My husband Greg and I were blessed to meet and get to know Christy Ikeler, the interviewee in the article below, during the adoption of our son Nathanael almost 15 years ago. Although a lot has changed in adoption in the last 15 years, the significance of naming a child once he or she is born remains an important topic of discussion. In the interview below, Christy speaks on this important issue.
Last week, we featured an article that discussed the significance of a name for an adopted child. To further explore this topic, I invited Christy Ikeler, Executive Director and Birth Parent Case Worker for Adoption Choices of Colorado, to share her insights on the actual process behind naming an adopted child at the time of birth.
Christy has been a dedicated staff member with Adoption Choices of Colorado since the doors opened in 2002. She has a true passion for what she does, and strong commitment to helping each and every birth parent, as well as adoptive family member, she encounters to the best of her ability. Her joy and compassion for the people she works with is apparent in every conversation I have with her over the phone and by email. Adoption has a very special place in her heart, as she is an adoptive mother herself.
It truly was an honor and privilege to be able to speak to Christy on this subject.
RR: Who names an adopted newborn?
CI: The birth parents, and more often the birth mother, name the child at the time of birth. This does not mean that this is the name that the child will have from the adoptive parents. Often times, birth mothers have a special name that they have picked out or a family name that they want to give the baby to ensure their biological history/legacy.
It can be very beneficial if the birth mother and adoptive parents have the opportunity to meet and discuss the name of the child prior to the birth. Many birth mothers feel very honored and respected if the adoptive family keeps a middle name or if they decide on a name together. Ultimately, it is the birth mother’s decision for the name of the child on the Original Birth Certificate, but the adoptive parents are able to name the child any name they choose, which will be reflected on the Amended Birth Certificate.
RR: What is the naming process like?
CI: At the hospital, the birth mother fills out the vital records request for the birth certificate. She completes the form with the name that she has chosen for the child. At the time of finalization of the adoption — typically six months after placement — the adoptive parents will receive an Amended Birth Certificate with the name that they have chosen for the child and their names will be listed as the parents of the child.
Once the state-required post-placement supervision period, the adoption is finalized in court and the adoptive parents gain legal custody of the child. The name of the child is legally changed through the adoption finalization.
RR: Does it matter what type of adoption it is?
CI: No, it doesn’t. Whether the adoption is open or closed, the birth mother is required to fill out the “Original Birth Certificate” one-hundred percent of the time. If, for whatever reason, the birth mother doesn’t want to name her child, she can put “baby boy” or “baby girl” or even “unknown” down for the original certificate.
While 50% of birth mothers want to name their child, 25% will ask what the adoptive parent would like to name the baby and the remaining 25% of birth mothers don’t want to participate at all. At Adoption Choices of Colorado, we support the birth mother in whichever way she chooses.
RR: Are there ever any disagreements or issues among birth and adoptive parents?
CI: There is a potential for naming the child to cause a disagreement or misunderstanding. We counsel birth mothers that they are able to choose the name for the child, and that the adoptive parents can also choose the name for the child. Name changes can create tension between the birth mother and adoptive parents, but often times explaining the process eliminates any issues that come up.
Many adoptions are so open now-a-days, which is very different from the years past. With open adoption, both birth mothers and adoptive parents are able to coordinate and have an open discussion during the naming process.
In the training with adoptive parents, we encourage the adoptive parents to carry on the birth mother’s legacy by keeping a piece of the child’s name that the birth mother chooses. If the adoptive parents are not open to this, we completely understand that this is their decision! At the very least, we encourage them to keep the Original Birth Certificate for the child so they can have that to treasure one day later on down the road.
RR: What is the best time to talk to birth and adoptive parents about potential names for the adopted child?
CI: As professionals, we try hard to deal with things before it becomes a bigger issue. It’s important to us that the conversation during the counseling sessions and before the child is born. Emotions are high in the hospital, and the birth mothers are recovering and grieving, handling as many things before the hospital sets the adoption up for less potential conflicts.
If a birth mother has a special name picked out, or wants to find out what the name the adoptive parents have chosen for the child — great! If they don’t want to know, that’s ok, too.
RR: Do you have any advice to pass along to other birth mothers and adoptive parents on this subject?
CI: I truly feel that this isn’t discussed enough — it’s a hot topic. We talk with birth mothers frequently, and I feel like people don’t realize how big of an issue this is until they’re in the hospital and emotions are heightened for all parties.
Names are important to birth mothers and adoptive parents. They are a reflection of who gives them, not the one who receives them. We understand where both sides are coming from, and that is why the education and counseling from the beginning can be so helpful.
However, naming a child can be a powerful way to bond to your child. Incorporating part of a child’s original name may be a way to keep the birth family close and honor them. This could be accomplished by using the original first name as a middle, or some other variation.
Adoption Choices of Colorado is a private, non-profit adoption agency licensed by the state. We are devoted to serving birth parents, children and adoptive parents and provide the most empathetic, empowering and progressive experience possible. Our talented and qualified staff all share a genuine passion for the adoption community, and will help ensure the most successful placements.
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us at Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can reached via our website or our phones: 303-670-4673(HOPE).
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2018, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.