When my children first moved in with us two years ago they were nine, eight, and three years old. They had lived for several years with names given to them by their birth mom. They had spent years in foster care; our youngest had lived his whole life in the system.

Our children will become legal members of our family this year, and they know that day as the day their names will change.

When things started moving toward adoption, we began to talk to them about how we wanted to adopt them and what that meant for our family. We also talked to them about their names.

Because our children are older, we wanted them involved in the decision of what their names would be. My husband and I talked about how we felt about changing their names, and what our goals were in doing this, and then we shared that with them so they could decide what they wanted their names to be after they were adopted.

We considered several things when developing our opinion towards changing their names. We want to always validate and recognize their birth family and experiences from before they lived with us, because that is part of who they are. Because of that, and because of their age we didn’t even think of changing their first names. Their first names are who they are. Regardless of whether or not I would have given them those names at birth, that is who they are now. They have lived their whole lives to this point as those people, and we would never consider changing that.

For middle names, we wanted to give them a piece of our family. We picked a middle name for each of them that meant something to us and would solidify for them that they were a part of our family. We wanted them to be able to have an answer to the question “What does your name mean?” We wanted them to be able to point to someone in their family and say, “I am named after him, my dad or my grandpa, or my uncle.”

It was also our desire that they all take our last name. It seemed like a clear and public way to communicate that we are a family. Our skin doesn’t match, we didn’t come together the way most families do, but we are a family. We are the Youngs.

So, we made these decisions about our preferences, and then we talked to the boys, explaining why we chose the names we did. We said they could keep their names as they were, they could have the names we chose, or they could mix them together. This was especially important for our older boys, because of their age and the fact that they had moved to so many families in their lives. They each made different decisions about what name they wanted and why.

Our middle guy chose to take the middle name we chose for him, as well as keep his current middle name because he wanted to keep the name his birth mother gave him also. I love that he feels so strongly about both. He can point to members in both of his families and say why he has his names.

Each of my children has that in their full name in some way ­– a nod to both of their families, something to connect them both to their biological family and their adopted one in the way that they chose.  Their names have a story, one they know and understand, one that they are proud to tell because it’s the story they chose.