Larry, Curly, Moe? Names are exceedingly important. They are important to those that give them and more important to those that receive them. When I was a young girl, I didn’t mind mine; it was a typical 70s middle name that a vast majority of my classmates shared, nothing unique or historical about it. It was okay. In my parents’ defense I would have chosen Kimberly, or Blair, or Daisy; do we see a theme? In my older age, I appreciate my semi-common name and the lack of “unique” spelling.

For years, while we endured fertility treatment after treatment, I made lists of names. If you came across the notebook, you could stumble upon pages and pages of experimental naming of imaginary children. I could have named a tribe. Personally, I think it was something tangible that I could “control.” I had the choice. I would someday, name the baby laid in my arms.

For our oldest son, that was true. Before he was born, we met with his birth mom a few times. We discussed names for him, what she liked and disliked. His first name is the same as it was the moment we heard of him, and to be honest, for seven years before. After his birth, the birth mom gifted him with the name we had chosen for him, and we were blessed not to have to change it.  

By the time our second child came to us, he had been named for two years. It was a seemingly unique name that had gained momentous popularity to the point that there were two in his former foster home, so he never knew his given name. When he came home, and it turned into an adoption situation we knew without a doubt that we wanted to change it. We never used it. It didn’t seem to fit him or us at all. When we became serious about changing his name, we talked to his child psychologist seeking hints and tips. She suggested that we just talked to him about it. We did just that. Every single time we gave him a choice, he chose his new name. We moved forward feeling confident that this was the choice that was right for us.

When our daughter came home, she was also two. Well into three by the time adoption became an option, and unlike our son, she had a strong connection to her name. More specifically, to the nickname given by our boys because they had a hard time saying her given name. With this change we started the same process, choosing some in our style, more meaningful to us, but using the same nickname. She chose one. We asked her in several ways over several months, and feel we found the perfect fit for her, her rebirth into our family.

Essentially, I think it comes down to what is meaningful to your child, to your family, and to you. If your child loves his name but not it’s unique spelling, then ask him whom he wants to be. I know in some families their older adopted children keep it, including the surname. In our family that is the only name we required they take. You’ll have to find what you can and cannot live with. Changing a name can be a wonderful way to give your child control of part of the situation they’ve been placed in.


Karla King is a passionate open adoption advocate, adoptive mom, foster mom, wife, reader, avid creator of food, a stay-at-home mom, and Christian. She loves taking care of her family, supporting others on the adoption journey, and watching the world through her children’s eyes.