You have requested an opinion regarding the documentation required to process applications
for Social Security Numbers for minor children in the state of Utah who have been
relinquished to the custody of licensed adoption agencies. You have not presented
any specific factual situation. Rather, you have asked whether, in general, (1) a
signed statement relinquishing a child to a child placement agency establishes that
the agency has legal custody of the child; (2) whether the signed relinquishment statement
would be considered a court custody document; and (3) whether legal guardianship documents
still would be required for enumeration purposes.
Under Utah adoption statutes, a statement relinquishing a child to a licensed adoption
agency, obtained in accordance with the applicable state statutory and regulatory
provisions, vests that agency with legal custody of the child. The relinquishment
statement is not a "court custody document" as set forth in the POMS; however, in
Utah, a licensed adoption agency does not have to obtain a court custody document
to acquire legal custody if it follows the state statutory and regulatory requirements
for obtaining a statement of relinquishment. Because Utah statutes confer legal custody
of a child on a licensed adoption agency in the event of properly executed statement
of relinquishment, the agency would not need to present documentation of legal guardianship
in order for SSA to process the SS-5 application._1
A state licensed agency, such as a private adoption agency, may apply for an SSN on
behalf of another individual, so long as it can establish relationship to and custody/responsibility
for the child. By operation of the Utah adoption statute, a licensed adoption agency
assumes custody of a child upon the signing of relinquishment by the proper person
or persons. Utah Code Ann. § 78-30-4.14 (2006)_2 defines who may consent to adoption
or relinquishment for adoption, and § 78-30-4.16 defines persons who may take consents
and relinquishments. "Once a child has been placed with, relinquished to, or ordered
into the custody of a licensed child-placing agency for purposes of adoption, the
agency shall have custody and control of the child and is responsible for his care,
maintenance, and support." Id. § 78-30-4.22 (2). The state of Utah defines "custody" as the "right to or responsibility
for a child's care and control, carrying with it the duty of providing food, shelter,
medical care, education and discipline." http://www.utcourts.gov/resources/glossary.htm.
While POMS RM 00202.005.D.5 presumes that "court custody documents" are required to establish legal custody
in all states, we believe that a properly worded and signed statement of relinquishment
is sufficient to establish legal custody in the state of Utah. In such instances,
we do not believe a licensed adoption agency would need to present documentation of
legal guardianship in order for SSA to process the SS-5 application.
We believe that, by operation of the Utah adoption statute, a licensed adoption agency
automatically acquires legal custody of a child who is the subject of a properly worded
and executed statement of relinquishment, and the agency is not required to obtain
court custody documents to file an application for an SSN.
Very truly yours,
Deana R. E~-L~
Regional Chief Counsel
Teresa H. A~
Assistant Regional Counsel
_1 This opinion is based solely on your generally inquiry. In the event a specific
fact situation arises, we may reach a different conclusion.
_2 All references are to the 2006 edition.