Our relationship with our parents goes to the core of our identity. Using the terms 'mom' and 'dad' (or their equivalent) for any and every temporary caretaker of our children severely undermines the truth of permanent parental commitment. It is confusing and misleading for all of us, especially the kids, and should be forbidden for any age child.
The sense of belonging and comfort that some believe the use of 'mom' and 'dad' gives to the children, especially the youngest ones, is too often a false sense of security. If an adoption does not follow within the foster placement, and most often it does not follow, it reinforces the child's experience of still more betrayal by adults.
The use of first names, especially for pre-adoptive parents, protects everyone. For those foster parents not comfortable with that option, the use of 'aunt' and 'uncle' easily conveys the truth of their caring relationships that have not converted, and often will not be converting, to legal parenting.
Switching from first names or aunt and uncle to 'mom' and 'dad' at the time of the adoption sharply delineates the change from temporary to permanent parenting. This clarity protects everyone and hurts no one.
The commitment of the legal finalization of an adoption is the only equivalent to the familial safeguards that a birth child has automatically. Anything less than finalization is always less. Psychological commitments do not cut it, e.g., with HIPPA. Nor with the unconscious mind.
Unequal commitments to the same safeguards for each of our children are experienced as unequal, and unfair, by each of our children.
People need parents.
That is true at five; it's true at fifteen. But it's also true at twenty-five and thirty-five. Whether one is finalizing the adoption of an adult who has long been part of the family, or even adopting an adult who was only brought into the family as an adult, it still remains true.
When adoption finalization is mistakenly believed to be only important for minors, the truths of the life-long significance and the legal protections of the parent-child relationship are lost.
There is no such thing as 'too old to be adopted.' However, the reality is that there are no programs (that we know of) that help those who are already adults to find parents. For those people, we suggest that perhaps they could look to people with whom they once had a child-adult relationship. A coach, a teacher, a neighbor - someone from their past who might be willing to renew the relationship and possibly make it both permanent and legal. [CLICK HERE to read our Adult Adoption stories]
First names are about our personal identity; last names are about family identity. Therefore, first names should not be changed, but on rare occasions they can be altered, and then only for a good kid-reason. First names should never be altered for adopting family-reason. Misspelled first names can be corrected; odd names can be altered: Ephriam can become Ephraim; Rosebud can become Rose.
Last names are generally our family names and should be changed upon adoption. Kids might choose to keep their original last names as middle names out of respect to their history. Hyphenation is a risky idea, as it generally represents an inappropriate holding on.
Middle names are negotiable between child and family. [CLICK HERE to read our policy regarding name changes.]