View Working Together 2013 View Working Together 2013

6.6.1 Change of Name of a Looked After Child

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all changes of a Looked After child's forename or surname, formal or informal.

Allowing a child to adopt a new forename and/or surname amounts to a change of name and is therefore covered by this procedure.

Under no circumstances should practitioners and carers agree, condone or act in any way to change a child's name without following this procedure. 

AMENDMENT

This chapter was revised in August 2016, with new information regarding the legal status of a child where there is a request to change their name.


Contents

1. Necessary Consents
2. Children Under 16
2.1 Obtaining Consent
2.2 Where Parental Consent is Given
2.3 Where Parental Consent is Not Given
2.4 Changing the Name
2.5 Legal Status
3. Children of 16 and Over


1. Necessary Consents

Where a child is under 16, the written consent of parents and all those who hold Parental Responsibility is required to change a child's name. Where consent is not forthcoming, the child's name cannot be changed without a Court Order.

The local authority can only pursue such a Court application in relation to a child who is subject to a Care Order where they hold Parental Responsibility for the child.

A child of 16 or more can decide to change his or her name without the consent of those with Parental Responsibility.

A child’s name, both forename and surname is a fundamental part of a child’s history, culture and heritage. The local authority is committed to preserving this birth name unless there are significant reasons for a change of name.

Those under 16 can only change their name with the permission of all those who hold parental responsibility. Once a young person is aged over 16 they can change their name by Deed Poll or simply become ‘known as’ for their new name.


2. Children Under 16

2.1 Obtaining Consent

If a child under 16 expresses a wish to change his or her name, this should be considered at the child's Looked After Review.

If the Review considers that the child is of sufficient age and maturity to understand the significance of such a step and it is consistent with the Care Plan and the change would lead to an improvement from the point of view of the child's welfare, the review may recommend that the child's wishes should be supported.

The social worker should obtain legal advice as to the appropriate steps to be followed.

It will usually be necessary to seek the parents' written consent to the child's change of name. Even where the father does not have Parental Responsibility and his consent is not strictly required, it may be appropriate that he should be consulted and his views obtained. The legal adviser should be asked to clarify this, particularly where there are unusual circumstances and it is considered undesirable to seek parental consent on this issue.

2.2 Where Parental Consent is Given

If the parents' consent is given, the child's social worker should seek the approval of the Designated Manager (Change of Name) to the change of name. To do so, the social worker should prepare a written request setting out the reasons for the change and attaching a copy of the parents' written consents, the written legal advice, the up to date Care Plan and the minutes of the Looked After Review recommending the change. The written request, together with the supporting documentation, and the Designated Manager's need to specify decision should be retained on the child's case record.

2.3 Where Parental Consent is Not Given

It may be possible in exceptional circumstances to apply to the Court for authority to change the name of a child under 16 who is on a Care Order where the parents' consent is not obtained or they cannot be found.

In these circumstances, where the Looked After Review supports this course of action, the social worker should send a written request to the Designated Manager (Change of Name) with the supporting documentation set out above seeking approval to make the necessary Court application. If the manager agrees, the social worker should contact the legal adviser for an application to be made to the appropriate Court. The legal adviser will advise on the documentary evidence required.

In relation to an Accommodated child, the above Court application will not be available to the local authority and legal advice will clarify whether any further action is possible.

2.4 Changing the Name

If a decision is made that the child's name can be changed either as a result of all those with Parental Responsibility consenting or as a result of a Court Order, legal advice should be sought so that the necessary legal documents to evidence the change of name can be prepared and signed.

Where this necessitates the child obtaining his or her own legal adviser, the Designated Manager (Change of Name) should be requested to authorise the payment of the child's legal fees if legal aid is not available.

The social worker should notify all relevant agencies of the child's new name, the child's record should be updated and the child's Independent Reviewing Manager should be informed.

2.5 Legal Status

Adoption

Children who are adopted can have both their surname and forename changed when the Adoption Order is granted. They receive a new birth certificate.

In practice because of the policy within the adoption team, most children only change their surname. This is because the giving of a name is often one of the few things a birth parent is able to give to their child. The name links the past and the future. Agreement to a name change is generally only given in exceptional circumstances if:

  • The forename is very distinctive and may cause a child to be traced in their adoptive placement;
  • There is already a child in the family who has the same name.

Special Guardianship

Carers who obtain a Special Guardianship Order gain parental responsibility for a child but they can only change a child’s name with the court’s permission. Because a Special Guardianship Order is not a life long order like adoption, a name change at the making of a Special Guardianship Order should not be routinely considered.

Child Arrangement Order

Carers who obtain a Child Arrangement Order share parental responsibility with the child’s parents. Child arrangement orders are most often used when there is a high level of ongoing family contact. Because of this a name change at the making of a Child Arrangement Order should rarely be considered.

Long-Term Foster Care

These placements do not have any legal permanence. In the majority of cases it will be highly inappropriate for foster children to take on their foster carer’s surname.

Carers who want to Change a Child’s Surname

  • In adoption this will be agreed;
  • In SGO/CAO this will not be supported unless there are safety reasons to protect the child. Once the child is subject to an SGO or CAO the carers may do this at a later stage, this is different from doing this with Departmental support;
  • In Foster Care this will not receive Departmental support unless there are serious safety concerns. In these circumstances work should be done with the child, if age appropriate to explain why the change is necessary. The child should have a life story book and access to their birth certificate. In these circumstances the child should not receive the foster carer’s name. In stead there should be a discussion with the child, if they are of an age to understand, and a name should be agreed upon that has significance and meaning for the child.

Carers who want to Change a Child’s First Name

This should only be agreed in the exceptional circumstances if:

  • The name is distinctive and may lead to the child being put at a high risk by being traced;
  • The name is likely to cause the child to be ridiculed;
  • The name is misspelled.

In these circumstances the use of second names should be explored.

In longer term placements, including adoption, special guardian order, child arrangement order and foster care carers can use diminutives, nick names and name variations if the child welcomes this.

Children can accept and feel part of a family if they have a diminutive that is used in a fond way. Children can quickly learn they are called Elizabeth by their parents, Liz by their sisters and Lizzie by their friends. Many teenagers prefer ‘Cat’ to Catherine’. Name changes of this sort do not fundamentally alter the child’s real name.

Children in Foster Care

It is against the policy of this Department for children in foster care to take on their foster carer’s surname. This gives an unrealistic message to children and young people about the legal permanency of their placement. Children who continue to insist that they change their name should have a discussion with both their Independent Review Officer and Children’s Rights Officer who should attempt to convey the Department’s policy.

Foster carers who are keen to change a child’s surname should be encouraged to obtain a Permanency Order.

If young people are having problems at school because they have a different name from their carers, direct work should be done with the school and teaching staff.

Children from Adoption Breakdowns

Children in these circumstances may wish to revert to their birth name. This may be supported if Life Story work has been done with the young person and if all possibility of a return to the adoptive parents has been exhausted.

Children who have Adopted the Names of Step-Parents and Other Carers

Some children may come into the Looked After system who have experienced numerous name changes because they have been given the names of various carers. When these children are ready they should be helped to revert to their birth name.

Children and Young People who wish to Change their First Name

For many children and young people changing a first name can be a very natural part of growing up, diminutives, nick names and alternative names can quickly become established. These changes should be recognised in letters and other correspondence that the young person receives from the Department. Records should show that they are ‘known as’. The original first name should not be altered or lost.

Procedure

If circumstance arise where there is going to be a recommendation that a child changes their surname then a report should be submitted to the Service Manager to ask that the change of name be agreed. This report should demonstrate that there has been consultation with; the child or young person; with all those who have PR; and with the IRO for the child. This report will be kept as a record to show why a change of name was felt to be appropriate.


3. Children of 16 and Over

Where the child is 16 or over, the parents' consent is not required and this should be explained to the child. The child's wish should still be considered at the Looked After Review and unless there is a good reason not to do so, the parents' views should be obtained. Where the review supports the child's wish, the social worker should inform this or her line manager and ask for authority to provide financial support to the child to meet any legal fees.

Even where the change of name is not supported, the social worker should assist the child to obtain the services of an advocate and/or legal adviser if (s)he still wishes to pursue a change of name.

End