Why We Chose to Change Names When Adopting

Adoption Through Foster Care / Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Why we changed names when adopting siblings from foster care - thoughts for adoptive parents on name changing in adoption

One of the great topics in the world of adoption today is name changing. There are many factors that go into the decision of changing a child’s name when adopting. As adoptive parents of older children, we had a lot to consider. We prayerfully approached this decision, and I’m thankful for God leading us through. Two years later, I know we made the right choice, and the kids believe so, too.

Before you read our story, I highly recommend you read an awesome blog post about the pros and cons from another adoptive mom blogger. Check it out out here. We believe wholeheartedly that each family and each child is unique, and being fully informed is a great way to approach any important decision. We did our research. I read blog post after blog post and story after story of many other families who had and had not changed their children’s names. We read about partial changes and changes of children in all age ranges. You should do the research, too, before you decide.

We share our story in order to help others know what it was like for us – especially now after a couple of years to experience the full effects of our decision.

First things first…

Yes, we chose to change our children’s names – all three names: first, middle, and last.

Now, let me tell you how we came to this decision.

We celebrated the kids' new names when we adopted them from foster care. We celebrated the kids' new names when we adopted them from foster care.

God changed the names of many in the Bible.

God often chose to change the name of his children in order to signify an important life change. Abram and Saul are great examples. Was the name change in itself the reason for their greatness? Of course not. God did this as a memorial for them. A line drawn in the sand – forever. The old has gone, and the new has come. Forever. No going back.

God calls us by name, and what better way to be reminded every single day of that newness of life than to hear your “new” name called as your identity. Your forever name. There’s just a great feeling you get when you think about that amazing newness.

For our kids, we really felt they needed a new identity. A complete and total fresh start at life. As older children, they truly felt the impact of being that “foster kid” from that “children’s home.” The old has gone. Their past was not their identity. New names are a daily reminder of that new identity.

Names are significant to a family connection.

The first thing that happens in a new family is the wife accepts her husband’s last name. No longer will she be called by her last name given at birth. She takes his name, and together they build a new connection and identity as husband and wife. Their children also take this name and share in the family’s identity.

Most people are accepting of changing the last name of an adoptive child. We also had to consider the fact that first and middle names also have family connections. Josh shared a name with his birth father. This was a negative, daily reminder of his father not being the father he needed and desperately longed for.

We also have personal family names we wanted to share with our children, and they looked forward to receiving. Josh specifically wanted to share part of my father-in-law’s name. He has had a great impact on our family and an instant connection with Josh from the first moment he met him. We also have several in our family with the name Grace, and we felt this would not only be perfect for Emma, we wanted to share that family connection with her. We wanted them to feel connected and have tangible connection – knowing that they are part of our forever family.

Names are a gift from God and parents.

A name is the first gift a child receives from their parents at birth. Parents go crazy at times researching and deciding on the perfect name for their baby. We still had that same desire to bless our children with meaningful, anointed names even though they were not our biological children.

Many times in the Bible God would make clear the name a child was to be given, and the parents would obediently bestow those names. Names had an incredible amount of significance then, and I believe they do so now as well. Bottom line, we felt a strong desire to bless our children with names, prayerfully received by the Lord.

Names can have spiritual meaning.

Names are a gift from God, and we wanted both our children’s names to contain a promise they could hold on to forever. This would be a reminder of God’s love and faithfulness to them.

While we were getting to know Emma, it seemed to us her former name almost had a negative connotation – almost like a black cloud over her. I noticed that people who would meet her for the first time and hear her name would not always respond positively. We didn’t want that for her. We wanted the opposite, a strong name that would give her confidence.

We spent many days in prayer, and it was amazing how God led us to the exact scriptures which made clear to us what their new names should be.

Emma means whole and complete.

WOW! Exactly what she needed. Grace – as in the grace of God. God’s favor bestowed upon us out of the greatness of his love. After such a difficult past and so much loss – what an amazing promise and blessing from God. A new identity. You are Emma Grace – whole and complete, covered in God’s amazing grace. At our adoption ceremony we read scripture over her and gave this prophetic name to her in anticipation of God’s amazing work in her life.

Joshua – strong and courageous.

For Josh, he came to us a fearful boy. With so much pain built up inside, he didn’t know much else to do but to run and hide in almost every circumstance. Things a young man his age should certainly not be scared of, he was, painfully so. He was completely closed off, wrapped up in his rejection from peers and everyone he cared about. He feared every moment of the future – knowing in his mind that something else bad was about to happen and that someone else was about to reject him in some way. Prophetic straight from the Lord – Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and courageous.” His middle name, Aaron – the priestly leader in the Bible that held the arms of Moses to support him as he held the staff. God was saying this young man, as fearful as he is, I will turn him into a leader for my name, strong and courageous.

We bestowed this name upon Josh at our adoption ceremony with further scripture reading and the laying of hands in prayer. Josh needed this promise. It’s something he can hold onto each day.

And, the impact for Josh –

In being with us for only two years, he’s not that fearful little boy inside any more. He is growing stronger and even courageous day by day. This young man who barely spoke to anyone, including me (I was “hey” to him for a long while, but that’s another story), now speaks to almost everyone he meets. He introduces himself to every military personnel he meets and thanks them for their service to our country. He proudly gave several speeches last semester at school. He even has a real girlfriend this year! I know! A cute one at that! He asked her on a date to homecoming. It brings tears to my eyes to see how far he’s come. He needed that promise, that line drawn in the sand, the new beginning, and a daily reminder of God’s promise to him each time he sees or hears his name.

Both kids were excited about changing names when we adopted them from foster care.

Tips for Success in Considering An Adoption Name Change

  • Be sure to have conversations ahead of time. We told the kids ahead of time of our decision to change their names. We told them how names are a gift from God and from parents, and we couldn’t wait to hear what names God would reveal to us for them. We made it an exciting anticipation. Once we told them, they were pleasantly surprised at how much they really liked their new names.
  • Parents (with God’s help) decide. Names are blessings from parents, so no, we did not allow the kids to be involved in the decision making process of what their new name would be even though they were older. It was like a special gift that would be bestowed upon them to finalize their adoption into our family. We assured them we would prayerfully seek the Lord and were confident he would make their names ones they would love and feel good about. We did share with them about our family connections and knew God would interweave those as he saw fit.
  • Celebrate new names. We celebrated their new names before the adoption, announced to family and friends, and had two special celebrations – one brunch with just family and closest friends and another wedding like ceremony with everyone we knew. You can read about our brunch here. At both of these times, we shared their new names along with the scripture and messages the Lord had placed on our hearts for them. We had new Bibles imprinted with their names, cute signs for them to hold at the courthouse, and initials for them to hang up in their room. Family ordered customized and monogrammed gifts for them as well.
  • John who? Getting used to their new names was just like when I got married. It takes about two weeks of getting used to, and then it sticks forever. We made this time a little playful with the kids. Any time someone would say their old name, we would say, “who?” as if we had no idea who that person was. It made this possibly awkward time fun and really not awkward at all.

Name changing in adoption - why our family chose to change names when adopting from foster care


What do they say? Before and After Thoughts from the Kids

I recently asked the kids to share their thoughts on how they felt about changing her name when we adopted then.

This is what they said.

Our adopted daughter's thoughts on name changing in adoption from foster care

“When I learned about my new name, I felt a sense of belonging. I also thought about what my friends would think, and they were so excited for me and asked a lot of questions. I now know why my dad thought it was cool to be adopted. My friends call me by my new name, and I am proud of it. I like that I wasn’t named just for the name but for the meaning behind it. And – it’s a beautiful name! God has truly transformed my life. He’s given me a wonderful family and a calling to serve Him.” – Emma

Our adopted son's thoughts on name changing in adoption from foster care“I was skeptical at first about changing my name. When mom and dad explained to me about name changing in the Bible and how God changed those people’s lives and gave them new names, I was thinking that maybe that could happen to me, too. I was excited then to have a new name and about having a new identity. I was worried about what others at school would think, but they really thought it was super cool. I like my new name, and I think having a new name made me feel more confident in myself and more confident in being part of my new family.” – Josh


Any Regrets?

Absolutely not. I am so glad we were faithful to follow God’s direction in this. I was somewhat nervous at first because of all the controversy and differing opinions on this issue. We have had nothing but positive throughout the entire experience, and this peace truly confirms the decision. Name changing in adoption might not be right for every family, but for us, it certainly was.

One thought on “Why We Chose to Change Names When Adopting

  1. What a spectacular article! We changed our baby girl’s name for these same reasons. Since she was so little, she had no idea, or memories of the prior name. I love hearing this applied to older children. Although, she carries with her today, the hurt from that time before us, she also carries with her, the blessing, reassurance, and hope that her new family name (and family) brings her. ‘A girl of God’s grace.’ His grace is sufficient, sufficient to cover, sufficient to heal, sufficient to restore, sufficient to empower.

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