Skip to Content

Do adopted babies already have names?

When a baby is put up for adoption, they often already have a name given to them by their biological parents. However, this is not always the case. There are a few key things to understand about baby names and adoption:

Babies can be born without a name

In some circumstances, a baby may not have a name when they are born. This can happen for a few reasons:

  • The biological parents did not decide on a name before the baby’s birth
  • The biological parents chose to not officially name the baby if they knew the child would be placed for adoption
  • In rare cases, a baby is abandoned right after birth before a name is given

In these situations, the baby would be placed for adoption without an official name. It would then be up to the adoptive parents to choose a name.

Babies are sometimes given temporary names

If a baby is born without an official name, they may be given a temporary name by hospital staff or social workers. This helps identify the child, but is not considered their permanent legal name. Some common examples of temporary names include:

  • Baby boy/girl + birth date
  • First initials or initials + last name (if mother’s name is known)
  • Jane Doe or John Doe

These temporary names will be replaced by the adoptive parents once the adoption is complete.

The biological parents may name the baby

In many adoptions, the biological parents will choose a name and officially name the baby even if they know the child will be placed for adoption. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Naming the baby helps create a connection and can give the biological parents closure.
  • It can feel wrong to the parents to not name their baby.
  • Legally naming the child is part of the adoption process in some cases.

If the baby is named by their biological parents, the adoptive parents have the option to keep that name or change it once the adoption is finalized.

Name changes during the adoption process

When a baby is adopted, their name can be changed by the adoptive parents either before or after the adoption is legally finalized. Here are some common scenarios:

  • Before adoption: If the child was given a temporary name like “Baby Jane Doe,” the adoptive parents will usually rename the child once matched and granted custody during the adoption process.
  • After adoption: Even if the baby was named by their biological parents, the adoptive families can choose to change the first or middle names to better suit their family.
  • After adoption: The adoptive parents will change the baby’s last name to match theirs once the adoption is legally finalized.

Overall, while some adopted babies arrive with names chosen by their biological parents, prospective adoptive parents should know they often have the option to change or rename the child as their own.

Are there any naming restrictions in adoption?

When choosing or changing an adopted child’s name, are there any legal restrictions adoptive parents should know about? A few key considerations include:

  • There are seldom name restrictions around first or middle names – adoptive parents generally have freedom in renaming.
  • However, some states may restrict names deemed intentionally harmful to the child or considered vulgar/offensive.
  • The child’s last name must be changed to that of the adoptive parents once the adoption is finalized.
  • The adoptive name must consist of a first name, at least one middle initial and a last name.
  • There may be name length requirements, such as less than 50 characters total.

Overall though, adoptive parents have broad legal rights to name an adopted infant as they wish within reasonable bounds. Consulting with an adoption lawyer can help clarify any name change laws and requirements in your state.

How long do adoptive parents have to rename a child?

If you adopt a baby who already has a name given by biological parents, how long do you as adoptive parents have to change the name if desired? There is no firm legal deadline, but a few guidelines include:

  • A name change can be processed as soon as legal custody of the child is granted to adoptive parents.
  • Many infants are renamed by adoptive parents right away when matched, often several months before a finalized adoption.
  • If keeping the original name, it’s recommended to finalize a name change within 18 months of legal adoption at the latest.
  • Trying to change an adopted child’s name years after adoption can be more difficult with school records, medical history, etc.

Overall, while you do not need to rush into renaming, it’s often easiest for a seamless transition to do so within the first year or two. Consult adoption professionals if unsure about the best timing.

How do you rename an adopted baby?

If adoptive parents decide to give an adopted newborn a new name, how do you officially make the change? The steps are:

  1. Select the new name (and confirm there are no major legal restrictions).
  2. Fill out and submit a name change document in court – forms vary by state.
  3. A judge then reviews and approves/denies the name change.
  4. If approved, the court issues an official name change decree.
  5. Use this decree to update the child’s birth certificate and other records.

Overall, while renaming involves some paperwork, the process is typically straightforward for an adopted infant. Your adoption agency or lawyer can help guide you through the specifics in your state.

Things to consider when renaming an adopted baby

When deciding whether to rename an adopted newborn and choosing a new name, some things adoptive parents may want to keep in mind include:

  • Consider the baby’s cultural background and ethnicity.
  • Think about whether to honor any aspect of the birth name.
  • Align with your own family traditions and history.
  • Make sure all immediate family are on board with the new name.
  • Check whether the name may cause any future bullying or difficulty.
  • Be thoughtful about potential nicknames that may arise.
  • Remember the name can’t be changed again, so choose carefully!

With thought and care, an adopted baby’s new name can help them feel pride in joining their adoptive family while also honoring their roots.

Talking to adopted children about their name story

For children adopted as babies, their name is often a core part of their identity. Making sure to openly discuss the meaning behind their name can be an important part of an adoptee knowing their origins. Some tips include:

  • If you changed the name, explain your reasons and that it reflects their place in your family.
  • If you kept their original name, share why and what it meant to biological parents.
  • Talk through the importance of their middle name, initials, or other name elements.
  • Describe any cultural significance or family history behind their name.
  • Have an open dialogue about their thoughts on their name as they grow up.

Being transparent about an adopted child’s name story helps them understand their identity and build self-confidence as they mature.

Examples of adoptive baby name changes

To provide real-world examples, here are a few common scenarios of baby names being changed during infant adoption:

Birth Name Adoptive Name Reason for Change
Emma Grace Smith Sophia Li Zhang To represent child’s cultural background better in adoptive Chinese American family
Baby Boy Doe Wyatt James Miller Baby did not have permanent name at birth so parents chose own name
Elizabeth Marie Brown Eliza Marie Sherman Kept first name but changed last name and middle name to fit with adoptive family

In summary, while approaches vary, most adopted babies are renamed partially or completely by their adoptive families within the first year or two.

Talking to siblings about an adopted baby’s name change

If you have existing biological children and adopt a baby, talking to siblings about why the new child’s name is changing is important. Some tips include:

  • Explain that changing the name helps the new baby feel like a real part of the family.
  • Note that you made the same decision in naming them at birth.
  • Assure them their names also have deep meaning and were chosen with care.
  • Involve siblings in selecting a new middle name to make them feel part of the process.
  • Share your confidence the baby will love and identify with their new name.

Broaching the name change conversation sensitively ensures adopted infants and biological children alike understand their equal standing as part of the family.


While adopted babies often arrive without permanent names or with names given by biological parents, adoptive families frequently choose to rename infants during the adoption process. This allows the new child’s name to represent their new family and future, while honoring their past origins. By understanding name change laws, considering implications, and openly discussing reasons behind new names, families can ensure an adopted baby grows up understanding the meaningful story behind their name.