Tuesday Topic: Did you Give your Adopted Children New Names?

This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Elizabeth, who simply asks, “Did you rename any of your adopted kiddos?”

This is a great question and one that brings up all kinds of opinions and emotions.  Don’t hold back, unless you are going to say something really snarky, otherwise, let’s hear from you.  I have lots of friends who are adoptive moms and many of us have made different decisions about names.  We’ve even made different decisions among our four adopted children.

If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like to ask, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com.  I’m ready for a few more.

Let’s have a great discussion and encourage one another.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

75 Comments

  1. Tom Vanderwell
    December 4, 2012

    We did. And we did so because one of our adopted children's Haitian names would not have passed the "playground test." So, we took their first and last name from in Haiti and sandwiched those into two middle names and gave them a new first name and a new last name. So, Joe Smith became John Joe Smith James. Almost 9 years later, they really appreciate that they have that connection to their Haitian background yet.

    Reply
  2. Heather Snyder
    December 4, 2012

    I'm a fan of renaming. I heard one adoptive mom put it this way….it's a way of us putting our mark on them and claiming them as our own. God did a lot of renaming in the Bible also….to claim people as his own (Saul to Paul….Abram to Abraham).

    That being said I personally don't know if we will do it with every child. We are currently fostering a six year old little boy. I believe he should have a say in that process. And I don't want to create a spirit of defiance and bitterness in my children b/c we choose to rename.

    We also plan in moving their birth name to their middle name. That way legally they can always go by that name if they choose. We hope it will also show them that we value their history.

    I am by no means saying our decision is right for everyone, it's just what we decided. I'm curious to see what others say and why.

    Reply
    1. mark ludwig
      August 28, 2016

      I don’t like what the adoptive mom you’re quoting says at all.

      To her, I would say that the children are not “your own.” As in, what, ownership?

      And she needs to “put her mark” on them? Why not just brand them too?

      And her justification for doing this is because she believes, because she read it somewhere (!), that God did likewise?

      Oh, boy – that sounds like a whole lotta narcissism there.

      It sounds like you are taking a more reasonable and child-centric approach with how you are personally handling the name issue. The child does have his own history, after all, which doesn’t just disappear with a name change. It seems that you, unlike the adopted ‘mom’ quoted, at least get that.

      Reply
      1. Baird
        December 17, 2016

        Attacking someone for their point of view? Attaching your perception based on three paragraphs that someone wrote? Perhaps you need to look at yourself in the mirror before judging others who situation you know almost nothing about.

        Reply
    2. Tiffany
      July 23, 2017

      We at the finalizing of our adopted daughter and for many months she has expressed a strong request to Chang her first name on the the terms that both of our biological children’s first names start with the same letter and she wants to fit in with that pattern🤔 My husband and I are so torn on what is the right decision for her .. we have explained what changing her name would mean and she has chosen her own new name and stuck with it since the adoption process started! We even gave it a trial run using the new first name and she responded AMAZINGLY well to it ( better then I would have for sure)

      My husband and I filled out her new request on the forms today honouring her wish and using her birth first name as her middle name and my own and her sisters middle name as her 2 no middle name ( which was originally – after her birth first name but it’s our family tradition to carry it on and gave her our last name

      She was over the moon excited with this decision but I guess my question is
      Did we make the right decision? Will we/she regret it later in life being as she is older and just recently turned 6?

      We are intending to switch her to our sons school in the fall using her new name hopefully it will make for an easier less confusing transition
      This is a harder decision then naming my unborn children lol hopefully we made the right one for her!!

      Reply
  3. Barb Horst
    December 4, 2012

    Our daughters, then 5 & 6, chose their names and how to spell them. No one knew how to pronounce their middle names and CYS found 5 different spellings of the one girl's name on official documents. Older daughter chose a more common spelling for her first name and decided on a different middle name. Our younger daughter chose a name that we could still use with her nickname and a new middle name she liked. Her school teachers and we were so amazed at the difference her new names made in her life. It seemed to give her a fresh start and she was able to lay aside the abuse and neglect that made up her first several years.
    When we adopted our son, his name was not changed. It fit him so well.
    My husband was adopted and his name was also changed. He has always went by his changed name and it gives him a jolt when some of his biological family call him by his first name of 'little Kenny!'

    Reply
  4. debbie
    December 4, 2012

    When we knew we were going to be allowed to adopt our foster daughter she was 20 months old. Her name was Selene, which did not sound like any of our other children's old fashioned anglo-type names, Elizabeth, Rebecca and Joseph. So we took her middle name, Amelia, and made that her first name. We call her Mia. It was confusing to her and us and all the people who knew her as Selene. I would not do it again with someone that I had been calling a certain name for over a year already. however, at 3 she no longer remembers the name Selene.

    We adopted our daughter from China at 20 months old. It was much easier for her and us to change her name. We only knew her by the new name, Anna. We made her Chinese last name, Li, her new middle name. We wanted both girls to have part of their original names. We'll see later if that makes any difference to them. Anna responded to her new name right away and it has been no problem. I would not hesitate to change a name again for an international adoption.

    Reply
  5. Dana
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted our son from China when he was 7 1/2. We changed his name on the official paperwork because that's what our Chinese case worker told us we should do. She warned us not to saddle him with a Chinese name that no one would be able to pronounce. She said that even Chinese adults who come to the U.S. take an American name. She said that all the waiting children are excited about getting an American name and that he'd be disappointed if he was the only one who didn't get one. Well . . . she was wrong. Our son's name is Wenxin (pronounced Wen -Sheen, like the actor Charlie Sheen). He was adamant that he did not want to give up his name. And everyone we know has learned how to say it. His legal name is still the American name we gave him back before we understood his true feelings on the subject, but we are going to have an attorney change it. I felt like he had lost so much in his life. I was not going to make him give up his name, once I understood how he felt about it.

    Reply
  6. tracey
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted Sam from birth and when we went to see "K's" first ultrasound she asked us what his name would be and we told her.

    Reply
  7. Vertical Mom
    December 4, 2012

    How interesting that you should bring this up now! We just dealt with a name-related adoption issue this weekend! Our Little Man came from a shady foster home and we were encouraged by both caseworkers and some friends of ours to legally change his name. We decided that we would keep his original name as one of his middle names and still use it to refer to him since we didn't really care one way or the other and didn't want to rob him of some of his past. However, our caseworkers challenged us to give him the option of using the new name. We dismissed it because he has some significant processing issues and we didn't think he would be able to understand it. On Saturday night at dinner, I decided to pose the option to him when everyone else went upstairs. Without any hesitation at all, he claimed the new first name and spent all morning at church on Sunday correcting anyone who referred to him by his original name! We were seriously blown away and, once again, realized that every kid is different. It is awkward at first to learn a whole new name and change everything at school but it's important for us as adoptive parents to give our kids some control over decision about them (within reason) when they've already lost so much. We can't make blanket decisions for each of our children based on some kind of ideology. The name isn't as important as connecting with your child's heart and desires. Some kids see a new name as a fresh start from a broken past while some want to keep their name as a connection to what they've lost.

    Reply
  8. Chantelle
    December 4, 2012

    We have 5 adopted children from India & Ethiopia and decided before adopting that we would keep all of our children's given names unless they were highly likely to be teased because the name sounded like a derogatory English word or something. (Example – one of the babies we saw at the orphanage in India was named what sounded like "Dip-stick-a".) 🙂 Our reasoning was mainly that our children had already lost homeland, culture, bio family and roots without losing their given names as well. Some argue that the names were "only" given by the orpahange workers, but that's irrelevent to me because it was still the child's original, given name. We didn't want our kids to think we had tried to Americanize them. Also I've heard some argue that adopted kids have enough to deal with without having unusal names, but I think that's no big deal. — Intersting to note, as well, that 2 of our adopted kids were 11 at the time of adoption and they begged us to change their names when they came home (because most of their adopted friend's famlies changed their names). We did not. Now that they are 21 they both say how GLAD they are that we didn't give in and how much they now appreciate their names. Also, interesting to note that ALL (every last one!) of their adopted friends who DID have changed names are now (as adults) going by their original given names instead. —– Having said all that, most of our adoptive family friends have changed their kid's names and I understand their reasons and certainly respect them! 🙂

    Reply
  9. Shannon
    December 4, 2012

    We did not change any of our children's names. We felt very strongly that their names were part of their history and we felt we'd be trying to erase that history by taking something as important as their name from them. We left their first names and gave each of them a middle name that was important to our family in some way. That said, each family has reasons for how they choose to approach the subject that works for them I respect their decisions.

    Reply
    1. Chantelle
      December 4, 2012

      Yes, I forgot to add that we still named each of our children with a special family name of significance through their MIDDLE names. Choosing to keep a child's given name does not have to mean that you can't have the traditional naming experience. 🙂

      Reply
  10. AmyE
    December 4, 2012

    Our son was almost 4 when we brought him home. Before we even received our referral, it was my desire to keep his birth name, as it would be the one word that he understood and that was familiar. That said, there are some Ethiopian names that were extremely difficult that we would not have considered keeping. We were thankful that we were able to keep his Ethiopian name, and able to shorten it to a nickname that sounds very American. Best of both worlds for us. He has the name his parents gave him on his birth certificate, and he has a name that makes him feel like a regular, American boy with his friends.

    Reply
  11. Elisabeth
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted both of our girls from foster care. We went back and forth about changing their names. At the times of adoption, they were 2 1/2 and then 3, so they and everyone could have gotten used to a new name. At the time, though, it seemed like they would be seeing their birth families after adoption and thought it might cause problems. We decided instead to change the spellings of their names and then give them middle names from us…Joselynn Faith and Cassandra (Cassie) Hope. They have since not visited birth families at all. We are praying about helping another child, and if it came to adoption, depending on their given name, we would consider changing it!

    Reply
    1. Acceptance with Joy
      December 4, 2012

      love it. We have a Joy, Faith, Grace and Hope for middle names – bio and adopted girls alike.

      Reply
  12. Dawn
    December 4, 2012

    Sort of…
    My domestic adopted daughter's name was spelled unusually so we standardized the spelling. My two sons adopted from Ethiopia both had the same middle name – their adopted father's first name, which is standard practice by our agency. We knew one of the boy's original last name – his grandfather in Ethiopia, so we changed his middle name back to his previous last name.

    Reply
    1. kim
      December 5, 2012

      Actually all Ethiopians take their father's name as their last name….they also do not take their husbands last name when they are married.

      Reply
  13. Kim
    December 4, 2012

    This is a topic I feel strongly about, but I will refrain from being snarky. I teach in a high school in the Midwest where I have American-born students named Caeona, DeNari, Brianna (pronounced with a long I), Said, Braxton, etc. After one pronunciation, I've learned to say their names correctly. So have all of their classmates. I couldn't imagine ripping my children (ages 7 and 8 at the time) out of their beautiful native culture and language and then slapping on a new name. It feels so insensitive. Getu's name is pronounced "gay too" (accent on the first syllable), and I've only heard ONE comment about it….from our pharmacist of all people. Everyone else learns to pronounce it. I was with Getu at the park this summer when he met some boys that would be in his class this fall. They asked his name, told him theirs, and 30 seconds letter I heard from the top of the slide, "Hey, Getu!" No giggles, no mean comments, nothing. The boys have friends whose adoptive parents changed their names. Getu has asked over and over again why they had to do that. I've told him so many times that we kept their names to honor their birth mother's choice in naming them. They LOVE that. Seeing the grin spread across their face when they know that I want them to always honor that heritage and their birth mother makes the decision completely worth it. Ultimately, I think too many well-intentioned Christians try to make this experience about us. It can't be. Yes, the boys are now my sons. That is 100% true. But they are also Ethiopian, and I will do everything within my power to honor that for them, including keeping their names. I actually blogged about our reasons for keeping their names if you want more of my bold opinions. 🙂 http://likethelove.blogspot.com/2011/12/whats-in-

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Has Opinions
      December 4, 2012

      I agree with you 100%. I work with refugee children, and I learn to say each of their name's correctly, and when I help them enroll in school, I make sure the teachers know how to say their names. This has never been a big deal. What's so hard about learning to correctly pronounce someone's name? To me, it is a matter of respect. I've had children with the last name Butt and the first name Swastika, and they've made it through school without being bullied over their names. Many times, the people I see who rename a child are doing it in order to try to make it the same as giving birth to a child- they want the experience of choosing the name, or they always imagined the name they would give their child and don't want to miss out on that. I really do understand that, but I also cannot imagine taking a child's name away. We're about to bring home our five-year-old daughter from Ethiopia. Her name is spelled exactly like a very common American name, but it's pronounced very differently. When she arrives, I plan on politely teaching the people in her life the correct pronunciation and expecting them to use it. It's her name. It was given to her by people who loved her. It's such a small thing, learning how to say someone's name.

      Reply
      1. Fiona
        December 5, 2012

        Not every child given for adoption was loved by the people who named them. You seem to assume that they were. Sometimes the name given has a lot of pain associated with it.

        Reply
        1. Kim
          December 5, 2012

          That's a good point, Fiona. But I know in the case of our boys (and many other older adopted children), they were. And then I think the children should get to choose, not just the parents who want to make their names more Americanized in a country where being American has many different definitions (and therefore names).

          Reply
      2. Kim
        December 5, 2012

        Yes, and they WILL learn. I agree that renaming seems to do more with the parents than the children. Our boys will have American middle names, and if they ever choose to go by them, then that will be their choice. But I think it should be their choice, not ours. This shouldn't be about us. It can't be…

        Reply
  14. Tisha
    December 4, 2012

    We asked our daughter (6 at the time of adoption) if she would rather keep her given name or go by a name we had chosen for her. She enthusiastically chose to go by an "American name" Meadow. Her Ethiopian name, Masso, is now her middle name. To this day, nearly 3 years later she still prefers her American name and says she is glad to have changed.

    Our son's (4) name was Tamene pronounced TOM-ah-nay. We KNEW it would be something he would have to fight his whole life to get people to not call him Tam-EEN. So we changed his name to Flint, keeping his Ethiopian name as his middle name.

    We asked lots of people's opinions about this first and received lots of varying opinions! In the end, we decided to help them feel like they did not stand out (any more than they already do being African children in a caucasion family and a primarily caucasion community) we would give them American names, then allow them to choose if they would like to be called by their Ethiopian names later in life. We definitely did not want to wipe away their heritage or disrespect/disregard their parents in any way, which is always on our minds. It is a difficult decision to wrestle with!

    Reply
  15. Donna
    December 4, 2012

    We did choose to change our children's names and did so before they arrived in America, retaining their first names as middle names. We too felt like Heather above, that renaming was a Biblical way of claiming them as part of our family. But we also dealt with whom they were named after–the former dictator of their country who has since been tried on war crimes :/ But when researching the history of the conflict and their tribal affiliation, the reasoning for this naming becomes clear and was a loving choice made by their birth family, so it was retained as a middle name as part of their heritage.
    They were also twinsy names Charles and Charlesetta that we thought may cause some issues as they became older in America.
    When we asked them about changing their names a week after arriving here (It was already done on paper) they were very excited and it has never (in seven years) been a problem.
    I do believe their is no RIGHT choice and have friends on both sides of the issue and just as we love the diversity of our children, their heritages, their stories, we also love the diversity of names!

    Reply
  16. sdgator
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted "older" kids from India (3 and 5) and were kinda worried about this, since a change to a new name at that age would be difficult. For their *official, new birth certificate* names, we gave them one American name, and then kept their Indian name. And this fit nicely with our bio kids, who also have one American and one Indian name (since that is half of their heritage). However, I truly did not like my 5 year old's Indian name, so I was hoping she'd agree to be called by her American name. I didn't push, just casually asked her if she wanted to go by "Hannah" instead of "Priyanka". She thought that was great, and after the initial change-over, its been fine ever since. I like the fact that Priyanka is still her name, though, so if as others have mentioned, she wants to go back to it, that won't be a big deal. My 3 year old was going to be called "Suri" (short for her original name of "Surekha", but we were lax in making that switch, and so to this day she's still "Surekha". BUT, the mispronounciations of her name drive me *crazy*, but she doesn't seem to mind, so I just leave it alone. My two cents' opinion is that the best option is to give them one new name and add that to their original name, because that original name is pretty much the only link to their past that our kiddos have, and I feel like its a part of them that shouldn't be taken away. As long as its on the birth certificate, then its still a part of them. If the kiddos are older, I definitely think their opinion should be asked on the name change, and that they should be given a bit of time to make sure they really want to change. Some kids are so eager to please and scared when they first come home that they'll agree to anything, so you want to make sure they are really ok with the change.

    Reply
  17. Lori
    December 4, 2012

    My daughters were 7 and 3 when we adopted them from Ethiopia. We were indecisive for a while about whether or not to change their names. We talked to our oldest via a translator in Ethiopia about it. She said that she wanted to be named Beyonce and her sister to be named Rihanna. That made us chuckle. In the end, we kept their Ethiopian names with the option to use their new american middle names. They continue to go by their Ethiopian names. Our oldest had a tough time transitioning into our family and resented us for taking her from her birthmom who visited them both at the orphanage until we arrived. Their E. names was something that she gave them. I think that had we taken that from them, our daughter may have resented us more.

    Reply
  18. SleepyKnitter
    December 4, 2012

    We renamed all four of ours with Western first names but kept their given or assigned birth name as their middle name.

    When our oldest arrived at 14, she preferred to keep her assigned name from her orphanage life (not her agency name but the name she’d grown up with), but when she contacted her friends from the orphanage, she and they only used the Western name we had given her. Then after much heartache, we had to disrupt her adoption, and her new family gave her a new Western name. She blossomed in her wonderful new family and seemed very willing to take on the new name. That family also kept her assigned name from the orphanage as her middle name, and, interestingly, they also kept the Western name that we had given her and used it as a second middle name, as a way of honoring our role in her life.

    Our next oldest child asked to go by the nick name her foster family had called her, but within two months in our home was asking to go by the Western name we had given her. We probably won’t know for years how that change affected her. At the same time, I know many Western, bio-family kids who decided at some point that they wanted to go by a different name than the ones their parents had been calling them since birth, and they seemed to do all right with it. I tried to change my name I went by in college but did not appreciate the experience.

    Our two youngest came to us as infants, and the orphanage had kindly begun using the Western names we’d given the children, so our babies were used to their new names by the time we first held them.

    I know families who only use the child’s birth or assigned name, families who only use the name the adoptive family gave the children, and families like ours who have combined birth/assigned names with new names.

    Seems to me like it is impossible for the adoptive parents to know ahead of time what the individual child will prefer, and that any choice could be either a mistake or a blessing, depending on the individual child’s personality and outlook. In the end, it is “normal” for a family to name a child coming into a family as an infant, so it doesn’t seem like a far stretch to me to rename an older child as long as the older child feels he or she has a say in what to be called.

    Tricky stuff! 🙂

    Reply
  19. Vikki
    December 4, 2012

    When we first adopted in 2007 we had been advised to change their names, so we did and went with A names. Then eight months later we brought home two more. One had an A name and one did not, so we changed the one who did not have an A name to an A name. Then we became involved in the San Diego Ethiopian community and learned how great care is taken in naming the children. With our last adoption we did not change her name, but did give her an A middle name.
    So we now have Adah Derartu, Anna Mihret, Meskerem Amy Hope, Abi Mulu and Addis Rose. I do call them by their Ethiopian names so they will respond to them when we are in the ET community.

    Reply
  20. Anna
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted 2 boys from foster care at ages 3 & 4. We asked our older son if he'd like to keep his given name or help us choose a new one and he was very adamant that he wanted a new name. He was named after his moms ex-boyfriend (not his bio dad) so there was a lot negative with the name. We let him choose and it was a very positive experience for him. He kept his given name as his middle name.
    Our younger son's name we shortened and gave him a new middle name. That was actually harder for us and others to get used to than a whole new name. I wish (in retrospect) we would have just gave him a whole new name as I think he was yelled at so much with his name being used that it brigs up a lot of fear if we call his name (shortened) loudly (like if he's outside or a long ways away). Anyway, just our experience… 🙂

    Reply
  21. Patty
    December 4, 2012

    We had six children before we adopted from Ethiopia. Everyone in our family has names that start with the same letter, and I agonized over what to do with our new children's names. We finally decided to give them names that "match" all the rest of the family's, on the theory that they will already look so different from the rest of us. That worked great….until we went to Ethiopia to meet them. Suddenly, it seemed so very presumptuous of us to change the names they had known one another by their entire lives (they are bio siblings and were almost 2 and 6 1/2 at the time of adoption). So we kept their given names, despite the fact that their names don't match the pattern of everyone else's, and gave them the names we had chosen as middle names. I am so happy we chose this route, since it provides a link to their birth parents, both of whom are dead.

    Reply
  22. Alyssa
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted our son from foster care at age 7. The only reason I would have changed his name is if it seemed like his unusual name would cause him to be easily found by birth relatives who should be in contact with him at this point. My sister in law changed her older adopted foster kid's names for this reason.
    I was happy to keep his name, which was not a name I'd ever heard before (Ryland) and it fits with our other kids names. His middle name is Jamal which I feel connect to his racial heritage. He was extremely excited to change his name to our last name at his adoption ceremony, it was a really big deal to him. When we had his adoption party , we presented him with a certificate with his name meanings and a fitting Bible verse for each one, just as we did when our others were dedicated as babies. I found that a great way to celebrate who he is, and honor that his birth mom chose "special names for a special baby".
    I think there are a lot of things to consider and each case is different.

    Reply
  23. Tammy Berg
    December 4, 2012

    I love our renaming story… my son is from Uganda – and in Uganda when a baby is born family members and close friends all offer a name for the child – and the family then decides which name the child will go by. Knowing this, i thought it was important that my on receive a name from me. I was waffling back and forth between Isaiah and Nathan for two entirely different reasons. He was 7.5 when I traveled to Uganda for the adoption.

    My son is very verbal and doesn't hold back on questions or opinions… So after one week of being together he asked me if he would get a new name when he came to America. I answered 'yes…'. He followed up with – "what will my name be?". uggghhhh, I felt like I had to decide on the spot. So, I went with Isaiah. He scrunched up his face and said, "oh." (He clearly wasn't fond of the name.) I asked him if he liked it – his reply was "I can't even spell it…". I let it sit for a few days and brought the subject up again. He clearly still didn't like it. A wise friend said I should come up with a list of names that I could live with and let him pick. So.., I started through the name book (that I just happened to have with me) and came up with a list of 10 names. I put Nathan (my first choice) in at number 7. So, we talked about how I thought it was important he like his name and I had some names that he could choose from. The first one, his reply was "maybe…", the following 5 were each met with strong NO. Then we came to Nathan – and his reply was…, 'that's it! that's my name!'. aahhh…, God had it all under control. He is indeed God's gift and lives up to his name. We share this story often – and he always comes away with "mom, it's like God connected us because we both wanted the same name." I did keep his tribal name of Okia as his middle name, because I wanted to keep that heritage within his name.

    And, come to find out he strongly disliked the name he went by in Uganda. They called him "Bush" after our presidents – but in his little mind it meant that he was nothing…, just a bush over there, or that he was found in a bush…

    Reply
  24. Lori
    December 4, 2012

    Deciding whether to change your adoptive child's name is a personal decision and as has already been discussed – there are LOTS of different issues that affect the decision.

    We changed all three of our internationally adopted children's names. I have to be honest and say that we went back and forth about that decision and I'm still not sure if that was the right choice. One of our first adopted daughters had a name that would have been confusing – it was spelled in a way that in the U.S. we would pronounce it one way and in her country it was pronounced another way. It was also a little odd for a name pronounced the U.S. way. We adopted siblings at the same time and wondered if we should change them both since we were going to change the one. They both have their original names as middle names. We did choose names that were used in their country of origin – just ones that were easy to pronounce.

    Another of our adopted kids had a name that no one pronounced correctly. I think you can get around that and train people over time, I mean, people are naming their kids some pretty interesting things these days! 🙂 However, there was another issue with his name that was troubling to us. (It is too private to share.) We actually talked with him about whether to change his name and for awhile he wanted to keep his original name and then suddenly he wanted to be called by the new name we had proposed.

    I appreciate that those who have shared their decisions about name changing have not been condemning of others for choosing differently.

    Reply
  25. Karen
    December 4, 2012

    I think if I had had the chance to name a child, I wouldn't mourn the fact that I did not get to name my son. Naming is a powerful act, I think. But he came to us as a four year old very attached to his name, which means "the best" in his first language. It gets mispronounced EVERYWHERE. He complains about that, but I remind him it's because it's not an American name and people don't know how to pronounce it and that he can tell them how to pronounce it. He's gotten very good at that. And I have to say, the kids are the ones who do not have a problem with it — it's the adults.

    Reply
  26. Ashley
    December 4, 2012

    This was such a hard decision for us and I know that every family (regardless of their choice) wrestles with wanting to keep children connected to their Birth family/culture and wanting then to feel connected to their adopted family. In the end, we chose the name Judah for our son. It was a name my husband had looong wanted to give our first son, it had a lot of cultural meaning in Ethiopia (our son's birth country) and it had a strong Biblical meaning which was important to me. We left his ET name, Melaku, as his middle name. Interestingly, I often still call him Melaku at home and he has friends (from his orphanage) in the area who also still call him Melaku. He will answer to it but refers to himself only as Judah and prefers that to his ET name. He was 4 1/2 when we brought him home and we are using the names interchangeably and allowing him to lead the way as to what he wants to be called.

    I am sure that, simply by asking this question, it is an issue you are wrestling with. Each child is so different but my only words of advise would be to remain as flexible in this area as you must in all other areas regarding our children from hard places. 🙂

    Reply
  27. bety
    December 4, 2012

    We didn't. We had names chosen before we met them for the first time (which are now their middle names). After we had been introduced and used their names once to say hello, it seemed clear to us that their names belonged to them. If they should ever be unhappy with their names, they can always use their new middle names.

    Reply
  28. Jenni N
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted our son at birth. We discussed his name many times with his birthmother prior to his birth. We wanted to name him after my husband (our son is 3rd generation with that name). She fully supported this and thought is was wonderful. Then, at the last minute decided to choose her own name for him for his orginal birth certificate and asked how we felt. We told her we fully supported her doing whatever she felt was right, but told her we still planned to change his name to my husband's and his father's name. We were all comfortable with this arrangement, so that's what we did.

    Looking back (he is now 4 1/2) I am so thankful we named him after my husband, but wonder what HE will think of us changing his name when he is older. We have an open adoption, so he will always have her around to talk to about all this, as well as us. We do have his original birth certificate to show him as well.

    Reply
  29. Kelly
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted our son internationally at 13 months and officially gave him an American first name and retained his first/middle in combo as his middle name. We call him primarily by his first name, but often by his middle/given name as sort of a nickname/endearing name. He calls himself both depending on his mood, but mostly his first name, now at 3 years old.

    My father was adopted at age 11 after his parents' messy divorce. He asked to change his name to exactly match his adoptive father's full name and add a "II" to the end. He still went by his given first name, and still does, but officially he chose to wipe his name clean of the memory of his birth father. It causes lots of questions and an occasional run-in with the bank when someone writes a check to his given name. His 10 year old brother was asked if he wanted to change his name at the same time, and he said "What's wrong with my name? I like my name!" It really goes to show how deeply kids can feel this stuff and how their opinions can differ based on their personality and experience.

    Reply
  30. kristine
    December 4, 2012

    Our beautiful son came home at 3 1/2 from Ethiopia. We kept his first name but gave him my father's name as his middle name as that is our family tradition. We feel he has two American names, his middle and his last and so wanted to keep his Ethiopian name too. His name is difficult to pronounce and at 5 1/2 he still takes great joy in correcting people on how to pronounce it. When he starts school I give an index card to each of his teachers (and Sunday school teachers) with a note on how to pronounce his name. Within a week they were all pronouncing his name correctly. Although his name is very different from his brother's he seems fine with that. After a year and a half home, he is already much more American than he is Ethiopian. I'm happy in this small way he carries his culture with him. When we meet other Ethiopian adults they are thrilled to hear his name and I believe this keeps him connected to his first community. BTW his name means "Biggest amongst his peers" and he is!

    Reply
  31. holley
    December 4, 2012

    We renamed our son, who was 4 when he joined our family, we kept his given name as his middle name. For our family, giving our child a name, and namesake is a great gift, one that involves much prayer for us. We picked out a name for our son that means 'gifted leader'. We found out when we traveled to pick him up, that the name on his paper, had been given to him when he entered the orphan system 5 months prior. The name chosen for him was a more unique Ethiopian name, and we had the gift of speaking with the woman who chose it. She chose the Ethiopian name because she sensed that he would one day become a leader. What a wink from God that both of us picked out a name meaning the same thing.

    Reply
  32. Peach
    December 4, 2012

    Bravo to adoptive families who respect their children enough to keep their given name.

    Reply
    1. *Lou*
      December 4, 2012

      I can understand your sentiment of joy in seeing adoptive parents keep their children's given names but I would argue that changing a name or giving an additional name is not an issue of DISrespect. Most parents are doing what they individually feel is right for their children. And I think that for most parents, the decisions we make are often made with much love and (at least in my own case) after much care and many many prayers.

      We may not have all made the same decision but I would be very surprised if anyone posting here made a decision to disrespect their children.

      Reply
  33. Stephanie
    December 4, 2012

    Our three older children adopted domestically as infants received their names from us. Because we live in a Spanish-speaking country as missionaries and return periodically to the States, it was important to us that our children's names be written the same in both languages and pronounced similarly (I, too, grew up as a missionary kid and know the frustration of having to explain my name over and over in one language!) Their first names start with vowels and their middle names are Biblical.

    In adopting our two younger sons from Haiti (they arrived home at 21 and 25 months old), we felt that our first choice was to keep their Haitian first names as middle names and to give them new first names as a gift from us, "matching" their siblings' names. Would you believe that out of dozens of children at the orphanage, the children with whom we were matched (before we knew their names!) were the only two with Biblical first names – David and Stephen. It was one of many special confirmations God gave us along the way as we kept those for their Biblical middle names and a gift from their first families, while giving them new first names as a gift from their forever family.

    Reply
  34. Acceptance with Joy
    December 4, 2012

    We adopted twins domestically. We thought their names were beautiful…. problem was the bio mom's taste and mine are so similar we each have three children that we named similarly. It just doesn't work to have TWO Brianna's in the house. I kept as much as I could of her name – took the Bri off and kept the Anna, hyphened it to her middle name – which is also one of my other girl's names and added a new middle name. Her name is Anna-Joy Hope. So many people question "Anna-Joy" that I wish we would have given her a new name altogether. Maybe if we were in the Deep South or somewhere where double names are common it would have been better. Her best friend is Joyanna which is just turned around but people find it less difficult somehow. We kept James' name. He actually had an opinion about that and I had no desire to change what was good and right for him and us.

    Reply
  35. diane
    December 4, 2012

    I was not sure if I was going to change my daughters name, I was very happy when the name she already had was a perfect fit. Lidya was 3.5 and I think changing her name would have been another loss. I was not sure at the time but now I am very strongly against changing names, perhaps angloizing it if necessary but not changing it.

    Reply
  36. Becky
    December 4, 2012

    oh boy! This is a big topic! Our son and daughter came home from Ethiopia at 5 years, and 15 months old. Both of them have beautiful Ethiopian names from their birth parents. After lots of soul searching, we gave them American first names and made their Ethiopian names their middle names. However, I make a point of interchanging those names often- I still call them by their African names. One reason we gave them English names was so that we could avoid us and them having the "huh? how do you say that? what?" conversation over and over again. Also, we were told that our son's name isn't very popular in Ethiopia anyway (it's a "countryside" name)… so the social workers there encouraged us to change it! Finally, we picked English names that are commonly used in Ethiopia. So I guess, we are trying to have the best of both worlds: respect their first family and heritage, while giving them easy to use in America first names.

    Reply
  37. SleepyKnitter
    December 4, 2012

    I need to add to my comments above: three of our four children have Chinese names that are very easy to pronounce, but the fourth (the one who asked to be called by her Chinese name) has a sound in her name that isn’t repeated anywhere in the English language — there is nothing remotely like it — and so every time any American said it, her name was mispronounced. Even native Chinese speakers had a difficult time trying to pronounce it in a way that Americans could “hear” it correctly and would shake their heads and laugh.

    Then another child has a Chinese name that, although easy to pronounce, not only sounds a little humorous to Americans, but Chinese speakers mock it, too.

    Another of our children has a name that sounds like a male Disney cartoon character who is not a very flattering match at all for this child’s personality.

    Then on top of that, two of our children have surnames that indicate that they are orphans. In China, orphans are often given a surname that represents the city in which they were abandoned, and to many Chinese, that is a lifelong stigma of “bad luck” against them and against the person who interacts with them. If our two daughters with city surnames met a national Chinese person during our daughters’ adult lives and before they married and took on someone else’s surname, then the national speaker would know without question that he or she was speaking with an orphan, simply from the surname, and this could effect business decisions, social decisions, and other situations in our daughters’ lives. Many Chinese take on Western names, anyway, and encourage new arrivals to do the same, in part for ease of communication with Westerners, in part because of a fascination with all things Western (as we are fascinated with all things Eastern), and in part because the Chinese tend to be VERY private about their names, so that sometimes even husbands and wives refer to each other by their full, formal names rather than by the more intimate “first” name.

    Someone mentioned above that we can learn to pronounce a name from another country, and that is true, and that birth names can be a tremendous source of connection with the child’s heritage, also true, and that sometimes other children can be kind or even nonchalant when learning an international name, but there are other issues involved. And — if the mother didn’t keep her children’s surname but gave them hers, she -still- renamed them.

    We do encourage our children to be proud of their names. We have a song for each child that includes his or her full name, both Western and Eastern, and we talk about the meanings of their names and give them stickers and other items with their Chinese names written in Chinese characters. When their schools ask for background information for a show and tell, we include the Chinese characters of their names in the material we send.

    It is highly possible for a child who is given a new name by his or her adoptive family to still maintain a strong connection with the past. The result is different, child by child and culture by culture.

    Just had to add all that after reading through the comments! 🙂 Naming and renaming are complex issues.

    Reply
  38. Alyssa
    December 4, 2012

    Interesting that someone mentioned how sometimes our biological children go by a name that we didn't give them at birth. My 3rd bio. daughter was named Bethany Hope (Hope after my mom's middle name) When she was 3, her aunt came back from working in an orphanage in Liberia and brought the kids some African clothes, and told them about 3 kids in the orphanage named Princess, Teddy Bear and Peace. My kids wore the clothes and played they were African kids, with Bethany being called "Peace". Well, after that she insisted that was her name, we played along and it ended up sticking! She's 15 now and most people know her as Peace. I still love her name Bethany, but this was kind of an extra gift to me at a time where I was in the middle of a struggle with anxiety and depression. To be reminded of God's peace through my precious daughter. She has grown up to be a peaceful, beautiful

    Reply
  39. Alyssa
    December 4, 2012

    (continued) girl who has such a heart to adopt from China when she grows up. I love to hear how God has worked in some of these stories!

    Reply
  40. findingmagnolia
    December 4, 2012

    I love this discussion! Both of our children have kept their Ethiopian given name, and we've added one as either first or middle so that they have one from each family. In both cases, we had a name in mind before we knew who they were. We ordered the names according to how they sounded together, not according to importance, so our older daughter has the American name as first and Ethiopian as middle, though she still goes by a variation of her Ethiopian given name, which is how she has self-identified since we met her. We told her that she is free to use her names however she wants because they are hers. Interestingly enough, our baby's Ethiopian name is one that very few Ethiopians we know have ever heard of, and several of them have asked us if we are sure that's it, or if we got it wrong or can't pronounce it. Her first name is her Ethiopian name and her middle is her American name, and we gave her a nickname to go by that is a combination of both and just seems to suit her. When she is old enough to understand, we will give her the same option as her sister, which is to use her names any way she likes.

    Reply
  41. Laurel
    December 4, 2012

    The orphanage in Ghana that our children were at chose to give each child an "American" name, so our girls had already been "named" Sarah & Rachel. We appreciated the Bible names, and had actually planned to name our last bio. children Rachel, if either of them had been a girl. We, however, "planned" to use their African names as their middle names.

    Surprisingly to us, our girls (ages 6 & 9 at the time) wanted NOTHING to do with their African names. They did NOT want to use that as their middle name. So, we were able to choose a middle name for them, naming them after a close family friend (whom they love to be named after).

    Reply
  42. Awake, My Soul, And Sing!
    December 4, 2012

    We added a new middle name for all of our children, and kept both of their given names (sandwiched the new name between the two original names). We wanted to honour their original names, but also give them names we love and that reflect our family (we used well-loved and respected grandfathers names for our boys, and my first name/foster mom's middle name for our daughter – the foster mother had raised her since birth).

    Our eldest has a first name we don't really like, and both associate with negative qualities (I have always been name "sensitive" and have strong associations with names). It is also one of the top names for boys his age, and we are totally not into popular names. However, the meaning is lovely, and he was 3, and strong-willed, and we figured his original name would likely stick, and we could live with it. We called him by his first name and new middle name the summer he came home, and he surprised us by the end of the summer by choosing to use his new name (the short form of which sounds exactly like the short form of his original name). We changed the spelling of his third name (making it a surname spelling that is the name of a town in the region of his birthplace, rather than keeping the rather unusual – especially for a boy – spelling given at birth).

    Our second boy was originally named a variation of his first father's name. There is some really unfortunate history associated with that person, and our son was being called by his father's first name (without the variation). This is also a very common name that neither my husband nor I like at all. We tried to think of a good short form to at least modify it a bit, but couldn't. In the end, we chose a different spelling (which also has a different, lovelier meaning), and now call him by his new middle name. His third name we kept only because we know that he has an older half-brother with that name, so there is a connection to his life story there. It is apparently also a common name culturally. We later learned that in addition to sharing his first father's name, he has another half-brother with the same name…so both of his original names had already been given to older siblings…which makes me glad we modified the spelling of one name, and added a new one just for him.

    Our daughter (ironically the only child who might not have remembered being called by her original name) goes by the first name she was given at birth, by her first mother. We took out one letter to modify the spelling to our taste. One of our daughter's original names is her first mother's middle name, and a phonetic equivalent to my father's name, so it totally made sense to keep it. And her first name is quite close to the "type" of name we would choose, so we continue to call her by that name. I often combine her first and (new) middle name…which is a combination I long ago hoped to use one day (based on a TV character, of all things…but not why we ended up with it)!

    I struggle with giving a "politically correct" answer to the naming question, and figuring out my own opinions on the matter. I do value keeping connections, and easing transitions by honouring original and familiar names. I also think there is validity in a new parent welcoming a child by bestowing a new and meaningful (either because of familial significance or preference or actual meaning) name. To me it feels like a gesture of love and connection that a parent selects a name and gives it to their child…I would not want my children to miss out on that because they already had names. I loved hearing the story of my name, and want to be able to share that with my children, too. If I didn't give a new name, I would also worry that my children might wonder why I didn't choose to select a name for them, instead just going with whatever they already had been named. I think a name does signify belonging, and I don't think we need to choose one or the other – their name can reflect their roots, and their new beginning by combining the past and the present.

    (And, since I go by my middle name, I also don't think there is any significance as to which order the names appear – I would always go with whatever sounds best, and then use whichever name you and/or your child choose).

    Ultimately, I am ok with our kids choosing to use the name they prefer as they grow…so we will see what happens.

    Reply
  43. Gwen
    December 4, 2012

    Great discussion!

    Two years ago we adopted our 9 and 6 year olds from Ethiopia, and I felt *very* strongly about not changing their names. In fact, back then I had to be careful not to stray in to the "snarky" territory because I felt so strongly about it. 🙂 I felt that, with older children, their names were an intrinsic part of them, and that taking those names away would be robbing them of their culture and history.

    However… I am really questioning our wisdom now. Whereas my daughter's name is easy to pronounce, my son's isn't. He hates his name, although it was given to him by loving parents. People struggle to pronounce it in Canada — and invariably get it wrong. He has been teased in very inappropriate ways about his name (which sounds vaguely like "dildo") and although he doesn't understand what that means, he knows it's something rude.

    Since our son is several years behind his peers in so many ways, and because he struggles socially and has only a few friends, we are seriously considering changing his name to an English one. We would add this name without removing his birth name, so that he would always have the choice to use his Ethiopian name. But right now he perceives his name as one more strike against him: he is "different" in every way from his skin colour to his language, his education, his experiences, his two families, his culture and even his name.

    My other concern is for my son's future employment. We have a Scandinavian last name which is difficult to pronounce… so essentially, my son has an unpronounceable first and last name. I worry that potential employers will look at his resume and immediately assume he cannot speak English, etc. Even in multicultural Canada, I think a guy named Mike is going to get a whole lot more callbacks that a guy named Mintesinot. 🙁

    To me, a lot also depends on the character of the child. (In an older child adoption.) My daughter is friendly, physically attractive, smart, and has great social skills. Her unusual name is just another asset for her, and she doesn't hesitate to politely correct people (with a big smile) if they mispronounce her name. However, my son is very different. It is difficult for him to make and keep friends, as some of his behaviours are very off-putting. He is extremely delayed in school and learning new things is a real challenge for him. His unusual name is a liability, not an asset.

    If we adopt older children again, we would take our time with any legal name changes until we know how the child feels about it, and what his/her personality is. 🙂

    Reply
  44. Tressa
    December 4, 2012

    We chose to keep our twins' Ethipian names. They were adopted at age 10 months. I was initially concerned that people would hesitate to call them by name and, although some people may struggle initially, everyone has learned to say their names. We gave them a middle name that matches our family's and an Ethipian middle name too after important people in their early lives. The poor kids do have 5 total names but they seem to like them all. Almost 5 years later, we're really happy with our decision thus far.

    Reply
  45. Rebecca
    December 4, 2012

    We have 11 adopted children and all of them have names we gave them. One we named at birth, but the other 10 came as a sibling group ages 2,4,6,9,11,12,14,16,19,22. LONG story, but we did end up adopting all ten siblings. One of our daughters changed her own name soon after coming and refused to go by her birth name. Much later the other children asked us to give them names as if we would have named them from birth ourselves. I have to admit it was really a BIG struggle for my husband and myself, but they were set in their minds to have it happen. Yes…even the two adult siblings we adopted asked for new names. I guess to sum it up…we sat with each child alone and asked why they wanted to change their names…we told them that they had wonderful names and were they sure they wanted to change them…it wasn't until our now 8 year old answered our question that our hesitation disappeared. When we asked him why he wanted to change his name he answered with tears in his 5 year old eyes and quivering chin "When you call me by this name it hurts my heart! It makes me remember bad memories." Our older kids said similar things about "wanting a new beginning", "birth names made them cringe with old memories", etc. It was very emotional, but truthfully, the next day they were the happiest children with what seemed loads off their shoulders. They are very proud of their names! It was hard on all of the family and friends that had gotten to know the kids by their birth names…some older relatives still slip up once in awhile and our children are very gracious and let it slide. I am adopted as well and am so happy my parents changed my name. I love it, and it just gave me a connection to them that I treasure! We would have been fine if our kids had not wanted to change their names…it was completely up to them. I asked one of their counselors at the time about it and she told me the reason they were so set on changing their names was a need to heal from their past. I think that is a big deal when adopting children with traumatic backgrounds…the need to heal! ~Blessings

    Reply
    1. Mandy
      December 4, 2012

      Oh Rebecca, your testimony is beautiful!!!! I loved it so much I shared it with my husband. 🙂 I LOVE that adopted a sibling group of 10! Amazing!!!!

      Reply
    2. Sally
      December 5, 2012

      Thank you. I've never considered changing my foster-to-adopt daughters name, but you have given me much to think about. She comes from a very difficult past and I respect her attachment to that family, its very emotional. I wouldn't want to take away her given birth name, maybe transition it to a middle name is a wonderful idea. Then blessing her with a new first name. In the end, it is her decision as a nine year old. Thanks for your honesty.

      Reply
  46. Teresa
    December 4, 2012

    We chose to keep part of the birth name for all of our children and add to it. For our 2 children that we adopted at birth or shortly thereafter, we gave a new first name. One son had no middle name, so his birth name became his middle name. The other son had first (hyphenated) and middle name, so we took part of the first name and hyphenated it with his middle name to make his new middle name.

    Our other three children were a little older when we adopted them (twin girls 1yr and a boy 2 1/2). We did not change their first names. The girls had no middle name, so we gave them a middle name. Our son had a middle name which we dropped and we gave him a new middle name. With this son, we wish now that we had kept the middle name and added a second middle name, but at the time we concerned that he would be the only one with two middle names and that it would be different from the rest of the kids.

    With all of our kids we felt it was important to keep some of their original name and add something that was meaningful to us – an act of claiming.

    Reply
  47. Mandy
    December 4, 2012

    Incredible discussion!

    Our 4 yr old foster son has been with us for over a year now and we are adopting him within the next couple of months.

    We are opting to keep his first name the same (it means, "defender of children" … which is amazing for a child coming from a place where he needed to be defended for a time). We are dropping his middle names and making his current last name become his middle name. He identifies with it, so we'll just shift places so it's no longer his last name. Of course, he will soon have our family last name. 🙂

    I know there are so many variables for so many families … and not changing our future sons name (which is what we've called him for over a year now) … is what is working for us! 🙂

    I LOVE reading all of these replies and learning more about others' experiences. Thank you for sharing everyone! 🙂

    Reply
  48. Cindy
    December 5, 2012

    Well, we adopted 3 children, and we kept 2 of their names, and changed one. Actually, our first child we adopted was called "mimi"…which we were told only meant "baby". So she hadnt officially even been given a name. She was only 3 months old when she came home. So really, we gave her a name, as opposed to changing it.

    Our other 2 children that we adopted were both "older"…one came home at 3 1/2 the other was 14! They had lived their whole lives with their names. We felt we just couldnt change them. It's who they were, their names are what they identified themselves with. We never even thought about changing their names.

    Reply
  49. Sharon
    December 5, 2012

    We both of our kiddos names, but for different reasons. For our daughter, adopted around age 5, we felt like we shouldn't change it because of her name and because it is somewhat phonetically easy to pronounce in Engligh. After a meeting with someone from her birth family before actually meeting our daughter, we were told of the significance of her name-and it has an amazing meaning that we knew we would never want to change.
    Our son's name was a bit more difficult. We debated more about changing his name even though he was almost the same age as our daughter, because it is not so Engligh-friendly. We thought we might call him by the middle name that we gave him, but he wants NOTHING to do with it. He only wants to be called by his given name. He will start kindergarten next year and I'm hoping for the best!

    Reply
  50. maggie k
    December 5, 2012

    We adopted our girls from China at ages 3 1/2 and 4. Our approach was to give them American names that are used for official reasons eg public schools, dr's appts, etc but we use their Chinese names for chinese school, when around Chinese friends and at home. They don't seem to be confused by this. In fact our older daughter, who is 6 now, just refers to the fact that she has a lot of names with pride. It has seems to be working for them and us for now anyway.

    Reply
  51. mrsungeek
    December 5, 2012

    We adopted our children when they were six and seven years old, so changing their first names were out of the question. We also loved their given names and they fit with our family. Both were Biblical names or a derivative, just like out bios. We did have to make a decision with their last names, though. We wanted them to change their last names to ours, yet they were used to writing their original last names in school. We also didn't want to ignore their heritage. I also dislike hyphenated names. So we kept their first and middle names, added their original last name as a middle name, and then gave them our last name. A funny side note: When we talked with the kids about moving their last name to their middle name and giving them our last name, my son asked if he could completely change his. He had just watched a basketball movie and wanted to be called Michael Jordan. We told him no, we loved his original name too much!

    I have a friend who fost-adopted a young child. She didn't like the original name at all, so she used a nickname when speaking to the baby/toddler. When she was able to adopt him at almost two years of age, she was able to change his name without causing harm.

    Reply
  52. LMR
    December 6, 2012

    We strongly debated this with our daughter who was adopted from Ethiopia. She was nameless as an infant and then assigned a name for paperwork purposes. We liked her name, and officially it is still her legal first name. We are now debating changing it, since we have been calling her by a different name and unofficially using her given name as a middle name.
    We are still torn as to what we should do.. So until we make up our mind we are leavin things as is.
    Right now we are leaning towards changing her first name to be her middle name and using the name we have given her as her first name.

    Reply
  53. Kristi
    December 7, 2012

    Thanks for this post. We are STILL in the process of deciding about this. Our son is 6 years old, has been home 6 months. Thus far we haven't done anything legal with his name – he has his birth first name and our last name, which is how the paperwork is processed from his country. We love the meaning of his African name. His African name is easily shortened to an "American" name – Paul – which we all love, including him. So we plan to keep his African name legally and let him go by his nickname. Our bio daughter also goes by a shortened nickname. We're just waffling on middle names.

    Reply
  54. Tanya
    December 7, 2012

    We have adopted 5 times. Our oldest was 2 when we met him and had planned on keeping his birth name. When we met him, his bio grandma encouraged us to change it. He had been going by a nickname (that we still call him by) so we made his first name the full version of that nickname an gave our own middle name. Our next 3 children came to us as infants and we gave them all new names that we chose. Our youngest will be coming home from Haiti very shortly. We plan to keep her first name (which my 3 yr old has already shortened to a nickname for her) and giver her a new middle name.

    Reply
  55. Marleigh
    December 7, 2012

    I have been adopted as an adult and do plan to change my name. The first name I'm taking is a nickname I started going by in college that I much prefer, makes life simpler, and pretty much everyone, including my adoptive family, knows me as. I am taking their last name because I want to really be a part of the family and do not want to keep my birth father's name for personal reasons. This left me with a dilemma about the middle name. I didn't want to keep my old middle name but it seemed weird to just make something up. Then I read on a lot of adoption blogs and youtube channels about how much it meant to the parents to name their children (with the children's consent of course), so I decided to ask my mom and dad if they would like to choose my middle name and they accepted, so I actually don't have a middle name as of right now. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 7, 2012

      Marleigh, thank you for sharing your thoughts – how lovely to find your family as an adult. I have to take a look at your blog and read your story.

      Reply
  56. Margaret
    December 9, 2012

    We did not change our children's first names when they came to our family from Ethiopia. hey were 5 and 9. Both went by several nicknames, not their full Ethiopian names. We did give them middle names which are names that matter to our family, and our son has since chosen a confirmation name for himself which is a saint how is also important in Ethiopia, but whose name is familiar to English speakers. now our children have each found ways to use more American sounding nicknames of their Ethiopian names in situations where they think it might be easier. I think that the complexity of their names reflects the complexity of their lives and some of their ambivalence about being part of two families. i think they feel fully claimed by us, but they a also loyal to their first families and I think that is OK, not holding them back or anything. And I love it that they share with us and each other all their thinking about how to present
    themselves to the world, names, adoption stories, etc.

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  57. Vicki
    December 14, 2012

    I adopted my daughter when she was seven from foster care. We didn't know her middle name only that it began with a P. She didn't know her middle name either. One night I shared with her what I was going to change her middle name to. She didn't like it. Then she announced she wanted to change her first name too. I had previously made a list of names that I liked that had about 50 names on it. I let her look over the list and she picked her new name. She immediately connected to her new name and corrected anyone that didn't use her new name. Kids have had so little control over their lives I wanted to give her am opportunity to get some control back. It's been almost three years and I asked her if she is glad she changed her name. She said yes. It gave her a chance to have a fresh start.

    Reply
  58. MapleRidgeMom
    January 21, 2013

    We adopted two children from the foster system (brother and sister, ages 3 and 6 when they came into our home). They were 6 and 9 at the time of adoption. Our daughter had 5 names pre-adoption and had asked to be adopted for more than a year before we were able to make it happen. Our son was torn between us and his birth family. He had been told all his life he had 4 hames, but it had been changed at 1 year old…so he didn't even know his accurate name. Our daughter told us for a year that she wanted to change her name, and she chose what the new name was. She changed all aspects, first, middle and last. She asked on the night we told her we would be able to adopt her if she could change her name on her AWANA books, in front of her birth father. Our son kept his first and middle names….every child is different.

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  59. VaShona
    July 11, 2017

    My husband and I have 6 children from Ethiopia. With our first adoption (2007), we brought home 4-month-old boy/girl twins Hanna and Hezekel. Their names are the Amharic versions of the names Hannah and Hezekiah. They were given these names by their birth mother, who truly loved them ever so much but could financially provide for them. We kept their names as sort of a promise to her that she would always be a part of their lives. We also gave them the middle names Danielle and Dante. They often go by their nicknames, Annie and Hez.

    In 2013, we brought home a sibling group of 4 (yep, 4) from Ethiopia: a 12-year-old girl (Meron; Gift from God), a 9-year-old boy (Yosef; Amharic version of Joseph), a 7-year-old girl (Kalikidan; Promise), and a 5-year-old boy (Natnael; Amharic version of Nathaniel). Their names were given to them by their birth parents (whom, sadly, have passed away). Meron and Yosef had a special bond with them, and they have shared memories with their younger siblings (who were very young when their birth parents passed; Kalikidan has personal memories of them, but they are very faint). We kept their birth names as a sign a pure respect, and we gave them the respective middle names of Faith, Will, Love, and Sincere. They like to go by Mery, Sef, Kali, and Nate.

    All 6 of our kids are very proud to be Ethiopian. They love to participate in multicultural events at school, and show off their “Habesha” heritage. They literally planned out an entire kiosk for Ethiopia by themselves with some of their Ethiopian friends, complete with homemade food, selling beaded accessories, and even having a traditional dance performance at the end. My husband and I had no idea until they asked us to come to the event! Our kids have also passed on this appreciation to our 3 biological children. We hope to take a family heritage trip back to Ethiopia in a year or two, for sightseeing in Ethiopia and volunteering at our kids’ orphanage (they all came from the same one).

    For those of you who don’t know, my family is African-American. We are also Ethiopian-American, through our kids and through the years of medical and orphanage volunteer work that I did in my early adulthood. We live in a very ethnically and racially diverse neighborhood, where a handful of families are Ethiopian (we also are close friends with another African-American family who have adopted Ethiopian children).

    My husband and I think that it is very important to know your heritage and culture, even if you live in another country. Long story short, this is one of the many reasons why we kept the birth names of our Ethiopian children. Honestly, we didn’t consider changing names even before receiving our referral. If they had a long or “unusual” name, who cares? Teach them to love it and embrace it, because it’s part of who they are as a person. Even I have an “unsual” name. VaShona means the Shona people of Southern Africa. The Shona people are known for their beautiful artwork and storytelling (read “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” to your kids, it’s a great story). I’ve been through all that “How do you pronounce it?” and “Did your parents make that up?” nonsense plenty of times. In high school, a white girl once told me “Your name sounds like someone who lives in on of those projects.” (I lectured her so hard that day). But I don’t care. I love the name I was given at birth, and I teach the kids to do the same.

    Be proud of who you are, even if you’ve been through hell and back multiple times. One day, your name could be well-known for changing the world. A name is a precious gift that should never be taken away.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 11, 2017

      Beautiful, powerful words! Thank you so much for sharing your heart and thoughts with us, VaShona.

      Reply
  60. marilynn
    September 12, 2017

    If people loved the kids they were choosing to raise they would not need to change their first middle or last names! You can have parental authority over someone else’s child as an adoptive parent or guardian without sharing a last name and certainly without having given them a first or last name yourself. It’s only done because the adopting party thinks it makes the adopted person feel more like a member of the family….but at what expense? The fact that they live with you and not their parents is plenty enough to show that they are part of the family. The fact that they have all their important school papers signed by you and not their parents is plenty as well to show that they are part of the family. Changing the name of an adopted person makes it difficult to locate them for their family members. If you leave the first and last name the same then they can be located by their family easily. If their family does not know the name of the family that adopted then it actually sequesters the adopted person quite possibly forever. Also if they have contact with their birth family how will it make them feel not to have the same last name like they are a total outsider. If your adopting someone else’s kid, part of the deal is that they are someone else’s kid so just be willing to love them as they are without making them use your last name or without making them have a new first name you like better. If you had to give them a name make your name their middle name. It’s so insultling to make their first name the middle name. Doing that does not honor their birth family or their culture it places their family and their culture second and in fact out of mind because the people raising them won’t be using their name on a daily basis. It’s quite the slap in the face actually. Think about it the only way that someone will feed you and take care of you is if you pretend to be someone that you are not – let them call you a name they like better and let them put their last name over your last name so that nobody who remembers who your really are can find you easily…that way you have to go along with pretending to be the person they want you to be in order to make raising you worth their effort. It’s not very loving if you really think about it from the perspective of the person experiencing loss. They may act happy but they’re six they are going to experience profound loss every day of their lives and will ultimately come to understand that nobody lets children name themselves or make weighty decisions or they’d never wear coats, they’d be named Hulk and Barbie, they’d only eat toast and jam….come on let your kid choose their new name for a fresh start. Ridiculous.

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