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Jan 21, 2008


I received a query from Cole about names. Specifically names for the foster/adopted kids. I tried to answer without all the details, but I couldn't do it. So it's a post. I'm going to try and give details without revealing too much information about their entire birth names...

Just to be confusing, I'll start with Jack, our oldest fost/adopt child.

Jack came to us at 18, almost 19 months. He had been named by his birth mother- but he did not respond to his birth name. Now that I think about it- I have already told his story- last year, here's a link, Jack. We arrived at Jack through trial and error. His birth name was Jonathon. We tried Johnny, John boy, Jonathon, John John, a combination of Jonathon and his middle name, even his last name. One time, we tried Jack, he turned, it stuck. Much later his birth mom told us that she had always called him Jonathon. Perhaps Jack was looking for a new start with a new name...??? He is Jack Patrick.

Mia. She has had the most names. Her birth mom had given her a very formal first name. When we brought her home from the hospital we shortened it to a nickname, of sorts, to try and find a name the other kids could work with. About a week into her stay with us, she had her first visit with her birth mom who told us Mia's middle name, and let us know that she was going to call her a nickname from that name. Following all that?
For the first year she was Jazzy. She was reunited with her birth mother at 11 months and remained in her care for the following 11 months. During that time, her birth mother and birth siblings called her Ne-Ne and Meena. When she returned to our care we were not aware of that and went right back to Jazzy. We eventually discovered that she was being called something different. We changed to Meena, but Leo couldn't remember it and would call her Mia instead. She was also cranky and loud- really loud and cranky and we thought Meena (Mean-a) just didn't seem like a good idea- so when it became obvious that Mia was going to be staying for the duration, we changed it formally, to Mia. We kept her middle name since that is and was a part of her- even the spelling remains the same. She is Mia Rose Jazmin.

Abe. Similar to Mia, his birth mom let us know that he was going to be referred to as a nickname from his middle name after we had been using his first name for the first week. We switched to that and he was Manny for the first 11 months. When he was reunited to his birth mom they called him Manny and Na-Na. When he returned into our care we went right back to Manny. When it became obvious that he was going to stay with us we started to call him Abe or Abraham. When he was an infant he looked like a little Abe and it had always stuck in the back of our heads. We kept his middle name since, like Mia, it was him. He is Abraham Manuel.

Julia. We had no idea what her name was when she first arrived from the hospital. The CPS case aide who brought her to our house had one of those tiny sticky notes with a name on it. We didn't know if it was a first or last name and were not sure how to pronounce it. The paperwork to be signed for her placement in our family did not come for a few days (technically, not correct procedure). And when it did come we discovered that the name on the sticky note was probably her first name, however, now we were presented with a different spelling and different pronunciation. Since we were unclear we thought we'd wait until she started to have visits with her birth family to find out. Visits never happened. One day I picked her up out of the crib and thought "she looks like a Julia" and it stuck. Käri has always loved this name. She is Julia Margaret.

Ruby. Ruby was named by her birth mom and we knew it from the moment we got her. It seemed to suit her. We added a middle name. As far as we know she was not given one by her birth mother. She is Ruby Claire.

Foster children should be called by their given names. Those are the rules... we don't always follow the rules. I know it's wrong. No need to tell me.


AmyChop said...

i always love hearing name stories. thanks!

blahblahblah said...


And thanks. So stupid of me and TOTALLY NOT THE SAME but we adopted a dog from my Aunt who's husband named her Tubby. She was a pug and it is cute enough but it didn't suit her as she is svelte and lean for a pug. We got her when she was two and I wanted to rename her Debby because it sounded enough like Tubby that she answered to it and our other animals, Emma and Floydd both had real names and she seemed left out. My husband would have none of it. So Tubby it was.

UNTIL, we were lucky enough to find her another adoptive home at 14 years (she was very sad with the arrival of the children and compulsively licked her paws...it sounded like a bad porno movie all the time,not that I know what that sounds like. ahem.) and her new Mommies renamed her Bunny. She is deaf now so it doesn't really matter.

Dog do not = children but it just reminded me of my husbands passionate claim that her name is her name and that is that.

your family is magical.

MommyNay said...

We started caling Mackezie and Emily by their new names within 9-11months of them being placed with us. We have started and stopped calling Cassie by her new name(Marissa) from day one.

I go back and fourth as to if I want to change Cassies name. Its interesting to read other ppl stories and see that while you change some you didnt change all. I worry that those who we do change will resent those who we didnt change and vice versa

Susan said...

We have rarely called our kids by the name they arrived with. Almost all of them have gotten a nickname within the first week they are here. The few times we've had older kids it really has helped them identify this as a safe place while somewhere else might not be. Our two year old (when he arrived) was called Michael. We called him Mikey. He would often say "Mikey is a good boy. Michael is bad boy." Our little Lily is struggling right now because she does not want to be called her birth name, she tells people often "I Lily!" It isn't far off of her birth name, but she prefers the nickname.

Boo said...

Thanks for that story. Our kids all knew their names and so we stuck with them. I have to say we like two of the names and really do not like the third. But he is 6 so it stays. They had some very very stupid nicknames that came with them - - we totally ignored them.

We are trying to navigate how much contact and what kind of contact to have with birth family. I would be interested in stories, opinions etc you might want to share about that.

MommyNay said...

boo, I wanted to share our experience with name changes and bio families. At first Emilys family reacted really strongly against. But with the help of Susan(who posted above) I stood firm and offered little in the way of conversation with them about it. I just said this is the way it is period and I stepped back and waited for them to come to me. Eventually they did. Em's bio mom now calls her by her new name in emails and letters and packages to Em alike. She will often say her full name Emily XXXXXX (her middle name was her first name at birth) but I have absolutly no problem with that, I mean it IS her name aswell afterall!
With Mackenzie we changed her name for safety reasons and call her by her birth name in front of any bios--and use a nickname when calling her etc infront of them(such as: hey baby cakes come look at this)
With our newest her situation is very complicated and its the sheer volume of people in her life(she is VERY well known at our childrens hospital and has spent most of her life there) that is making the idea of changing her name hard for me. SHE is very receptive to it, but I struggle with how to deal with itwith all of her "extended family"

Tricia said...

I've been told that in many cultures (American Indian, being one)children receive different names for different rites of passage.

It's not that you forget or dismiss the original or birth name, you make an addition. There is also that part where naming something makes it "belong" to you.

And then there is the birth parent point of view, I assume...they name their child with every intention of raising said child, only to "lose" the child to another family and have it be re-named. I could see where they would be hurt and offended. Or a parent who relinquishes a child by choice, having named it, and giving it to an adoptive family to have it be re-named... I can see the offense their too.

We've tried in all cases to be sensitive to these issues. Have gently told birth families of the changes and why. We have some minimal contact with some birth relatives. Mia's birth great aunt still calls her Jazzy from time to time- fine.

Gus's real name? William- he's our birth son. Go figure... :)

Steph said...

We changed the boy's name as his given was a bit of a mouthfull at first. Now that he's going to MGM, I have to make it a point that everyone call him by his given name so he doesn't get too confused. But really, I call him midget or baby baby.
Then there's the issue with the name we temporarily gave him as it is one of the few boy's names we both liked. Do we use it in the future or is it now forever linked to THIS baby?
Guess time will tell.
Glad to see we're not the only ones bending the rules a bit!
As a CM, I heard some truly aweful names and felt sorry for the adoptive parents if the kids were older and attached to the names already.

Tricia said...

I'd say the top names I encountered with children from the system were Crystal, Angel, Christopher and Joshua- can't use those names... And a little girl that was named... Oh, I can't remember something atrocious, that was a cultural response to her birth- a purposeful awful name to keep the bad spirits away from the little one. Like stupid or...undesirable...or something I called a social worker I know. Her name was Revenge- It was changed And when birth mom got pregnant again she was going to name the next one Lollipop...hmmmm.

blahblahblah said...

My friend worked in the Marshall Islands on a hospital boat called, I think the Tulamoor?

ANYWAY, he knew several Cinderellas, one set of twins Gonna and Rhea. A Pepsi. An Absorbine Jr. and a Cola.


Names are funny and I wonder why we spend so much time picking them for our kids when usually,most of us, do not really like our names?


FosterMommy said...

We gave all our foster kids nicknames based on their names. Partly because their given names were usually a mouthful, and partly for their privacy. Because it's not a big city 'round these parts and if you're saying the kid's name in public, someone might recognize it.

With Niblet, we started calling her by a nickname of the name we were going to give her, and also called her by the nickname of her birth name. She was called that at daycare and basically answered to both. When it became clear she was going home, we dropped "our" name and she never really noticed. Her aunt and uncle call her by the nickname, too, because her given name is pretty long.

JUST A MOM said...


I love your childrens names we formalized and corecced the spelling or our 3's first names and gave them middle names. Had ouir last daughter not had visits we would have renamed her first name also BUT she did AND her name so fits her today. God knows better I guess.