Jan 03 2013
I would imagine to that to most adoptive parents, receiving your child’s birth certificate with your name and his name printed on an official document is kind of a special moment. It was to me, at least. Ten months after we brought Baby Boy home, we received his birth certificate. Two months after that, I begrudgingly made my way to the local Social Security Administration to apply for his social security card.
I’ve heard horror stories about the SSA my whole life. I also have never forgotten the day I had my name changed after K and I married. All of those people in house shoes! WHY?! However, I spoke with both adoptive and non adoptive parents about their experiences, and I confirmed on the SSA website approximately elevently billion times exactly what I would need to complete the process. With all of this in mind and Baby Boy’s birth certificate, a completed application, my identification, and the official final adoption decree in hand, I got there before they opened and took a number.
Thankfully a sweet friend volunteered to watch Baby Boy the night before, so I even took a book. Okay. It was a cook book, but it’s still a book!
I only waited about 30 or 40 minutes before my number was up. I sat down and was extra careful to be polite. The man at the window reluctantly picked up the birth certificate and application and glanced at them. He read Baby Boy’s birth date out loud and immediately began lecturing me about “waiting so long.” I patiently informed him that Baby Boy was adopted and I’d just received the document at the end of October. Wrong move. The word “adopted” sent things into a tail spin that included the most condescending civics lesson ever administered complete with hand gestures explaining how the federal government is the boss of everyone and that no state or company is going to tell them what to do.
This guy’s going to flip when he finds out about lobbyists.
I could hardly wedge a word in, and when I did, he became more hostile and condescending. He INSISTED that I could not apply for a number without Baby Boy’s birth parents’ information. You know, the information sealed by the state? The state that the federal government is the boss of?
He finally told me that I needed to leave and go find some information about the birth parents and to only come back once I found that. He also told me to bring the agency’s information, so he could call them and tell them how to do their job better “in the future.” I guess he didn’t want other parents like me wasting his time.
Fun fact. Our agency just celebrated its 30,000th placement. I bet they’ll be so glad when he calls them.
I feel that to fully understand what happened next, I should share some much too personal information with you. Once a month I nurse either a constant Hulk-like rage or a weepy existence for about a week. I’ll borrow the term moontime. So, if someone makes me mad enough during this week, one of two things will happen: I will either teeter on the edge of a black out while giving you the most intense and frightening what-for of your life, or I will struggle to hold it together until I get to a private place whereupon my composure will crumble as I cry my white hot rage out. I wish it had been an angry week. However, it was a weepy moontime week for me.
There are times when I wish that I had more control over what my facial expressions convey, and there are times when I am thankful that I don’t. I was thankful for this quirk when dealing with SS Man 1. I am positive that the expressions on my face conveyed much more ragged profanity than words could, and that is very satisfying.
I gathered my things, and I went to the car where I cried my anger out. I called my H who was appropriately irritated by the rude guy at the SSA, and he wisely suggested I call the agency. He told me that if all else failed, he would go back that afternoon, and I loved him even more for that. I drove toward home and spoke with the post adoption department at our agency. Can I just say that I love these guys? I felt much more confident after my call with them. Their advice? BE FORCEFUL and ask for a supervisor because I had exactly what I needed.
So. I turned around and headed back toward the Social Security office.
I got myself a new number and waited in line. This time I didn’t look at fun recipes. I sat there with narrowed eyes silently repeating, “Be forceful, and for the love of God, don’t cry,” over and over again. I hoped as hard as I could hope that each time the SSA Man 1’s window became available, he wouldn’t call me. And you know what? I got my wish!
Once my number was called, I sat down and slid Baby Boy’s birth certificate and the application– the exact same documents as before– across the window threshold.
Be forceful, and for the love of God, don’t cry.
SSA Man 2: “His birthday is xxxxx. Does he have a Social Security number?”
Me: “No. He’s adopted. They didn’t apply for it at the hospital since he wasn’t released into his birth parents’ custody.”
SSA Man 2: “Do you have his shot records?”
Me: “Not with me. I have his final adoption decree. It’s the official document signed by the judge.”
SSA Man 2: “Yes, I see the seal. Let me see if this will work.”
….. five minutes of wordless typing….
SSA Man 2: “You’ll have your card in 2 weeks. Well, it might be a little longer since it deals with another state.”
Me: “That’s fine. I sincerely appreciate your help.”
SSA Man 2: “Let me make copies of this and get your receipt.”
So. The moral of this story is, the experience of applying for your adopted child’s Social Security number lies entirely with chance. Hopefully your experience will be as smooth as mine was with SSA Man 2, but if it’s not, don’t let them intimidate you. You only need, according to their website (!) a birth certificate, a completed application, the adoption decree, and your identification. Don’t let them send you away on some ridiculous wild goose chase.
Because, you know who’s the boss of the Federal Government? You are.