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After Adoption, Can I Change the Child’s Social Security Number?

Tue 27 Oct, 2015 / by / Adoption

Picture of baby with their social security card

***EDIT 11/4/15: It has very recently become known that the Social Security rules on issuance of a new number have changed. Although no specific cite to law is known to us yet, it’s our understanding that a new rule has eliminated ALL exclusions for issuing a new number. In other words, it will now be possible to obtain a new social security number for all children in all adoptions. We will update once more information is known.


The one similarity of adopted children is that they are all as different as the world in which we live. They come from a variety of different family backgrounds; some adoptees are infants, and others, especially when adopted out of foster care, are 3 or older. Often the biological parents are a concern for adoptive parents, who want only the best for their child: if the Social Security card cannot be changed, then will there always be potential for abuse and financial fraud? The scenarios are easy to imagine: a child gets to college and completes a FAFSA for federal loans, only to find their credit ruined because a biological parent had been using the Social Security number. Can this be prevented – can a new number be issued at the time of adoption?

The law gives its usual answer: it depends. For a U.S. born adopted child, the answer is “yes” unless:

A. The child knows he/she has been adopted.

B. The child receives Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments.

C. The child has held a job.

D. A relative, such as a stepparent or grandparent, is going the adoption.

In these cases, Social Security will update the child’s record with new identifying information, and then they’ll issue a corrected card with the child’s new name – under the same number. In all other cases, they should also issue a new number. Why does it matter to Social Security that a child knows she’s been adopted? Hey, we don’t make the rules; we just tell you about them.

example social security

To apply for a new Social Security number, adoptive parents should:

A. Complete the application, which can be accessed here at the Social Security website (click).

B. Show Social Security documents proving the child’s US Citizenship, adoption, age, and identity, which can effectively be done by providing a certified copy of the adoption decree and the revised birth certificate (when we complete your adoption, you’ll have these documents, and we explain the steps to you at the end of your case).

C. Show Social Security a document proving your (adoptive parents’) identity.

These documents can be taken or mailed to your local Social Security office. If you mail them, then Social Security will mail your child’s number and card as soon as they verify the documents with the issuing offices.

That’s the way the process should work. Good luck!

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