Ask AF: Kinship Questions

In kinship adoptions — like this mom who is adopting her half-brother — new questions arise that may require personal reflection to answer.

Q: My husband and I recently adopted my two-year-old half-brother from the foster system. We don’t know what he should call us — Mom and Dad, or something else — and whether he should take our last name. Any suggestions?


A: The questions you pose are very personal, and you’ll need to decide what feels right to you. As an adoption professional, I’ve seen many children in kinship placements refer to “my mom and dad.” And as an adoptive parent, I believe that adoption is about a child joining new parents to make a new family.

Because you adopted your half-brother, rather than arranged for a guardianship, it sounds like you’re planning to raise him as a son and to be his mom and dad.

You should also consider the question from your son’s perspective. Children are curious, and your son’s peers who perceive his family as different will ask many questions. Your son will prefer to talk about his mom and dad, rather than explaining that you are really his half-sister and brother-in-law.

As to your son’s name, think about why you may have changed your name when you got married, if you chose to do so. For many people, it’s about joining with a partner and identifying the two of you as a family. Your son might not like having a different name from everyone else in the family — particularly if you have other children. Obviously, we are all different, and differences should be embraced. But adopted children will inevitably face questions as they grow, and I’d avoid creating more things to question.

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