You asked whether a South Carolina adoption decree is sufficient evidence to establish
a child-parent relationship in lieu of a foreign adoption decree for determining the
claimant’s eligibility for disabled adult child’s (DAC) benefits on the number holder’s
The South Carolina adoption decree establishes a child-parent relationship because
it was valid under South Carolina law. Therefore, the claimant is the number holder’s
child for determining the claimant’s eligibility for DAC benefits on the number holder’s
According to the information provided, Brenda, the number holder (NH) and a current
recipient of old-age benefits, applied on Jennie’s (Claimant) behalf for DAC benefits
on her earnings record. NH stated she adopted Claimant from India around December 1992,
when she lived in South Carolina (NH and Claimant currently reside in North Carolina).
NH and Claimant stated they cannot locate the foreign adoption paperwork, but NH submitted
an Amended Adoption Decree from a South Carolina court, dated March 8, 1993. The State
court granted NH’s petition to adopt Claimant. NH also submitted a certificate of
citizenship, dated October 18, 2000, from the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization
and stating Claimant was a citizen of the United States.
To qualify for DAC benefits on the earnings record of an insured individual who is
entitled to old-age benefits, a claimant must be the insured individual’s “child.”
See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(1) (2012).  “Child” includes a legally adopted child. Act § 216(e)(1); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.354,
404.356. SSA applies the adoption laws of the State or foreign country where the adoption
occurred to determine if the claimant is the insured’s legally adopted child. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.356; Program Operations Manual (POMS) GN 00306.135(1). At least one party to the adoption, either the child or the adopting parent,
must have been domiciled or actually residing in that jurisdiction at the time of
the adoption. POMS GN 00306.135(1).
A South Carolina court issued the decree granting NH’s petition to adopt Claimant.
Therefore, we look to South Carolina law to determine the validity of the adoption.
“After the final decree of adoption is entered, the relationship of parent and child
and all the rights, duties, and other legal consequences of the natural relationship
of parent and child exist between the adoptee, the adoptive parent, and the kindred
of the adoptive parent.” S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1770(A) (West 1991). Based on our review
of the adoption decree and the relevant provisions of the South Carolina Adoption
Act when the court issued its decree in 1993, see S.C. Code Ann. §§ 20-7-1646 to -1810 (West 1992) , we have found no basis for concluding
the court did not comply with South Carolina law in issuing its decree. Thus, NH’s
adoption of Claimant is valid under South Carolina law, and Claimant is NH’s legally
adopted child for determining Claimant’s eligibility for DAC benefits on NH’s earnings
record. See POMS PR 01310.012(A) (finding no basis for questioning Georgia adoption decree, therefore
concluding legal adoption was valid under Georgia law), 01310.016(A) (finding adoption
was valid based on “Judgment of Adoption” issued by Illinois court), 01310.036(A)(2)
(concluding claimant was adopted child based on “final order of adoption” issued by
North Carolina court); cf. POMS GN 00306.155(B)(1) (allowing SSA to establish date of adoption based on adoption decree voluntarily
submitted by adopting parent).
Although NH stated she adopted Claimant from India in December 1992 and submitted
a copy of Claimant’s Certificate of Citizenship from 2000, she did not submit the
original foreign adoption papers necessary to establish the validity of a foreign
adoption. See POMS GN 00306.155(E). Moreover, the South Carolina court did not mention a finalized foreign adoption
in its adoption decree. Rather, the court referenced an Indian court order granting
“guardianship (custody) and permission to leave India,” suggesting NH had not finalized
an adoption of Claimant under Indian law.  In addition, the decree states NH obtained physical custody of Claimant in November
1991 and Claimant had been in her custody since then. The decree also references several
“Post-Placement” reports from January, March, and May 1992. Furthermore, the decree
indicates neither Claimant nor NH resided in India at the time of the purported December
1992 adoption. Therefore, the information provided does not demonstrate that NH adopted
Claimant in accordance with Indian law. Nevertheless, because NH validly adopted Claimant
under South Carolina law as discussed above, Claimant is NH’s legally adopted child.
Based on the evidence provided, NH validly adopted Claimant in accordance with South
Carolina law. Thus, Claimant is NH’s child for determining Claimant’s eligibility
for DAC benefits on NH’s earnings record.
Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel
Kevin M. Parrington
Assistant Regional Counsel