Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Adult Adoptees -- Perspective on Name Changes

My husband and I often teased each other, during our years of infertility, that the reason we had been unable to have children was that we couldn’t decide on a name – “And God simply won’t send a child whose parents can’t come up with a name for him.” With all teasing aside, it was very difficult for us to decide what to do when we adopted our son – then 21 months old. He clearly knew his name. What were we to do?

The issue of naming a child that already has a name is sticky and personal. Many people offer advice and criticism, but in the end, it is the adoptive parents that have the most say in this issue. But what do adult adoptees say? While the feelings of adult adoptees tends to vary from – I love my new name to I hate my parents for changing my name, current thought among social workers on this issue is that the birth name (whether given by parents, social worker, or foster mother) should be kept in some form as part of the child’s new name.

Some people believe that age should be the deciding factor, yet I know adoptees that in spite of being adolescents wanted to change their names to erase the difficulties of their past. So, perhaps age may not be the only factor. In fact, I was reading on a friend’s blog that their 6 year old (just adopted a few months ago) has abandoned her birth name for a new one that she chose herself and asked to be called.

I recently asked adult adoptees to send me their thoughts and feelings on the issue.
Here are some of their responses, I have edited them to make them shorter, but not to change their intent. Some stated that they were happy with their new names, others were not. I am labeling them as Positive and Negative.

NEGATIVE

“I am a Colombian adoptee...from Medellín. I was adopted at 20 months in 1982. For almost 2 years of my life I only knew Spanish and went and answered by the name Dilia Disnei (Disney). When I was adopted to Americans, my name was automatically changed to Dalia Shifra, and on top of it I became Jewish to a religious family. I had to learn English and Hebrew together and forget Spanish; now I have real identity issues. For a while, my parents called me Dalia Shifra so I would respond, and then just Shifra. I prefer Dalia, but I'm not used to it. I always get harassed because I hesitate on the name Dalia, and I automatically think I'm lying about who I am. Dalia means something to me because its the closest to my name. To not complicate things I say my Spanish name is Dilia Disnei- so I haven't officiallylost it.

I worry because I wonder how my birthmother can find me if I am a completely different person. I feel like I'm a witness protection client. If or when I get married as much as I want to start a new life and my own family- I won't take my husbands name because I don't want my last name to be changed 3 times. I'm very against name changing even at birth because the mother, if she didn't abandon child and the child didn't have a name- gave her baby a name that had meaning and it was thought through- just like any other mother would do. I say respect the child’s identity. Thank you- Dalia Shifra Saltzman aka Dilia Disnei Atehortua- Medellin”

POSITIVE

“I was only a week old when my parents got me. At that point, La Casa had named me after my biological mother, Gladys. My parents did not keep that name for me as I was named, Dawn Marie instead. I guessbeing so very young it never bothered me. I did however, use Gladys as my confirmation name later on when I was 16 years old. I hope this helps.”

POSITIVE
“My birth name was given to my by my birthparents – Oscar Leonardo. I was adopted at 2. My parents didn’t feel right about having a child named after a “Grouch” or a “Ninja Turtle”. However, they also didn’t feel right about ripping away my Colombian Identity completely. They chose to name me after Simón Bolivar, the hero of Colombian Independence. As my middle name, they named me after my adoptive Grandfather. I find that their effort to help me feel a part of both cultures very reassuring.”

POSITIVE
“My parent’s shortened my name, which was fine with me considering along with my new last name, it would have been awful. Although I did run around as a kid telling people my name was what it originally was. I was so grateful that my parents kept some form of it. I was comfortable that I had my Hispanicname.”

I received a response from 12 adoptees, only one was negative. But, what I did notice was, with the exception of Dawn Marie, every other adoptee had had their parents make an effort to keep some aspect of their birth name or a name from their birth culture as part of their name. While this is in no means scientific research, I do find it interesting, and something well worth adoptive parent consideration.

I found an additional helpful discussion at adoption.com.

http://international.adoption.com/foreign/the-importance-of-names-for-adoptees.html

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Like Dawn Marie, I too, had my Colombian name completely changed by my adoptive parents. Even though I like my American name, I do wish my parents had kept my Colombian name as part of my full name. As a result, I gave my oldest daughter my Colombian name as her middle name. My second daughter received my American name. :o)

Colombian Mommy said...

Thank you for your comment!

Jeff and Jennie :-) said...

Finding your blog and reading this article was very timely as we are considering such things in preparation for our adoption of two Colombian siblings, ages 8 and 11. Thanks!

The Eisenbergers said...

Thank you for this post! It is really helpful! We adopted 3 last summer - one loves his name the way it is (Luis Angel), one goes by his middle name and doesn't like his first name (Carlos Samuel) and our third has no middle name (Daniel). We have been contemplating giving Daniel a middle name and allowing Samuel to drop Carlos so that his Samuel + a new middle name (we thought this would just make it easier on him in the long run). Your post has given us more to think about.

Thank you!

dalia shifra said...

Wow I can't believe I found this blog I forgot I sent in information about my adoption and identity issues. I definantly want to educate more in the adoption circle. I am an adoptee and a birthmom- my daughter sarah dalia is 11 in october. Her name was changed too at birth- dalia ophira to sarah nicole dalia. Anyways feel free to ask me more questions I know its been a few years. Dalia Shifra aka dilia disnei atehortua

Maria D. said...

I know I'm a little behind but I'd like to say that I was adopted at 18 months and my sister at 4 years old. My adoptive parents didn't change our names except our last names obviously, but kept our birth last names as a hyphenated name on our legal papers. I'm happy with my name. =)

Colombian Mommy said...

Thank you Maria for your personal experience.