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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Focus on Fostering: What's in a Name?

One of the things that makes foster children feel like odd man out is that their last name is usually different from everyone else in the family.  The longer they are with the family the harder it is.  I have often had long term foster children who have desperately wanted to have the same name as mine or the other children in my family.  The desire to "match" is strong.  Sometimes I have even had foster siblings who had different last names from each other making an even wider array of last names in the house.  They still missed that sense of matching that says we belong.

If this problem has ever come up for you, did you know that they can often use your last name for most ordinary purposes?  For example: They can use the family last name [let's say "Sally Smith"] on the school homework papers, permission slips, church, synagogue, scouts, etc.  The only thing they must understand is that all legal papers must be in their legal name[let's say "Sally Jones"]. This means report cards, evaluations, therapy and medical reports, etc. will have their legal name. Sometimes if you talk to the school and your school is cooperative they will put both names [ex: "Sally [Smith] Jones"] If you plan to do this, let teachers know so they aren't caught unaware, and so they can adjust their alphabetical lists accordingly.

Often this can even be done with the blessings of your human services caseworker, particularly if your child is in counseling and the therapist agrees that it would be therapeutically beneficial for the child. They often don't crave the legal change as much as the chance to blend in socially. 

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