Ask AF: Navigating Disagreements with the Birth Family

Disagreements with birth family members — big or small — can be challenging for adoptive parents.

Q: We are adopting a five-year-old from foster care. Her name is spelled uniquely and is nearly always mispronounced. This frustrates her greatly. We are keeping the name, since it was given to her by her birth mother, but we are considering changing the spelling, to reflect the way it’s pronounced. When I mentioned this to her birth mother, though, she got very upset. Now we’re not sure what to do. How do we handle this, and disagreements or differing opinions down the line?


A: As parents, your job is to do what is best for your daughter, not what is best for her birth mother. Your daughter may live with the name for another 90 years, so, if she seems to like the new spelling, I would change it. Reassure her birth mother that it’s still the name she chose, but the spelling will be easier for your daughter, and remind her that you both want what is best for her. You can tell her she is welcome to use her original spelling on cards and letters to your daughter.

It is hard to keep relationships between adoptive parents and birth parents (or between any relatives) positive 100 percent of the time, but as long as you both act with respect and in your daughter’s best interest, it should work out. Whenever your daughter’s birth mother sends a card or makes a positive comment, be sure you respond enthusiastically and graciously. Having an open relationship will be, I hope, a positive experience for all.

Copyright © 1999-2024 Adoptive Families Magazine®. All rights reserved. For personal use only. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

More articles like this

Adoption Experts answer your questions.