In the State of North Carolina, a document signed by a child’s birth mother relinquishing
legal and physical custody of the child to Christian Adoption Services (Applicant),
a North Carolina child-placing agency, is sufficient to confer legal custody of the
child such that Applicant could apply for an original Social Security Number (SSN)
on the child’s behalf.
You have asked whether a document signed by a child’s birth mother relinquishing legal
and physical custody of the child to Christian Adoption Services (Applicant), a North
Carolina child-placing agency, is sufficient to confer legal custody of the child
such that Applicant could apply for an original Social Security Number (SSN) on the
Applicant is a proper “other applicant” who may apply for an SSN on the child’s behalf.
S~ (Child) was born November XX, 2016, in North Carolina. The next day, Child’s mother
completed a form entitled “Relinquishment of Minor for Adoption by Parent or Guardian
or Guardian Ad Litem of the Mother/Father” (Relinquishment Form). In the Relinquishment
Form, Child’s mother purported to relinquish all rights to, and surrender Child to,
A notary public acknowledged that Child’s mother swore to or affirmed the Relinquishment
Form. The notary public certified that Child’s mother read the form, or had it read
to her, understood the form, signed it voluntarily, and received a copy of the fully
executed form. Further, the notary public certified that Child’s mother was advised
that counseling services were available through Applicant.
The Relinquishment Form indicates Applicant is a licensed child-placing agency. The
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services lists Applicant as a licensed
adoption agency in North Carolina on its website.
Applicant provided a letter dated June XX, 2017, stating that it continued to hold
legal custody of Child, although the letter also identified two non-custodial individuals
who were Child’s adoptive parents. The letter authorizes an employee of Applicant
to act on the Director’s behalf in applying for an SSN on behalf of the purported
An individual who needs to have an SSN assigned may apply for one. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.103(b)(1); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10205.001A. A proper applicant for an SSN card is a person applying on her own behalf or certain
people filing on behalf of others who cannot apply. See POMS RM 10205.025A. The POMS recognizes three types of proper applicants: 1) adults age eighteen and
over filing on their own behalf; 2) children who are physically and mentally capable
of completing an in-person interview or paper application on their own behalf; and
3) other applicants filing on behalf on an individual who cannot file an application
for themselves. See POMS RM 10205.025B.1-3. Because Child is less than one year old, she is not an adult age eighteen, and
she is not mentally and physically capable of applying for an SSN on her own behalf.
Thus, we consider whether Applicant may apply on Child’s behalf as an “other applicant.”
POMS RM 10205.025B.3.
To qualify as an “other applicant” filing on behalf of someone else, the applicant
must “establish relationship to and custody/responsibility for the individual” needing
the SSN. Id. The applicant should generally be the one who has the highest priority in the following
A court-appointed legal guardian (individual or other entity) always has priority
over any other proper applicants;
A parent (natural, adoptive, or step) with custody of a child;
Administrator of an individual’s (adult or child) estate;
A brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin with custody of a child;
A state agency (including state foster care and child protective-service agencies,
state mental institutions or hospitals, or state adoption agencies) or a state-licensed
agency (including state contractors and private adoption agencies) if it has legal
custody of the individual (adult or child); or
An individual who applies on behalf of another individual (adult or child) who can
establish relationship and responsibility.
Although Applicant stated in June 2017 that Child has adoptive parents, Applicant
also stated that it continued to have custody of Child in lieu of the adoptive parents.
Cf. id. (indicating adoptive parents have higher priority only if they have custody). The
Relinquishment Form indicates Applicant’s relationship to Child is that of a state-licensed
agency. No other person or entity with a relationship to Child, who could serve as
an “other applicant,” has been identified except Applicant. Accordingly, Applicant
appears to have highest priority in determining the proper “other applicant” for Child.
Because Applicant purports to be a child-placing agency and is licensed by North Carolina,
we look to that state’s law to determine if Applicant has “legal custody” of Child
such that it would qualify as a proper “other applicant.” POMS RM 10205.025B.3.e. Generally, an applicant must prove custody of the number holder by providing “court
custody documents.” POMS RM 10205.050. However, court documents are not required to prove custody in North Carolina under
its relinquishment law. North Carolina law allows a parent to relinquish parental
rights or guardianship powers over a child to an agency. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 48-3-701 (West 2017). A validly executed relinquishment vests
legal and physical custody of the child in the child-placing agency without the need
for a court order. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 48-3-705(b)(1) (West 2017); Johns v. Welker, 744 S.E.2d 486, 490 (2013) (noting that under the current North Carolina statutory
scheme, “custody of the minor now goes to the agency or petitioner upon relinquishment”
and “[t]here is no need under the current adoption statutes for the court to enter
a decree awarding interim custody. . . .”); see also, e.g., In re C.T., 673 S.E.2d 166, at *5-6 (2009) (affirming a trial court order acknowledging adoption
and termination of parental rights may be achieved through relinquishment, exclusive
of a court order). Thus, a properly executed relinquishment in North Carolina achieves
the same purpose as court custody documents for determining if Applicant is a state-licensed
agency with custody of Child.
The Relinquishment Form executed by Child’s mother appears to comply with North Carolina’s
relinquishment law. The law includes various requirements for the relinquishment form
to be valid. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 48-3-703 (West 2017). The Relinquishment Form executed by
Child’s mother appears to meet those requirements because it states the date and place
of its relinquishment, provides appropriate biographical information for Child and
her biological mother, states the name and address of Applicant, and includes other
statutorily-required recitations. See id. The relinquishment must also be acknowledged under oath and certify that the relinquishing
parent understood it, signed it voluntarily, received a fully executed copy, and had
been advised of counseling services. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 48-3-702(b1) (West 2017). The notary public signature page
provided with the Relinquishment Form satisfies these requirements. In addition, Applicant
provided Child’s mother an acknowledgement of its willingness to accept her relinquishment.
See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 48-3-702(c). Further, we have received no evidence the relinquishment
was revoked or might otherwise be void. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 48-3-706, 48-3-707.
Accordingly, Applicant is a state-licensed agency that has provided acceptable proof
of legal custody of Child. See POMS RM 10205.025B.3.e., RM 10205.050B.3. Applicant has also provided a letter from an agency administrator identifying
an employee of Applicant who has authority to file for Child. See POMS RM 10205.050B.2. Upon that employee providing proof of identify, see POMS RM 10205.050B.1, the employee is a proper “other applicant” who may apply for an SSN for Child.
Applicant is a proper “other applicant” who may apply for an SSN on Child’s behalf.