Q: We are adopting a four-month-old boy from the foster care system and plan to change his birth name. Should we disclose the change when he’s older?
A: For a very young child, a name change will not be a major interruption. Consider keeping his first name as a middle name — it is a validation that you know and fully accept him for who he is.
There’s no need to wait until he’s “older” to tell him; he can learn about his name change as he learns his adoption story. The fact that his name changed at four months can be just a natural part of his story.
Q: I’m adopting three children from foster care. The 16-year-old wants to keep his first name as a middle name; the middle child doesn’t want any name change; and the 10-year-old wants to change all of her name. I have encouraged them to keep their first names, but would like us to all have the same last name as a way of connecting us as a new family.
A: Encouraging older children to keep their first names is the right choice. Changing a name doesn’t erase the past — that healing comes in other forms.
Our son, adopted at 16, chose to take our last name as a ritual of passage for attaching to our family. He is 39 now, and I believe his choice, made so many years ago, solidified our lifelong connection to him through uncertain and difficult times.