changing first names

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wait to stand corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's no big deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it's a good thing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with Kew. Blog please!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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