Adoption; Choosing a Name: Hints and Tips for Naming Your Child

adoption is a blessingAll expecting parents want to create the perfect name for their new baby. Parents spend days – even months listing out old family names, sorting through baby name books and writing down names that they hear in passing that they like. Families will debate the spelling, nicknames, and middle names that could potentially choose for their new child. A name is typically the first gift a child receives and adoptive parents often want to be a part of that important decision.

Adoptive parents may face a range of circumstances that are different than naming a biological child which may make deciding on a name a bit more challenging. Families may be adopting an older child which means that a child comes into your family’s life he or she will be bringing with their own culture, identity, and, name.

There are no strict guidelines to naming your child, but many questions arise from prospective adoptive parents on this issue. Adoptive parents often wonder if they should keep the original name given to the child by the birth parents, switch it to the baby’s middle name, or create their own unique name all together. Whatever your family chooses, these tips may help you to make a decision and pick a name that works best for your child and family.

4 suggestions for choosing the perfect name for your adopted child:

Consider these suggestions before choosing the perfect baby name:
• Provide your child with a name that will have a positive meaning to it
• Pick a name that you think will he/she would feel comfortable with
• If the birthparents suggests a name consider incorporating it as a middle name
• Incorporate a name that blends with the ethnicity of the child
• Pass along a name that has been in your family ex: Jr, IV, or Sr.

Blogger Kim Grundy answers many different tricky questions that many adoptive parents may have trying to pick the perfect name for their child. She collected many different insights from adoption professionals and adoptive parents regarding this topic. For great information on this topic visit her blog and read her blog post “Adoption baby name tips: Birth name dilemmas and more”.

Different Options to Consider:

Family Traditions:
Family names are a great way to pass along a tradition to your new child. Many parents will often follow a family name tradition such as Sr, III or Jr. At time families could a have a name that has been in the family for years. By giving your new baby this name as a first or middle name will give the baby a direct link and form an even tighter bond to your family, and your family’s history. Incorporating a family name is a really great way to form a bond between your adopted children and give them a connection to your family forever.

Keeping the original birth name:

Some families choose to keep the name given to the child by the birthparents to preserve a connection to the child’s past. While there are many ways to preserve a link to your child’s past, some families find it important to keep the name given to them by the birthparents. Keeping the birth name of the child is also important when adopting a baby that is 2 years and over. At this stage the child typically recognizes their name. It could be a big transition for the child and adjusting to a new lifestyle and name could complicate the transition process, and at times cause identity issues for the child in the future. There are families who do decide to change the name of children over 2 who were adopted. It is just important to do some research on how that name change might affect the child and make the best decision that you think is right for your family.
Combining Names:

Often times in newborn adoptions the birth parents and adoptive parents are able to come to an agreement about how the name will be chosen. Sometimes the birth mother picks the first or middle name and the adoptive parents combine it with a name that they chose. In many cases open adoption allows the both birthparents and adoptive parents to weigh in on the naming of the child. This would allow the child’s name to reflect both parents. In other situations, birthparents might decide not to name the child and pass that decision on to the adoptive parents.
International Adoption & Cultural Considerations:

When adopting a baby internationally or from a culture that differs from your own you should consider a few things during naming process. An infant coming from a different country will probably already have a name, or maybe your family wants to incorporate a name from the child’s culture into their name. In some cases the infants name could be difficult for American’s to pounce. An option is to use the baby’s middle name as a reflection their culture and heritage. You can research different names of that culture and incorporate one into the middle name that fits with the child’s first and last. Another option is to find the American name that is similar to the baby’s nationality. For example, in an article one adoptive family adjusted the Russian name Andrei, to Andrew.

Legal Considerations

Though there aren’t any strict laws regarding choosing the perfect name for your child, there are a few legal considerations to think about regarding both domestic and international adoption.

The following is a great excerpt from where they gathered information from two lawyers, Denise Seidelman and Peter Wiernicki who weighed in on this topic.


Denise Seidelman, an adoption attorney in Westchester, New York, sees two common situations in domestic adoptions:

  1. A birthmother names the child, and that name appears on the birth certificate. In some cases, the birthmother and adoptive parents-to-be agree on the child’s name by the time of birth.
  2. A birthmother does not name the child, in which case the birth certificate says “Baby Girl” or “Baby Boy.” The adoption petition refers to the child as such.

The judge’s adoption decree will include a change to the name chosen by the adoptive parents (“and the child shall henceforth be known as…”) Until finalization, domestic adopters can’t get passports or Social Security numbers in their child’s name. After finalization, the original birth certificate is amended to reflect the child’s new legal name.


Peter Wiernicki, an adoption attorney in Washington, D.C., says that foreign adoption decrees usually include a legal name change. Two issues that may arise:

  1. The child’s English name may be misspelled on the adoption decree and/or the alien registration card. Adopting parents should check the spelling of their child’s name on all documents.
  2. In Latin-American countries, courts may identify the child with the adoptive mother’s, rather than the adoptive father’s, last name, in keeping with local custom.

In a case of incorrect or inconsistent spelling or incorrect last name, parents can petition the court in their state for a name change and may correct the child’s name as part of a U.S. re-adoption proceeding.

There are no strict guidelines when choosing the perfect name for your baby. Every family approaches this topic differently and has different ideas for what they would like their child to be named. There are ways to incorporate a name suggested by birthparents, ways to Americanize foreign names, or passing along a family name that your family has had for generations.

1 thought on “Adoption; Choosing a Name: Hints and Tips for Naming Your Child”

  1. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get pregnant, so we’re looking into adoption. I’ve considered this option heavily, and I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve stumbled upon your article. I think you’ve mentioned something important: keeping the child connect to the past. I think it’s incredibly important that we have a connection with our families—no matter who they are. When I adopted, I’m going to let them keep their original name.

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