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What Do You Call an Adopted Brother?

by Julia Fuller, studioD

When someone asks how you came to have a new brother, it is perfectly acceptable to tell the person your family has just adopted a new brother. Once a child is adopted, he is legally your full brother. He is not a stepbrother, half-brother or foster brother. Constantly reminding your new brother of his adopted status or implying that he is less than your full brother can be emotionally damaging to your brother. Ensuring that your whole family is on board before a child is adopted should avoid any misunderstanding about your new brother's status in the family.

Your Real Brother

All children are real and your adopted brother is a real brother. Families parent children through birth, adoption, step-parenting, foster care, kinship care, guardianship and mutual agreement. Differentiating between your biological siblings and other siblings can cause lower self-esteem and emotional problems. If you are asked whether he is your real brother, you should answer yes. Unless you are being asked to donate an organ or bone marrow, further explanation is not necessary.

Stepbrother or Half-brother

If your parent marries a person who already has a son, you become stepbrothers. Your parent’s new spouse is your step-parent. If your parent has a male child with your new step-parent, that boy will be your half-brother. While these are the legal terms for your relationships, people rarely use them in introductions. It is more common and acceptable to just introduce the boy as your brother.

Foster Brother or Guardianship

If your parents provide foster care for unrelated male children, they are your foster brothers. If your parents have guardianship of an unrelated boy child, you technically have no legal relationship with the boy. However, in both of those scenarios, your emotional attachment might cause you to think of the boy as a brother. This is especially true if the boy lives with your family for years. It is perfectly acceptable to refer to the boy as your brother.

Name Changing

Adoptive parents might struggle with deciding whether to keep the name that the birth parents gave to their new son. When adopting an older child, you need to first discuss a name change with the child. A new, unexpected name could be shocking and result in identity and self-esteem issues. Choosing the name in infant adoption is typical, but if you made promises to birth parents regarding names you, should honor those. Some older adoptees feel that a new name gives them a fresh start with their new family. Name changing is a very personal decision for each family to make together.

About the Author

Julia Fuller began her professional writing career eight years ago covering special-needs adoption. She holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Marywood College, is co-owner of GJF Rental Properties as well as a livestock and grain crop farm. She worked for the United States Postal Service and a national income tax service.

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