On the back of this interview it now seems that the issue of middle class adopters not liking the names of adopted children has reared its ugly head yet again with an article in The Guardian written by Fraser McAlpine.
McAlpine questions whether adoptive parents should be able to change the name of the child they adopt or whether this is denying the child's heritage. At this point I'm struggling with the terminology I can politically correctly use. Am I allowed to say "their child" in relation to the adoptive parents or would that be considered inappropriate and detrimental to the adopted child? Would it ignore their dual heritage?
It's the phrase "dual heritage" that actually interests me the most here. Our children do have a dual heritage - not just one heritage i.e. the one they were born into. Our children are born within one family structure and grow up in another. They will carry with them the legacy of both throughout their lives. Surely the home that they are adopted into is as equally important as the home that they were born into? Both should be acknowledged and embraced. Somehow the child has to grow up being able to fit within that dual heritage and flourish. That's potentially a tall order when it is (apparently) predominantly middle-class families who adopt and those children are probably attending schools within a more affluent area than they might have otherwise attended (although some might say that having more opportunities is actually a good thing). Our children will have to run the gauntlet of all the middle class names and the parents rather like Katie Hopkins who may judge our child on the basis of their name. What are the implications on our child of those judgements? Are they more likely to be ostracised or bullied or will it have more to do with how the parents size me up in the playground? What are the long term implications on the child's life? Will that scar them as much as a change of name might? I honestly don't know because we haven't experienced any of these issues and my children don't have names that would raise that question. It's a question worth asking though before everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
This issue of names not a new topic. The press reported widely on the concern that some adopters would not pursue an adoption because the child's name did not fit within their socioeconomic background when David Cameron announced his reforms to the adoption process. The usual names touted for the benefit of reporting are names like Chardonnay, and Britney (apologies to anyone with those names - I'm just using them as an example). In fact there was an article in the Daily Mail written by Laura Clark regarding the fear that some teachers have of children with so called "chavvy" names and the link with poor behaviour. Would you want your child to be singled out as a potential trouble maker before they've even set foot within the door of their school when they are only 4 or 5?
As an adoptive parent I understand the need to honour the names my children have been given. We respect that their names were given to them by their birth parents and the importance related to that. We honour life story work. We do not seek to deny our children their birth heritage or background but it is a subject that needs to be approached carefully because of the nature of the content and the fact that our children are so very young. Interestingly both our children have names that are important within our family which brought a "meant to be" feel about both children. I will admit we have tweaked those names ever so slightly. They are still fundamentally the same first names but with a drop of a hyphen for one and the removal of an "ie" for the other. We have also given them a middle name. Katie and I have discussed this and I've said that her Birth Mother gave her her first name and we have given her her middle name so she has a gift from us both. I'm not sure from McAlpine's article whether he is just focusing on forenames or is also including middle names.
I'm intriqued as to the origin of all the research on the issue of the damage to our children by the change of a name. I'm a trained counsellor and would like to think that I'm sensitive to issues that might cause my children distress relating to their adoption. I'm also aware that, quite often, it's the people who are upset by something that shout the loudest. The people who feel unaffected by an issue are not generally the ones being quoted in the media. I would be interested to know how many adopted children, who have had their name changed by their adoptive parents, feel aggrieved by this or feel that their background is being dismissed as irrelevant or unimportant? Is this an issue that is derived from the 50s and 60s when the adoption regulations were so very different? When life story work was not considered and children often grew up not even knowing they were adopted? Is there enough data on the outcome of current adoption protocols for this issue to even be debated at this time? Certainly I would question the need to demonise adoptive parents for having feelings about names. I would also like everyone who has made a judgement or pigeon-holed someone because of their name to raise their hand. I think a little honesty might be required here.
I know lots of adopters. We regularly spend time with our network of adoptive families. All the children, without exception, have lovely, perfectly acceptable names. In fact we have often commented on the lovely names that our children have so I do wonder if this issue of names is being blown out of proportion. I've yet to meet an adopted child with any of the names used in any of the articles so I would say to any potential adopter that they shouldn't be put off by all the media coverage at the current time.
My hope for my children is that they can live in this world and flourish and ultimately be happy. I will help my children do that wherever I can. A name is something that sets a child up for life. Names can be inspiring. Names are something some people have to live up to. Naming another person is a big responsibility. Names are also reflective of a period of time within which you were born. The current generation of baby naming parents are experimenting more with names and, in a quest for individuality or trying to be like a celebrity, I'm not sure they are necessarily thinking through the fact that their child has to live their entire life with that name (unless the young person decides to use Deed Poll to change their name once they are older).
Writing as an adopter I don't think we, not only as adopters but also as a society, can deny either of our children's heritages. We need to acknowledge them both and stop making adopters feel like they cannot embrace their child and make them part of their family. I'm getting quite fed up with the media picking on adopters. I don't think they realise just how much we have to take on board as adopters.
I will end by asking the following question though....
Is there anything wrong with both of the child's heritages being reflected within their name?
This post is being linked up with #WASO at The Adoption Social
This post is being linked up with #WASO at The Adoption Social
as part of a collective response