I’m Changing My Name Back to My Birth Name

    Changing an adopted child’s name has been a hot topic lately amongst adoptive parents. I have been contacted by adoptive mothers seeking advice on the effects of changing their adopted child’s name. Adoptive parents have shared that they wanted to change their child’s name to give them a fresh start,  for religious reasons, culture, or because they want to be the one to name their child.

    How does the changing an adoptee’s birth name affect an adoptee? Does it really matter?
    Meet Charish, an adoptee in reunion with a closed adoption as she opens up about what her birth name means to her and her journey to restoring her birth name that is symbolic of her life.
    Hi Charish, I want first to thank you for being transparent with us about a topic that is paramount to adoptees. It is imperative that adoptive parents understand what it means to keep a piece of a child’s birth mother with them after being adopted. I am sure you can agree.
    IAA: How long have you been in reunion with your birth family?
    Charish: It will be a year November 25th
    IAA: How is your relationship with your birth family? 
    Charish: My birth mom ( I dislike that term) passed away in 2009. However, I would like to think I am relatively close to my siblings. It’s a struggle, but we try.
    IAA: My apologies. I only use the term to differentiate adoptive parents from first parents. 
    IAA: For the record, what is your adopted name?
    Charish: Charish Amber Thomas
    IAA: What is your birth name?
    Charish: Francis Rose Mcdonald
    IAA: how would you like me and others to refer to you?
    Charish: Charish would be okay.

    IAA: What name are you petitioning the courts to grant you

    Charish: Charis Francis Rose Thomas

    IAA: I hope the judge grants your request and understands the power in an adoptee’s birth name. You deserve to have your birth name and a part of first mom with you. I will pray on that for you.

    IAA: How did you find out that your name was changed? 
    Charish: Snooping through my adopted mother’s papers. I found my court ordered the name change. I was looking because I was going to run away and find my “real” family. After I turned 18, a search angel cross-referenced my name with the Ohio birth index to confirm it.
    IAA: How did it make you feel that your adoptive parents changed your name? As a family have you discussed changing your name?
    Charish: Well my adopted dad is very understanding. He is happy as long as I am. We have an excellent relationship. My adopted mom feels betrayed as far as the reunion; she is jealous of a woman who is no longer here. So we decided not to tell her.
    IAA: Why do you want to change your name? 
    Charish: I found out the name meant something to my birth mom so it makes me think just maybe she cared about me. It was a family name, and perhaps she named me as a way to find her.
    IAA: Reading that warms my heart because I am willing to believe that your natural mom did care about you. And you are right; she probably knew you both would meet some day.
    IAA: How long have you thought about changing your name?
    Charish: I started writing my name as Francis when I found out my birth name, and for a few years refused to answer to anything else. So it has been about 18 years.
    IAA: How do you think your life is going to change by changing your name back to your birth name?
    Charish: I don’t think my life will change, but I feel like this is who I truly am. Since she is no longer here, I feel like this is the one thing she gave me and I need this to heal.
    IAA: how do you feel about adoptive parents changing their adopted child’s name?

    Charish: If a birth parent took time to name their child prior to placing them for adoption, they should keep it or add to it. I understand changing a last name, but completely removing a child’s first and middle name is like saying it wasn’t good enough. It is like completely taking the last thing they have left. I went six months with this name; it was MY name.

    IAA: I completely agree with you. I believe once their natural family has named a child that it should never be changed with the exception of the last name, and that is it! Names have power, and it is a part of a child’s roots. Thankfully, although my name was changed, it was modified for the better. My adoptive mom changed my middle name and gave me my natural mom’s name when my adoption was finalized at eight years old. I felt as if I always had a part of my mom with me. They also changed my last name to theirs when they changed my middle name. 

    IAA: You recently went to the courthouse to petition your name change. Tell us a bit about the process to get your name changed? Was it easy?

    Charish: It was, for the most part, easy, just a few pages of paperwork. I didn’t have to speak to anyone. I went to the courthouse inside the Probate Court office, and told them I wanted to do an adult name change. I filled out some forms that just said current name and new name. There is a paragraph portion that you have to submit explaining why you want a name change. I wrote, “I am adopted. My name at birth was Francis Rose. I have found my birth family, and my birth mom has passed away. I want to restore my name because it is the only thing she gave me so I wish to be Charish Francis Rose”

    IAA: How did you feel knowing that your name might be restored to your birth name? 

    Charish: It’s a great feeling. Being adopted, I felt like I didn’t know who I was. This is a combination of my true identity. I can’t just forget and dismiss my adopted side who raised me.
    IAA: How did it make you feel that your name change that you deserve was at the discretion of a judge that knows nothing about you or your family?

    Charish: It makes me feel nervous because he is someone who doesn’t know me, and I am having a hard enough time explaining to friends and family why I want this and they dont seem to understand it. I am hoping he is a judge who will understand and grant my name change.

    IAA: How and when will you find out if your name change was granted?
    Charish: I go to court in November, two months away. I have to go before a judge in a room full of people, get sworn in under oath, and explain why I want my name change. Then when I am done he will decide then and there.

    IAA: What advice would you give other adoptees in hopes of restoring their birth name?

    Charish: Look into the laws of your state; every state is different. Don’t forget that even if your adoption was bad, it made you who you are, and a
    name change won’t change those feelings. This is one of the hardest things I have done. Finding my birth family was hard because my support system
    shut down somewhere between finding them and restoring a relationship that should have been there in first place. So it’s hard going thru the motions of filing paperwork and court when everyone is like “whats the point of this?”  To me this is who I am. I am a combination of both my families whether I like it or not. My name is all I have of my birth mother that shows me she cared. Even though I never met her, I love her. I have never changed.
    IAA: I want to thank you for your time and doing this interview with me, Charish. I know that you have been a great help to adoptees and adoptive parents thinking about changing names or restoring names. I wish you the very best, and I praying that everything works out to your desires on your journey. Keep the faith and keep being a light in the world. Lots of love to you xx
    Charish Francis Rose Thomas, is an adoptee in reunion, mother of 5, and lives in Columbus Ohio. Charish plans on being at the Ohio Department of Health on March 20 2015 when they open adoption files allowing adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates. Charish has also started a Facebook group called, Black Adoptees to help build a community for Black adoptees.

     

     

     

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    Jessenia Arias
    Jessenia Arias
    I'm Jessenia. I am an adult adoptee with 10 years of experience advocating and fostering relationships with adoptees, and over five years of experience teaching adoptive parents how to have a successful and genuine relationship with their adopted child.

    29 Comments

    1. Anonymous says:

      My parents knew I had been given a name when I was born, but they didn't know what it was – they asked to not be told. Although I like my adopted name, I feel torn about it. My birth mother gave me my name for two reasons – she simply liked my first name and my middle name was given to me after my grandmother. There is nothing "family" about my adopted name – it was simply because my parents liked it and thought it was pretty. I haven't really thought about legally changing it, but I wear a bracelet with my birth initials stamped into it. Maybe I'll have to give it more thought. Thanks for this post!

      • How did you come by the information (they asked to not be told)? I think it is often a guarded secret, or an unanswered question, who asks for a relationship in adoption to be closed, who did it violate?

      • Anonymous says:

        I don't think that the adoptive parent is trying to take something away from the child by changing the name, maybe they love you so much, they weren't able to get you right away but want you to be theres as much as possible,

      • I think that is awesome idea that you are wearing a bracelet that represents your identity. I find it interesting reading the responses that many adoptees middle names were of someone of importance. Thank you for sharing your thought with us all. Peace, love, and prayers. xoxo

      • Anonymous: Let me begin by saying this: adoption is solely about the child. It is not about ownership and being more of the adoptive parents. I say that because as I read your comment that is what stood out when you said, "… they weren't able to get you right away but want you to be theres as much as possible,". How much more can a child (adoptee) be yours after adoption? The papers are signed already. It is official. The least a child should have is their identity; that includes their birth name. Regardless whether the adoptive parent isn't "trying" to take away from the adoptee, they are.

      • Lori says:

        Jessenia Arias, adoption is not solely about the child. That is a fallacy. If it was, adopted persons would come out of a machine on demand. The name, in the case of some children, is already set. My daughter has her biological name. The one on her OBC – except the last name. If her adoption is totally about her, then I matter not at all. Just a thought.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lori, as an adult you had choice about adoption. Your daughter didn't. It was don't to her with no semblance of consent. You don't matter at all.

      • Just call me Oscar(ette) says:

        Hello Anonymous june 9, 2015. That attitude is exactly how a lot of adoptees are made into adoptees. By dismissing the importance and worth of the natural mother and saying 'you don't matter', 'what you want doesn't matter' to/about the mothers. Yes? That is truly how many adoptees came to be…because Mother didn't ''matter''. Get it?

      • Lori says:

        Thank you, Oscarette!

        Anonymous, just a heads up – my daughter made her choices as an adult. She has no relationship with the adoptive parents and she asked me to "adopt" her to give her back her heritage, which is legal, then decided that, since I am a teacher without a lot to leave her, that she wanted to remain the adopted child of the people she calls names. So whatever… I no longer care one way or the other. It's nice to know that you came out of a box.

    2. my birth name was changed as well as my middle name upon adoption. I did not like my adopted name very much it was extremely old fashioned. I got picked on quite a bit for it so I didn't really enjoy it that much. Pond turning 18 and looking through paperwork I realized that my name was changed upon birth and I was never told. I love to my birth name and I felt like it was me. Even though I only had it for a short time. I decided to change it back about a year later after really thinking about it. my adoptive parents were not supportive at all. we do not see eye to eye on hardly anything so this was going to be no exception but I chose to do what I felt was right and follow my own truth. I feel everyone has a choice and they need to use their own voice it's their life follow your heart and be happy always 🙂 danielle Christine… previously named Ronda mary…..

      • This is awesome! I am so happy to see how many adoptees have taken a stand on their identity and reclaimed their name. I always tell myself that I have to take care of myself first. That means our happiness. I am sorry to hear that your adoptive parents did understand you all the time, but I am proud of you for taking care of yourself and doing YOU! Go girl!

      • Anonymous says:

        I reclaimed my birth name. It was a shock to me when at 22 I found I had been given a name by my birth mother. I really liked the name she gave me. I was happy she had taken the time to give me a name. It was really special to me that she had done that.

        When I was a kid, I wanted to change my name as I didn't like my adopted name at all. Maybe on some level I knew it wasn't my name.

        Later, through counselling, when I was about 36 years old, I decided to change my adopted name to my birth name and have been very happy that I did this. I haven't looked back.

        I don't think the child should be given a new name at all. The adopted parents should accept our name as given and be very grateful to have received the baby in the first place and respect our bio mother's decision to name us, aas a mark of respect to her.

    3. I've had three separate and distinct birth certificates (all issued by The State of New York), but also went to court and reclaimed my identity over ten years ago in California. I did this for myself, certainly, but also did it to protest the archaic adoption laws that are still on the books in most of North America.

      • Good of you, Michael! I am proud of you that you can a stand to reclaim your identity and protest the archaic adoption laws! They def are archaic. It is time for CHANGE! This made me happy!

    4. Laura says:

      Thanks for this! I am thinking about adding my original name to my current name and this provides great perspective.

      • Laura: that would be awesome! I am in the process of writing a book and working on some projects. I am on the fence right now whether to use my birth name or not because it is adoption related and it is ME. Or maybe I will hyphenate it. Let me know if you go through with it! Best wishes to you girl!

    5. Anonymous says:

      It is disrespectful to your family who raised, loved and cared for you to change your name back to the name given to you by your biological parent. Your bio mom had to name you something for the birth certificate. Your "identity" is your family that raised you as their child, not to someone who wouldn't or couldn't.

      • Charish says:

        I am gonna say you didn't read the article if you did you would see that I combined the names. My identity ties from both families it goes along with heritage. Some adoptees are not named at birth it is not a requirement you should do research before you comment. That being said she could have named me lil bo peep but my mother chose to name me after women who meant something to her. When all is said and done this is not about either sets of parent it is about me so although I don't understand why some would see this as disrespect. I didn't expect to understand or agree if they did articles and blogs like this wouldn't exist.

      • Reading the article is irrelevant to 'anonymous.' The title alone is enough to throw him (her? it?) into a tizzy. 'Anonymous' wants adoptees to be grateful, silent, accept their new masters and completely ignore their heritage. You must 'respect' these decisions. After all, you were 'rescued', weren't you? Your duty is to obey your rescuers, etc etc blah blah blah…

    6. Lori says:

      I am going to say this, as a First Mother, one of the things we fear the most is an adopted person attempting to use our emotions to fit in or get something from us. My daughter has her original first and middle name… she tried to use me adopting her back as an emotional tool…. this can have the same emotionally devastating effect. Remember that before you start.

    7. Lori says:

      I am going to try again, but I would like to add something simple. l remember that if you are doing this, do it only for yourself. Never do something like that to manipulate a situation or to hurt another. I honestly think children are entitled to their roots. But First Mothers are entitled to respect as well. This is a very touchy subject for us.

    8. Anonymous says:

      I have no desire to meet or to know my biological parents.

      If I was given an original birth name, I have no idea if it would have been my biological mother’s last name or my biological father’s last name. Since I am a male, and last names have traditionally carried the responsibility of perpetuating the male’s family name, not knowing is at least something for me to consider.

      Since whatever first and middle names I may have been given are not associated with perpetuating a surname, they are somewhat less significant to me.

      Therefore, I have no desire to change my name back to whatever birth name I may have had.
      But I am not overly fond of any of my adoptive names, either.

      I have never used my adoptive first name, except for official purposes. All my life I have been called by a nickname. I’ve never really liked anything about my adoptive middle name except that it’s fairly unique.

      I don’t particularly like my adoptive last name either, but there is more to my apathy for it than not liking it.

      I am the only son (albeit adopted) of the only son to live past childhood and into adulthood. Since my adoptive father was murdered without having any offspring, or any more adoptive sons, I am the only person who can carry on this branch of my adoptive family’s name. Technically, I am also the patriarch of the family. But that is no great honor. My adoptive father’s family (not unlike my adoptive mother’s family) is composed of people who are not very good, and their behaviors are not at all family-like. Therefore, I have no desire to perpetuate my adoptive family name. In fact, I have a desire to actively end the name and to make sure that it does not survive.

      So I do desire to change my name.

      The only reason I haven’t changed my name is because my adoptive mother is still alive. Although she and my adoptive father divorced when I was seven, she decided to keep my adoptive father’s last name. Out of respect for her, I will not change my name while she is alive. But if I survive her, I do intend to change all of my names, and free myself of this ill-fitting label for good.

      But to what?

      It’s the last name that is giving me problems. If possible, I want it to reflect my genetic history. On my biological father’s side, my genes have primarily descended through the various peoples of Great Britain, originating from Scandinavia, probably Sweden. On my biological mother’s side, my genes have a significant amount of Native American/First Nations peoples (although you couldn’t tell it to look at me), descending through the same bloodlines as the existing far North American, First Nations peoples, and the existing Tarahumara Native Americans of northern Mexico; all with a bit of the Iberian peninsula, and other continents and ethnicities thrown in as well.

      I also want it to reflect my experience as an adopted person: denied the rights to my biological family name, and unwilling to perpetuate the name of my adoptive “family.” But I don’t want anything dramatic though – something that would only be apparent if one considered the meaning of the name and knew something about etymology – and preferably, completely unique.

      Regarding the general concept of an adopted person changing his or her name, especially a person whose biological parents weren’t married, I have always liked the discussion between Lawrence and Ali in the movie Lawrence of Arabia, as can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdF3bBkIRn0.

    9. I have made assumptions regarding adoptees that they would always want to know their roots. I am very fortunate that my arrogance ended up not interfering with my daughter finding me. How can you tell a person you cried for them so much but have never met. How can you tell them I could not find your mom in time to save you from the permanency of adoption. All my life I wanted to parent my own children, I can't believe adoption happened to my child. I feel so helpless, angry, sad these adopters crept into my daughters's life so impersonally, so secretively, without a care for mother or a child's family or roots. 27 years apart is what my daughters paid so they could have their joy, and we our tears. Adopters take so much from us all. Three years and counting in my reunion- tears all the time, joy when she is near or calls. Its so hard reunion, so many views, so little true encouragement that we are connected by more than blood, our hearts so in need of repair. I understand that can just feel not worth the trouble, but it may mean the people who care may never know, you may wake up one day too late. I am glad you feel ok, I am too filled with inner drama to feel completely at peace, I think it will be this way to my end.

    10. My Adopted name Tony Curtis Steen
      Birth Name Leon Anthony Wells
      Military Leonard Edward Wells (Yellow Footprints Tony L Wells

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