.

Many SWs would say if you don't like the name, the match is wrong. I think you may find you grow to like it in time. I would, however, suggest changing the middle name (when you apply for the AO) as a good way of 'claiming'. Most SW would not have an issue with that.

EightWellies · 16/03/2019 07:01

We changed DD2's name for safety reasons. We knew the SWs were dead against it, so we just didn't mention it. We have retained her original name as part of her name, so hopefully that will help with identity issues.

It didn't feel comfortable, not being honest with the SWs, but we had to do what we felt was best for DD2 in the long term. Having faced some of the issues around school and social media with DD1 definitely influenced our thinking.

SLMorris · 16/03/2019 15:34

Thanks everyone for your comments and advice that's been really helpful - the name of the potential match is very unique with several middle names already so at the moment it's just a consideration of ours. we obviously want to do right by the child. I find these discussions really useful and it's great to have a safe space to ask the question.

OP posts:
vjg13 · 16/03/2019 16:16

I am an adoptee (pre Internet) and wish my adoptive parents had kept my names (very average, usual spellings) even if they had added to them. My older adopted brother had his middle name moved to being his first name. On my gravestone I want both my names to recognise the name I was given when born.

vjg13 · 16/03/2019 16:19

Thank you Jellycat for that excellent post.

Serenity45 · 16/03/2019 17:38

We haven't adopted yet (approved and natch hopefully going through with siblings ). The way it has come across to us via training/reading / talking to SW and adoptive parents is that in changing a name (unless for VERY good reasons ), you are essentially saying that you don't want that part of the child. I'm not saying this is the case here but please think very carefully before changing a name to suit your family. You would need to be able to explain your rationale to your children as they grow up, for example as part of ongoing life story work.

I say this as someone who initially struggled with the concept of not naming our kids, one if the siblings we've been matched with has a name I'm not mad keen on bit it is HIS name. And it's growing on me. I think if you choose to be dishonest with SW and possibly matching panel you need to be really clear on your motivation.

Serenity45 · 16/03/2019 17:40

Sorry for typos - fat fingers!

Ted27 · 16/03/2019 17:53

I think what jumps out from your post is ' a name to suit our family'

The child you will adopt is going to change the dynamic of your family in so many ways, its so very different from bringing a newborn home from the hospital who shares genetic inheritance.

Unless its a matter of security or a made up totally ridiculous name like Princess fluffy, which is going to cause any child not born to a multi billionaire rock star grief in later life, you need to think carefully about your motivations.

My son is dual heritage. He had an African first name, English middle name and African surname. We just added my surname on the end ( I figured that was enough to deal with!) His African first name and my English surname don"t exactly 'flow', his name stands out in my very white British, northern working class family. But once they learnt to pronounce it, no one gave two hoots anymore. Its just who he is.

Most people who see the name and don't know him think he's a girl though!

topcat2014 · 16/03/2019 17:59

My family names are generally the kind you would find in the bible or names of kings - ie dead traditional and dull. Think John, James etc.

We are exploring a match with a little boy who has a very untraditional name.

I, however, think it is the coolest thing ever. No way would I countenance making any changes unless the SW require it. It is part of who he is, and always will be.

As PP have said, this is families for children rather than children for families.

If it goes ahead, my son will be my son, but he comes to us with an identity and several years of life already. His name is part of that.

Italiangreyhound · 16/03/2019 18:42

We kept or our son's names and added a family middle name and our surname. Personally, I am glad we did this but still nervous about social media etc in the future. For me this is the big issue and not how much you like a name.

We did this because there were no risks, as far as we could tell (and we did have evidence for tgud) of him bring in danger etc.

I think if there are risks of the child being identified then changing their name is part of protecting them.

OMHO all children actually get a lot of things from both birth parents. They get DNA, hair, skin and eye colour, medical history, in vitro experiences, early life experiences etc.

The name given by birth parents is just part of what makes up children and if that name might cause them to be bullied or singled out, or identified, then I would say it's totally right to change it.

You are right about social workers that it is best not to speak to social workers about it. On my experience they are very investiged on not chsmgong kids names.

However, I agree with others that if it is simply your desire to name the child, add a middle name.

If you do not think their name fits your family you may need to re-think the grieving process of not naming a birth child.

Good luck, hope it all goes really well.

EightWellies · 16/03/2019 18:44

This is an issue though, despite what many prospective adopters are taught in Prep Groups, that really isn't black and white. That's just the perspective of SWs, who aren't around to see the long term impact of any decision.

Identity is undoubtedly an important thing to consider, though that also includes a sense of belonging in their forever family. However, so is safety and the child having the freedom to fully participate in school and a whole range of activities. Retaining an unusual birth name makes that harder.

Ultimately, every parent has to weigh it all up and make the best decision for their individual child.

We didn't even consider changing DD1's name and, in retrospect, that may well have been a mistake.

Ted27 · 16/03/2019 19:09

You are right, it isnt black and white issue. But there is a difference between unusual and the outright ridiculous.

My goddaughter and her brother, not adopted, have very unusual names. I have never come across another person with those names. But they are proper names. On the other hand many moons ago I was out with some friends were talking about names for their expected baby. They were set on either Buzz or Ziggy, as their given names. Personally I think thats unfair to the child, fine call them Buzz as a nickname but give them a proper name as well. Zowie Bowie and Duncan Jones spring to mind!
Its a tricky area, sometimes its the right thing to do, but maybe not if its just a name you wouldnt have chosen

Italiangreyhound · 16/03/2019 19:39

Personally, I think it has to be what is best for the child.

It's never black or white, I totally agree.

DoolinEnnis · 16/03/2019 19:56

Despite my perception from training thag it rarely happens, I have joined several online groups outside of this site, there appears to be more name changes than is apparent (not for security reasons) which surprised me given how much emphasis is usually placed at the prep stage. Various reasons include older child wanted to change name, adopters wanted to change, names being changed later after adoption due to a security breach despite being no risk previously etc.

There are alot of differences of opinion on the topic.

jellycatspyjamas · 16/03/2019 23:59

They get DNA, hair, skin and eye colour, medical history, in vitro experiences, early life experiences etc.

And how many of those are generally positive for an adopted child? My DD has particular challenges as a result of her birth parents medical history and there have been significant genetic issues too, her in vitro experiences weren’t good either so in terms of legacy, I’m not sure it’s fair to say those things have positive or even bonding connotations.

It’s hard, so much about adoption denies parents experiences they would usually have and which might hold great significance, eg naming your child, but there are so many reasons to keep their birth name - it’s not just about social workers being arsey (though I am one and know the potential for arsey social workers).

It’s not about names that don’t sound right, don’t fit your family or your dream of what you would call your child. There is so much you will give your child as their parents, so many experiences, so much like be and so much of their identity ongoing, what the child is called isn’t going to change that.

HailEdmundLordofAddersBlack · 17/03/2019 07:52

On our course, the social worker discussed names. She basically said:

"If you have a strong reaction to a name or feel it won't fit in with your family then it is worth considering that the match may not be for you"

I agree. She made the point that names can evoke strong responses within us related to experiences and judgements we might keep hidden. If it is about making a child less traceable then that is different.

My daughter had a name I never would have chosen but I liked it and it suited her. Her middle name was also a family middle name. So, as a compromise, I changed her middle name to my family middle name. I felt comfortable with this as she had a forename they gave her, my family middle name and my husband's surname. She is a mix of us all. Funnily enough, the three names she ended up with go together beautifully.

UnderTheNameOfSanders · 17/03/2019 11:56

We changed middle names but kept first names.

What I have heard of people doing is adding a name, using both, then dropping the first or using it as middle name. Only for a young child though.

So say child's name is currently Beckham.

You start referring to them as Beckham-Jake or Jake-Beckham

Then you drop the Beckham, and just refer to Jake. Adoption order has Jake Beckham Smith.

Italiangreyhound · 17/03/2019 16:52

jellycatspyjamas "And how many of those are generally positive for an adopted child? My DD has particular challenges as a result of her birth parents medical history and there have been significant genetic issues too, her in vitro experiences weren’t good either so in terms of legacy, I’m not sure it’s fair to say those things have positive or even bonding connotations. "

I didn't say they were positive or negative. Simply things the birth parent gave the child.

"...what the child is called isn’t going to change that."

I would completely agree with anyone that naming your child because you (the parent) want to is not a good reason to change a name.

Security, IMHO, and the issues of on line life (not at all really addressed when we adopted almost five years ago) are potential issues.

A name may be a positive or negative thing. Yes, I completely agree in vitro or other early experience may be negative. I am not making light of that. I am saying a name is not all birth parents give children. My son is affected by early life experiences but is also very smart and very handsome, that's due to his DNA.

jelly I am totally not disputing your thoughts on this, just sharing my own. We kept son's names, except surname, and added one. If there are no security issues this would by my suggestion. But it's really hard to know if there are potential security issues.

I'd say personally one needs to be able to explain to a child why you changed a name. I didn't like it or it didn't fit with our family are not good answers for me.

Mynamenotaccepted · 18/03/2019 19:58

Having adopted several children we felt the names their birth parents gave them was important, AD 1 duplicated one of our bc we had to change it, fortunately she was only 3 months old. She is now an adult and despite her learning difficulties understands why we changed her name.
A very good friend is adopting her foster daughter and has decided to change her surname to the childs surname, made me a tough old bird well up

sassygromit · 19/03/2019 20:13

I thought your first post was super jellycat

mynamenotaccepted what a lovely story!

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