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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