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Would You Change Your Adopted Child's Name?

By Diana Stone |

After we announced to family and friends that we were adopting from Korea, we were asked a question we’d never considered before.

“Do you plan on changing your child’s name once he or she is in America?”

Well. That kind of threw us for a loop. Did we? I mean, it was *their* name. Given to them in their homeland and it had some type of a meaning from the person who gave it – birth/foster mother or a caregiver.

Sam and I were (and still are) torn on this. We have two opinions:

  • No. It symbolizes them, their history, and a name is so personal. When we discuss this way, there is always the thought that keeping their name keeps a part of what they will eventually think of as a loss in their lives, from their birth mother to their country. It’s already a part of them and their identity.
  • Yes. More than likely the name will be hard to pronounce here, making it something our child might be continually asked to spell, pronounce, and say again. It would immediately identify him or her as completely different, even among other Korean children in America. In learning our language, it might be hard for them to spell or even to say. We also wonder if in giving them a name too, it would be a similar gesture of love as when we anticipate naming a biological child.

We go back and forth, but the compromise that comes up to both is this: perhaps if our child has a very difficult first name, we change it to their middle name. Ensuring that they keep it with them, they have that part of their history forever.

If it’s a more “westernized” name (and some are), or simply more pronounceable, we might keep it the same.

This debate isn’t because we don’t want our child to be Korean or only identify with America or even just to fit in. Because when you look back on it, everyone feels like they stand out in some way during childhood. I know I did for various reasons, down to just my last name (maiden) being hard for others to say.

We, like many parents of adopted or to be adopted children, want to provide the most normalcy we can with their journey to accept who they are and the families they come from.

So we’ll see what happens when we get a referral. In the meantime, I’d love to know this:

Would you change your adopted child’s name – for any reason?

Photo Credit: BabyNameFacts

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Diana blogs on raising a toddler daughter, the loss of her twin boys, and their families’ Korean adoption in progress on the aptly named Hormonal Imbalances.

Smaller glimpses into her day are on Twitter and Facebook. She pins away on Pinterest

MORE FROM DIANA:

Yes, Adoption Terrifies Me.

Adoption: It’s not a purchase

Adoption and Grief: Mourning a loss while planning for a future

Paper Pregnant: How adoption and pregnancy are similar

More on Babble

About Diana Stone

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Diana Stone

Diana Stone blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. Smaller glimpses into her day are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Read bio and latest posts → Read Diana's latest posts →

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24 thoughts on “Would You Change Your Adopted Child's Name?

  1. Kelly says:

    My fiancee’s parents changed his name when he was adopted. They used his given last name as his middle name.

  2. Deanna says:

    I think it depends, in part, on the age of the child you adopted. I knew a girl who was adopted from foster care at age 8. Her adoptive mother changed her name, but it never felt like her “real” name. Now that she’s in her 20s, she’s back to using her birth name (I’m unsure if she changed it back legally). I think when adopting an older child, you have to be much more careful about name changes.

    Overall though, I think yes, I would change an adopted child’s name. I do like your idea of keeping their current first name as a middle name however.

  3. Natalie says:

    Yes. I know people who adopted a boy from foster care who was named after his father (who was at that time in prison for child endangerment) and they renamed him a name that was similar in sound (same ending sound) and so easy for a 2yo to transition to.

    International adoption seems trickier. I think if the name was easily pronounceable I would want to keep it as a first name, and give a meaningful middle name, but if not I would move their first name to their middle name and give a new first name.

  4. Monika says:

    This is actually much like the conundrum some hopeful adoptive parents face when adopting an infant domestically. Do they keep the name the mother has given that child as most likely it has meaning for his or her mother? Or do they change it to whatever name they’ve always liked for their child? Granted it would most likely be an American name so there wouldn’t be issues of causing the child to feel really different as he or she grows. Some hopeful adoptive parents have even gone as far as to collaborate with their child’s mother before relinquishment to come up with a compromise on names. Obviously that won’t be possible when adopting internationally. Very thought provoking.

  5. t says:

    yea, korean names can be tough. my hubby is an adopted korean, but he had an american name at birth. but we wanted to give our kids korean(ish) names and couldnt find anything that worked for us.

  6. Amy says:

    It would largely depend upon the age of the child for me. If he/she is old enough to be used to a name, I’d be a lot more hesitant to change it. In that case, I think I’d rather add an Americanized middle name that he/she could choose to go by. If the adopted child is a baby, I’d have no qualms about shifting a difficult ethnic name to the middle and giving a new Americanized first name.

  7. Jenny says:

    My husband’s sister was adopted from Vietnam. Her birth name was Ai Loan, so his parents renamed her Eileen. I guess they tried to keep it similar but more American. Once she was out of college, she changed it back to Ai Loan.

    It’s a tough decision to make. I like the idea of keeping it as a middle name and giving them a new first name.

  8. Michelle says:

    My situation was a little different because my kids were older and able to participate in the decision making process. All three of them were adamant that they wanted to change their names (although I don’t think the youngest understood that well.)

    For the oldest, she changed everything. She was named after her birthmother and wanted her first, middle and last name to be different. She was 9 at the time so I let her make the decision. She is now 16 and she is very glad she changed her name. She says she has never regretted it.

    My son was the hardest. I didn’t like his first name. It wasn’t something strange or unusual, but it wasn’t something I would have picked. He was SURE he wanted to change his name, but I was afraid that he would regret it later. So I finally went with Jon as his first name, which is my husband’s middle name and they we did a hyphen and his old first name. And then we gave him my Dad’s name as his middle name. I already knew that his middle name had no family significance to his birth family, because I had asked his mom.

    So his name is now Jon-Old First Name New Middle Name New Last name. I originally thought he would go by the initials, J.D. which is his first and last name, but after he got adopted, he told that he didn’t really like his old first name anymore and he just wanted to be Jon. He told everyone at school to call him Jon, even though they had been calling him by his old first name. And you know what? Everyone did. And then we started calling him Jon at home all the time too. So now the only time he uses the name his birthmom gave him is on legal paperwork, but he has that option to use it later on if he wants.

    For my little girl, her birthname was Victoria. I always called her Tori from the second I met her because she didn’t look like a Victoria to me. When she got adopted, we changed her name to Torianna. So now she has part of the name her mom gave her and part of the name I gave her. Her mom told me that she didn’t know what middle name to give her so she just picked something, so I knew the middle name held no significance, so I renamed her JOY, because that is what she is!

    Sorry this is so long, but just wanted to share what we did. Of course, our situation is different because they were in foster care and they had some bad feelings associated with their birth names.

    Michelle from http://www.torigaga.com

  9. bethanne says:

    oh wow. I’d be torn on this for the exact same reasons.

    But I think I’d change the first name to a more American name for the reasons you stated. & as weird as it sounds (I know nothing about this), it might help with the bonding on my end if I was bestowing on my child a name I chose for him or her.

    Keeping the Korean name as a middle name sounds lovely.

  10. "Cookie" says:

    A friend of ours adopted their son from Russia. They kept his given name as his middle name and then gave him a new first name. I thought that was the best of both worlds.

  11. Heather Bush says:

    I have a different perspective given to me from a friend who is currently flying to Ethiopia to adopt her two newest little ones. They are renaming both of them, just as they did the daughter that they brought home two years ago. The reason that they do this is because with a “different” name, the child has to go through their entire life identifying themselves as adopted – to strangers and to friends. They feel like the transition into this country, going to school, growing up, etc. is hard enough – why make it that much harder for them? Not that they are ashamed of adopting or that the kid should be ashamed of having been adopted – but should they have to share that information with every person that crosses their path?

  12. Amy says:

    I adopted my daughter at age 9 and changed her name. I had her as a foster daughter since 7.5 so this was a discussion we had together. We changed the spelling of her first name to make it more “normal” (bio mom had given her a really odd spelling) and then she took my middle name as her middle name completing changing her birth name. She wanted to completely change her first name but I did not let her as it was still part of who she is.

    In this case I would probably consider changing a Korean first name and making it a middle name. That way the child retains some of their history but also becomes part of you.

  13. Lauren says:

    I was adopted when I was an infant and according to my country’s tradition had been named for my mother and grandmother. When my adoptive parents brought me to the United States they changed my first name but kept my middle name (grandmother’s name). Honestly, I feel like my name was ripped from me. I have a birth certificate and passport from my home country with my original name and I treasure them because I see it that they have my true name on them.

    That being said, every single child is different and unless you will be adopting an older child you won’t be able to know their wishes. My brother was adopted from another country and his personal feelings are that his bio mother abandoned him and therefore doesn’t want anything to connect him to her or his home country. I see things differently so I feel very connected to my original name and hope to incorporate it in to our future childrens’ names.

    It’s really a beautiful, wonderful thing you are doing by adopting a child. We hope to adopt one day because I feel it has been such a blessing for myself and my brother. Wishing you all the best moving forward through the adoption process!

  14. Carmen says:

    I’m not sure. We have friends that adopted two – a little girl 2 and a boy 4. The girl they changed her name, but then again, it was an international adoption that was held up and took over a year to go through. The boy’s name they left alone.

  15. Bailey says:

    I like the idea of moving to their middle name, it still keeps it a part of them, but you get to choose YOUR child’s name. I’m adopted, from the US, but I couldn’t imagine my biological mother naming me, she gave that right up. Granted I was adopted at 5 hours old.

  16. Katie says:

    when my SIL and BIL adopted their twins, the moved their Ethiopian names to their middle names and gave them new first names.

    For quite a while we had to call them by their full new names (they were 7 months when they finally came to their forever home) so they would associate the new first name with their known name. They didn’t have middle names before.

  17. Jessica says:

    If your adopting a baby under say 2 s/he probably wouldn’t be fazed by a name change. It’s your baby name her/him what you want. However an older child has probably gotten used to their name, so that would be a different story.

  18. Sheila Hutchings says:

    We adopted our daughter from Russia and she had a very generic name–they name the baby girls at the baby hospital either Anna or Maria. We kept it as the middle name and it works great. She was a baby so it was no problem.

  19. Wylene says:

    Although my son is not adopted, I had his name changed at age 12. He asked at the age of 8 if he could stop using his biological father’s last name. He said that since his biological father was not a dad to him that he wanted to have my maiden name as his last name, because, according to him, I was “both his mom and dad”. So do what feels right in your heart.

  20. susan says:

    Domestic open adoption for both my children, a son and daughter/. We honored both our children’s birth families by using their birth names as middle names. We discussed with both birth moms at first meeting. . . this is a good way for both kids to know that we all worked together. From an international standpoint, would use the birth name if you have info on it, in some manner because it honors their roots.

  21. Penelope says:

    It depends on the age of the child. We Remamed our 2-year-old with his given name as his middle name. We totally renamed our baby. Our 12-year-old foster girl wanted to keep her name & have a hyphenated last name. I tried to compare adoption with marriage in regard to last name. God changed names in the Bible so it’s not something new or only pertaining to adoption.

  22. Jennifer says:

    We adopted two little girls from the Democratic Republic of Congo in January. They are 4 and 7 years old. We already knew long before we chose to adopt from Congo that we would change our adopted children’s names – completely. We saw it as a powerful parenting act, to “claim” our children as our own and mark a complete rupture with a traumatic past. Their birth names were Lys (flower) and Bijou (jewel); we renamed them Angelina and Katharina, and both took my first name, Jennifer, as their middle name, and our family’s last name. We told them, through the orphanage director, that they would have new names and they were fine with that, as they had been expecting it. Both girls started answering to their new names on Gotcha Day (they were very excited about it!), and were able to pronounce it correctly about a week later.

  23. Dana says:

    We adopted a 7 1/2 year old boy from China back in 2010. We planned to change his name since Chinese names tend to be hard for Americans to say. We were told he would be disappointed if he didn’t get an American name. Turns out he liked his Chinese name and wanted to keep it so we ended up doing the exact opposite of what we planned.

    http://www.deathbygreatwall.com/2012/04/keeping-his-chinese-name.html

  24. Cindy says:

    We adopted 2 children from overseas. They were little. But we made the decision to give them a New first name but let them keep there birth name that was given. to them. We felt it was very important not to take everything away. I have not regretted it.

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