Obtaining a Social Security Number for a Foster Child in Your Care

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You are likely seeking a Social Security Number (SSN) for a foster child or youth in your care so that you may can make a claim on your Federal income tax return.  The law is clear that if a county child welfare agency has a foster child's SSN, they must share it with caregivers. However, there is no law that requires a county to have the SSN or to acquire it. If the county has a foster child’s SSN and refuses to provide it to the child's caregivers, then they are in violation of the Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16503.5 and are unlawfully denying the caregiver the right to benefit from the Federal Tax Credit.


Inquiring whether an SSN exists for your foster child

To find out whether or not the county has your foster child's SSN on file, send a letter by certified mail to the director of your child welfare agency. Include the child's name and case file number. Cite and attach a copy of Welfare and Institutions Code section 16503.5 and state your right as a caregiver to benefit from the Federal Tax Credit.


Requesting the child's SSN (if you know an SSN exists) from the county placing agency

If you are aware that the county has the child's social security number on file and the county continues to refuse your request, we suggest you send a letter by certified mail to the director of your child welfare agency.  In your letter, include the child's name and case file number. Cite and attach Welfare and Institutions section 16503.5 and request that the county provide you with the SSN within 7 days. If you do not receive the SSN within 7 days, please email Advokids at [email protected].


Requesting an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN)

If the child is legally placed in your home for adoption by an authorized placement agency, the child may qualify for an ATIN, which can be used to file for the Child Tax Credit.

Requesting the child's SSN at the Social Security Administration

Another way you can try to obtain the SSN is to locate your nearest Social Security Administration branch office and walk in to request the child’s SSN. Explain you are the child’s foster parent and you need the SSN in order to file your tax return. You should not be asked about (nor should you volunteer) any information about the child’s reason for being in care or any information about the child’s social worker or court case.

You will be asked to show some or all of the following: your identification (driver’s license or state-issued ID or passport), your foster placement agreement/relative caregiver placement agreement, your adoptive placement agreement (if any), or your court order of adoption (if the adoption has been finalized). You will likely be asked for a copy of the child’s birth certificate. If you do not have a copy of the birth certificate, other forms of identification will sometimes be accepted, such as the child’s health insurance card (Medicaid, MediCal). The SSA employee may give you the child’s SSN on the spot if it can be found with a quick check of computer records.


SSN Requests for Los Angeles County

Los Angeles county is no longer requiring court orders before they share a child’s Social Security Number (SSN) with a caregiver. If you are a caregiver for a foster child in Los Angeles County, you may send a request for a child’s SSN to [email protected]. LADCFS will provide the child’s SSN upon request, if they have it.

If this process does not prove successful, it may be worthwhile to ask your county case worker to make a request for the foster child's SSN from LA DCFS Medi-Cal division.

U.S. Tax Code

26 USC 24: Child tax credit

26 USC 152: Dependent defined


Legal Disclaimer: Advokids provides educational information and resources to those who use our website, call our hotline, or submit requests for information via the website. Any information provided may not be construed as the giving of legal advice to any person about a particular legal matter and should not be relied upon as the basis for taking a particular action or refraining from taking a particular action in any legal matter. If you want or need legal advice about a particular legal matter, you should consult a lawyer.

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