col Adopted child should have SS number
November is National Adoption Month. According to the latest available statistics, about 120,000 children are adopted every year by American families. Some are adopted through local child welfare systems; some are adopted by step parents or family friends or relatives of children whose parent or parents have died; and some are children from other countries. In 2002, in fact, more than 20,000 children from other countries were adopted by Americans, the highest total in history.
If you are considering adoption, or if you have already adopted a child, here is important information you should know about adopted children and Social Security benefits.
All adoptive parents should remember that their child usually needs a Social Security number (SSN) if they intend to claim the child on their annual income tax returns, or to get medical coverage or apply for any government services for the child.
While an adopted child can be assigned an SSN before the adoption is complete, sometimes parents will want to wait and apply for a Social Security card after the process has been completed. Then they can apply for the number using the child's new name and their names as parents. If they want to claim their child for tax purposes while the adoption is still pending, they would need to contact the Internal Revenue Service for Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions.
Also, the process for getting an SSN can be slightly more involved for parents adopting children from outside of the United States. Legislation was passed several years ago that grants an adopted child immigrating to the United States "automatic" citizenship. But Social Security requires specific documents to issue SSNs, and parents of children adopted from abroad should contact their local Social Security office for more information.
If you are the parent of an adopted child with a disabling condition, he or she may qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program, also known as SSI. SSI can pay monthly benefits to children who are disabled and whose families have little income and resources. A child under 18 is considered disabled if his or her physical or mental condition is so severe that it results in severe functional limitations, and if the condition is expected to last at least 12 months.
Are there other Social Security benefits or situations that parents of adopted children should know about? Yes. For example, Social Security provides benefit payments to the widow(er) and children (natural or adopted) of deceased workers. If a widowed parent remarries and the new spouse wants to adopt the child as his or her own, the child's survivors benefit payments would continue until the child reaches age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time).
To learn more about Social Security benefits for children, visit Social Security's Parent's Place at www.SocialSecurity.gov/kids/parent1.htm .
David Rude is the Social Security district manager in Rochester.