Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Naming Adopted Kids

I want to start an FAQ series to respond to a number of questions that I get asked in emails. Today, I'm going to talk about our boys' names.

Even though we adopted Ty from birth, we were still very sensitive to Rebekah and approached the subject of naming with deference. We started by asking Rebekah if she would like to name Tyrus (who we called "Baby Boy", at the time). Rebekah's heart for us through her pregnancy was evident in everything she did. Her response was consistently, "I have done this before...I want you and Ben to have all the firsts. I don't want you miss out on this." I know the honor we offered one another in those early days is the chord of unity that still runs thick to Tyrus, today. The love he has for both of his mothers is pure, genuine, and overflowing.

I could talk about the connection Ty feels to Rebekah all day, but I'll try to stay on topic here! Once we found out that Ty was a boy, we really wanted to use Ben's grandfather's name, Tyrus. We couldn't think of a better namesake. Because we wanted Rebekah to be a part of the decision, we came up with two more names that were a close second. I think they were Maximus and Cole. We gave all three names to Rebekah and asked for her feedback. When she said she loved, Tyrus, I cried with joy. Even though she had left the decision to us, we wanted it to be a collective choice. We used "Lee" as the middle name because it held significance on both sides of our families and funny enough, both Ben and I share the middle name, as well. Had Ty been a girl, I would have absolutely used Rebekah in her name.

One of the first questions LJ's foster mom asked us was whether or not we would change his name. She admitted that she would have. Prior to PRIDE training, Ben and I probably wouldn't have thought twice about changing a young foster child's name. As it turned out, I was the volunteer for the exercise that left me with lasting impressions. The trainer had different people in the class come up to the front of the room to represent the biggest pieces of me - my family, my friends, my church, my job, my education, this blog....maybe a few others. One by one she "took" pieces a way from me until I was only left standing with my name...and then she took that. After a dramatic pause, she asked me how I felt.

Most foster children have had everything dear to them taken. Unless we adopt a child with a name that binds him to his past in an unhealthy way (I know a family that adopted a child named Dark Dragon) or the child is old enough to request a name change, we will keep our children's given first names.

I use LJ on this blog, for LJ's protection. It is not his given name, but has become a nickname that we do call him. LJ's first name remains, but we did change his middle name to Jeremiah because we love the promise that comes with it. LJ's first name starts with an "L", so LJ has become a natural nickname that he enjoys, especially because we often call Ty, "T-Y" (saying each letter). We use LJ's given name and his nick name, interchangeably. When he's writing or spelling out his name with letters, he always uses LJ, but when he introduces himself, he always uses his given name. I beam with pride when I hear him tell people his full name and he ends with an emphatic "JEREMIAH PINCH--BACK!!" He sounds like a boy that knows exactly who he is. I love it.

If we are able to adopt LJ's sister (PRAYING!), we will also keep her given name and call her Mia for short, as it is a part of her longer name. I don't think I've given an update on her in awhile....we are getting closer. Her case is moving toward termination and her, current, foster family has expressed that they do not intend to adopt. If we had been asked to adopt her a few months ago, the answer would probably have been no, but we are feeling much more settled in our family, today. We pray for Baby Mia every day and trust God for his perfect plan, recognizing that it may not include us.

We are no where near expert status in the field of adoption. Every child is different and right answers vary. I will, however, continue to share our experiences and the ways God had led us on this path, in effort to encourage your heart.

Feel free to leave your questions in the comments and I will use them for upcoming FAQs!


  1. I totally agree with your thoughts on changing a child's name older than infancy.

    With Teddy and Star, we asked them if they wanted to keep their whole name, or if they would allow Papa and I to choose a new middle name for them. They both thought us choosing a name for them was exciting, luckily, and we have all had fun talking about the names we are considering for them.

    With Peanut, we call him Peanut IRL too, because if he goes to termination we do not want to keep his given name. Considering that he has been with us now for 10 months, I feel that "Peanut" would be easier to outgrow as a nickname than all of a sudden calling him a different name.

  2. Yea about baby girl! I am hoping for that to fall into place! I love watching God's plans unfold!

  3. I was just wondering about LJ's name the other day- thanks for writing this.

  4. Thank you for this post! One of the hardest dreams for me to let go of as we continue towards adopting from foster care is that I (likely) will not be the one to name my child. All those names we talked and planned and prayed and dreamed over with my first son may never be used. Like you, before our RAPT training I wouldn't have thought much of changing a young child's name but now... I feel pretty convicted in most situations it just wouldn't be the right thing to do.

    How exciting about baby Mia! Praying God's will be done and that he protects your family's heart in the process!

  5. Oh, I hope you're able to adopt Mia! :)

    We are about 6 weeks away from our little boy's due date, and we have chosen the name Colin. We did ask the birth mom what she felt about the name, and she said she loved it, and we were so relieved. We have an awesome relationship with her already. He will have two middle names. One will be after my grandpa, and the other will be after her grandpa. :)

  6. Oh, I so hope baby girl becomes part of your family....this would be exciting and I can't wait to check back for updates and pictures of your family of 5! How old is she now? This is exciting....may the Lord bless you and your family!

    1. Baby Mia is 9 months old. I think she would do well to have two very protective older brothers :)

  7. With my daughter, she was 4 months old when she came to me from Foster Care. I gave her a new first name, but kept her original name as her middle name. I definitely would not have changed her name at all if she'd been much older.

  8. Thanks for this. We just had our adoptive son placed with us permanently this past Saturday! The adoption won't be final until 6 months from now. He is almost 9 and he requested to change his name. Actually, the school started going by his middle name last year b/c of the evil connotations connected to his first name and things his birth mom called him. With his prompting, we picked Justin as his middle name (which means "justice" so it is completely fitting with his situation). His first name means "light". He too, goes by the nickname LJ. I love hearing your updates - and being reminded that there are many others traveling this path of adoption and foster adoption! Blessings to you!

  9. Great post.

    I love the name Jeremiah. We're naming our son Jeremiah in part because of the promises in that name!

  10. Love that you kept LJs name. Praying for baby Mia.

  11. My story is quite different than the normal foster adopt stories. But I do have a queston that may get answered here before it does in the other place I asked. My sons were placed for adoption at the ages of 1 and 2. It took 4 years for the oldest to finalize (and they did change his name) and 3 for the younger to finalize. Is it normal for the adoption to take that long through CPS. I "voluntarily" signed TPR, so I know they weren't waiting on that.

  12. Sorry, I forgot to tell you that I love your story. I think it is absolutely amazing what you have done. And good luck with Mia!

  13. I appreciate your thoughts on this issue. I'm so glad that Rebekah picked Tyrus. I love that name because it fits him so well.

  14. I've never adopted but I've always wondered if we adopted a child, even a child at age 2 who has had one name their entire little life, would we change it? We've adopted pets at ages 3 and 4 (they were given up by families who had named them already) and we felt compelled to not change their names, even though they're not names I would have picked out. It's their NAME. If I respect a pet enough I don't think I could change a child's name. I may give them a nickname or a new name, but I don't think I could actually take away their given name.

    One example I think of are the Sudanese children in our congregation. They have their Sudanese names, like my friend Benane. But Benane also has an American name she chose for herself which is Mary. She uses both names, but now that she is a woman she prefers her given Sudanese name and when people ask what she'd like to be called she says either is fine but she does prefer Benane.

    There is something about our roots that keeps us grounded. As children we fight our names, most likely out of rebellion, but as we get older we realize our name is our only constant (other than God, of course) and we hold onto it for dear life. I remember going through a phase of wanting everyone to call me by my middle name, rather than Joy. Now I am very proud of my name!

  15. Just a different perspective...We have three brothers that we are in the process of adopting and have chosen to change their names. Our story is a bit unique. They came to us as foster kids at ages 3days, 13 mos, and 3 years. We had them for almost a year before they went back to their moms house. And after 3 weeks as their mom again, she courageously admitted she could not handle them.

    You can check out my husbands blog for the longer version of why we changed their names www.coryjones.wordpress.com

    The oldest (who was 4 when we changed his name) was a little resistant at first, but it has been a great way to explain things to him. He knows his name won't "really" change until the judge says he"s adopted, but we use it now for "practice."

    It also helps when we are trying to explain the timeline of his life to him. When he is scared and unsettled we can explain, "All that happened when you were Jordan, but now you are going to be Judah and you dont have to be afraid." It gives him so much security to know that he his here forever. We have explained that whoever gives you your name is your boss. And Mommy and Daddy gave him his name, just like we named our three bio boys and just like we named his younger brothers too. A family forever.

    All in all, in only took one month for the boys to start calling each other by their new names exclusively. Thankfully we have a great,open relationship with their bio mom and she graciosuly uses their new names too. And their bio grandmother was so moved that we "loved them enough" that we wanted them to match our bio boys and have biblical names to fit our family.

    So, just another perspective. Changing names of adopted kids can be a beautiful thing, Each family has its own unique situation:)

  16. I was just reading through some of your posts and wanted to comment here. My brother and sister and I were all adopted as a sibling group when I was 3, my sister 4 and my brother 22 months. Our adoptive parents changed all of our names. I can tell you I felt a sense of loss. My name was Tammy and the Tammy and the Bachelor movies were popular back then. My sister used to sing me the song. My sister never liked the name she was given and eventually as an adult changed her name. There were so many things that I was expected to adapt to that I sometimes came away with the feeling that my adoptive parents had a hard time loving me unless I acted the way they wanted me to act and conformed to their way of thinking. That said, they didn't have the advantage of the counseling that adoptive parents do today and I think they were doing the best they could.

    By the way, my brother has no memory of life before our adoptive parents so he doesn't really relate to the feelings my sister and I have.