Getting a Social Security Number for Your Adopted Child

Biological parents who deliver their babies in hospitals or birthing centers can apply for Social Security Numbers from the (relative) comfort of their beds there.

Adoptive parents must go to their local Social Security office.

When I went to get Jackson’s SSN back in 2007, I went, took a number, waited for 3 hours, came up to the window with Jackson’s birth certificate and adoption decree, and was then told I didn’t need the adoption decree, I needed proof that Jackson was still alive.

I am not making this up.

The woman said a vaccination record would do. I told her, “We don’t do shots.” She stared at me blankly. Eventually, she decided that a doctor’s bill would be acceptable. I politely demanded an appointment to come back, and she gave me one, even though they don’t generally do appointments for SSNs. I came back, waited half an hour, and was told that Jackson’s birthmother had applied for an SSN, so I was just going to get a new card, not a new number. I still don’t know what happened to that card, so I have to check Jackson’s credit every 5-7 years to make sure no one stole his identity.

I had totally forgotten that Cassie needed an SSN. She was born in 10/2011, we finalized her adoption in 1/2013, and didn’t get her birth certificate until 8/2013. At that point, I totally forgot we needed an SSN. The IRS sent me a letter stating that her Adoption Tax Identifier Number (ATIN) was going to expire, so I realized, “Crap! I have to go get Cassie a Social Security Number.”

I was all set to go last Thursday, when I looked up what docs I needed on the web site. According to the web site, to prove the child’s identity, I needed a picture ID, or I had to bring the child in with me.

We can accept only certain documents as proof of your child’s identity. An acceptable document must show your child’s name, identifying information and preferably a recent photograph. Your child must be present unless the picture ID also shows your child’s biographical information (i.e., age, date of birth, or parents’ names).

That sounded strange, but I’d rather bring Cassie with me, wait, get the number, and find out that I didn’t actually need her, than not bring Cassie, wait, and find out I needed her to get the number.

Monday, I went down to the SS office with Cassie in tow. We got there at 9:33, the place opened at 9:00, and it was already packed. There were no seats. We took a spot on the floor. After about half an hour, one of Cassie’s preschool teachers arrived. She sat with us, which was a real blessing. We left just after 11:30, while they were still 5 numbers away from calling ours. They were calling a new number about every 20 minutes.

It took four tries to get through to the SS office on the phone. The woman (Laurie) said I didn’t need to bring Cassie; I had to bring the child only if s/he were over 12. She said that a medical bill would be fine.

Thursday morning, I got to the office at 9:19. This time, there were a few seats available. I sat and read my book (The Mark of Athena) and did some Facebook on my phone. I was finally called at about 10:20.

I had some waiting to do at the desk. The agent asked for Cassie’s birth certificate and my ID. No problem. He then asked for Cassie’s health plan card. That’s usually not a problem, but Max was the last one to take her to the doctor, so I didn’t have it. I said, “I have an insurance claim, explanation of benefits.” He said, “No.” I said, “I have a doctor’s bill.” He started to deny me, but I said, “I called the office and the woman I spoke to said that a doctor’s bill would be fine.” He started to say something about a shot record, and I said, “We don’t do shots. When I got my son’s number in 2007, I brought a doctor’s bill.”

The web site states that a doctor, clinic, or hospital record is acceptable proof of ID. A bill is a record.

He had to go to his supervisor to ask if it was OK. He also asked, “Why did you wait so long to get her Social Security Number?”

Oh bureaucratic dude… if only you knew.

At 10:58, I was out of the office, on my way home. Cassie has an SSN now! So, now, she will be eligible for the Earned Income Credit. (But that’s another post.)

For the record, as of this writing, you need the following documentation to get a new SSN for a child under age 12 who was born in the US:

  • Birth certificate, showing the adoptive parents as the legal parents.
  • Photo ID for the adoptive parent applying for the card (I used my driver’s license).
  • Adoption decree.
  • Health plan card, vaccination record, or other medical record, including a doctor’s bill; religious record (baptismal certificate); daycare or school record; or school ID card.
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7 thoughts on “Getting a Social Security Number for Your Adopted Child

  1. At least you finally got it! Remember, I’ve got you beat. It took me 6 months just to get Calandra’s birth certificate and I was already pregnant with Theron by the time I got her SSN. At this point, the state of California is still denying Theron’s existence. They won’t even issue a birth certificate for her, so I still can’t get a SSN.

  2. I’m sorry it’s so hard in CA. I know SS offices really vary by state. In both cases when I adopted, I had a birth certificate within days of sending in our finalization paperwork and once I had the birth certificate, the social security process took me about 10 min. The first time there was one person ahead of me. The second time I just walked in and no one was there.

    Not to say this state isn’t without issues. I had temporary SSNs for my kids before I got their permanent ones because they are fall babies so I had to file taxes somehow. My kids are a year apart. The second year when I went to file, I couldn’t claim our state adoption credit for our first adoption because our wonderful state had decided too many people in this country illegally use temporary SSNs so no tax credits are available to any families with a single person with a temporary number in them. But that’s a lot of money and you can only claim it the year after an adoption. Luckily our second child was adopted in-state and only took 45 days to finalize and so I was able to get her permanent SSN by the tax deadline. But it was pretty irritating. I am very thankful we didn’t adopt out-of-state for our second adoption because our son was 8 months before finalization and that’s not atypical and I am not sure we could have gotten the state credit for our first adoption in that case.

    Bureaucracy is just not fun. Especially in the case of the temporary SSNs when I felt like it was a knee-jerk law to some problem that may or may not be a significant issue and largely fueled by veiled racism. Not a great feeling.

    • The Earned Income Credit isn’t allowed for anyone who doesn’t have an SSN. So, not only could we not take that for Cassie, we didn’t qualify to take it for Jackson, because, according to the IRS, we only have one kid.
      That’s another post.
      Our SS office serves at least 200,000 people, so it’s always been packed whenever I’ve been there.

  3. The SS# thing is such an aggravation. When I went for Baby Girls SS# I was told the same thing: A SS# was already issued and were told we could get a card with the same #. I told the woman that wasn’t happening. D was in jail at the time due to fraud and has used at least 2 other names. She told me that because the child knew they were adopted that a new # couldn’t be issued. I told the woman that Baby Girl didn’t know she was adopted (she was 11 months old I think at that point) so she could give me a new #. At that point we were debating semantics and I wasn’t backing down. She gave me a new #.

    This post actually reminds me I wrote my rep about a month ago asking about this. Since SS#’s are often issued at the hospital before the tpr is signed; birth mothers frequently are given the #/card. SS#’s hold a persons identity for their life time. Adoption has changed and it is the norm for children to know they are adopted. I asked my rep to please explain to me why it makes a difference if the child knows or does not know they are adopted. On adoptive parent forum another adoptive mother at the SS office had been told it had something to do with the mothers identity- but that doesn’t make sense. Any ideas?

    • I’ve heard that other adoptive parents have been asked “Does s/he know s/he’s adopted?” and I really don’t know why. AFAIK, a person’s parentage is not tied to his/her SSN, so I don’t see how it could have anything to do with the mother’s identity.

      I think the SSNs have to be applied for – they’re not just given out. If I had known better, I would have fought and gotten Jackson a new number.

      Did you ever get that thing with the hunting/fishing permit figured out, btw?

      • So “given out” is a little flippant but most hospitals complete the paper work at the hospital for the #. So for baby girl she was born on a wed so D didn’t sign TPR until Monday. In the mean time D was discharged and the SS# was applied for as part of that process. D seemed to think that’s what she was supposed to do and that she would send me the card. (which I still have not seen nor did I ever think I would because her life just isn’t that together).

        We didn’t get a hunting fishing license I’m still bummed. I didn’t get a second official copy until after she was 1 (wasn’t going to send my only copy). At that point the rate goes up. She can fish w DH or me until she is 16 for free. She is a very girly girl so we will see if she is even interested.

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