Updated November 2017

Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from Northwest Territories foster care.

Territorial Contact

Laura Comishen
Department of Health & Human Services
Gov’t of the Northwest Territories
Box 1320
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2L9

What Is Adoption Assistance?

Adoption assistance may be available for children that the territory has determined have special needs. Often assistance is provided to encourage the adoption of special needs children and remove the financial disincentives to adoption for the families. If you have questions, please call the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) at 651-644-3036 or our subsidy help line at 800-470-6665, or e-mail us at adoption.assistance@nacac.org.

Northwest Territories’ Government Page on Adoption

Who Is Eligible for Adoption Assistance?

1. Northwest Territories’s legal definition of special needs is as follows:

Our legislation does not describe the child as eligible, rather the adoptive parents or applicants as eligible for assistance.  The Director of Adoptions applies the following criteria before approving a subsidy:

  • It is desirable for the child to be adopted by the adoptive parents;
  • The adoption would place an undue burden on the financial resources of the adoptive parents;
  • The adoptive parents would be unable to adopt the child without the assistance;
  • The financial, or other assistance proposed, is less than the cost to maintain the child in foster care.

What Supports and Services Are Available?

2. If available, the standard adoption assistance rate in Northwest Territories is:

There is no standard rate.  Adoptive families may be eligible for up to 60 percent of the basic foster care rate where they can demonstrate financial need.  Basic foster care rates vary between our seven regional Health & Social Services Authorities..

3. Specialized rates, if available, are based on the extraordinary needs of the child, and/or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child.  If Northwest Territories offers special allowances over and above the standard rate, the criteria used to define the higher rates are as follows:

The child is:

  • part of a sibling group
  • requires medical, mental health or rehabilitative carehas experienced previous adoption disruption or multiple placements
  • is at risk of acquiring medical, physical or developmental or emotional disorder.

Up to 60 percent of special needs foster care rate may be provided.

4. In addition to monthly payments, what sort of post-adoption services (respite, counseling, residential treatment, parent training, etc.) are provided?  When available, are these services formally specified in the adoption assistance agreement in Northwest Territories?

Sec 19(1) of the adoption regulations provides examples of where assistance would be provided, only where it is not already provided by the Government of the Northwest Territories or its agencies.  Assistance may be provided for:

  • medical aids;
  • training for the child, applicant or adoptive parent;
  • travel for assessment and diagnosis of the child, and for training for the child, applicant or adoptive parent;
  • rehabilitation materials and instruction;
  • personal care assistance;
  • special needs assistance;
  • tutoring, educational materials and equipment;
  • treatment costs that are not insured services;
  • assistance for maintaining contact with the child’s birth family;
  • reference materials pertaining to the child’s condition;
  • respite care;
  • reimbursement for telephone, fax or internet charges necessary to find resources or to maintain contact with adoption workers or the child’s birth family;
  • physical speech and other therapy that are not insured services; and
  • any other assistance that the Director considers appropriate in the circumstances.

These services are addressed in the subsidy/assistance agreement.  They are not separate.

5. What medical or dental services are available in Northwest Territories?

It varies.  Medical specialists and dentists regularly visit communities to provide services.

6. When my child turns 18, which benefits, if any, are available to our family?

Children may receive subsidy up to the age of 19 in the Northwest Territories.  There are no provisions for subsidy beyond the age of majority. 

7. Do relatives adopting under the program receive the same benefits as non-relatives?


8. Do children adopted from private agencies in Northwest Territories receive the same subsidies as those children adopted from public agencies?

No.  Subsidy / assistance applies only to permanent wards in care of the Director of Child & Family Services who are adopted.

What Should Families Know About Applying for Adoption Assistance?

9. When do subsidy payments begin?

At the time of adoption placement.

10. Will Northwest Territories consider my family income to determine my child’s benefit package?

Yes, where prospective adoptive parents apply for the basic rate (ie: to cover food, clothing and shelter costs).  No, where the child has been designated for a special needs rate.

11. Are prospective adoptive families routinely notified of all benefits available to them in Northwest Territories?


12. Who sets the assistance rates and how are they established?

The Director of Adoptions for the Northwest Territories.

13. Who makes the final determination of a child’s eligibility in Northwest Territories? What roles, if any, do workers and administrators at the agency or regional level play in eligibility determination and/or assistance negotiation?

The child’s worker and regional supervisor proposes the child special needs amount; the adoption worker for the adoptive parents proposes the basic amount where financial need has been demonstrated.  The Director of Adoption makes the final decision.

14. Once a child is determined eligible for assistance, is there any requirement to look for an adoptive family who will accept a placement without assistance?


15. Once eligibility is established, how and by whom are assistance agreements negotiated in Northwest Territories?

Regional Authorities are responsible for negotiating the agreement.

How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?

16. A child’s adoption assistance agreement may be periodically reviewed by the agency.   What is the typical process used in Northwest Territories?

There is a mandatory review of the agreement after three years.  Health & Social Services Authorities are responsible for reviewing and recommending whether to continue, vary, or terminate the assistance. 

17. Can adoption assistance agreements be modified if requested by adoptive parents?

Yes.  The adoptive parents may request a modification, and an amendment to the existing agreement may be prepared if supported by an adoptions worker and approved by the Director of Adoptions.

18. A deferred or nil agreement is one in which the initial monthly assistance payment is $0.  If a child’s needs are listed as high risk and symptoms later manifest, the payment is renegotiated.  Are deferred agreements offered in Northwest Territories?


19. What are the exact steps a family must go through to access the appeal process in Northwest Territories?

The adoptive parent appeals to the Director of Adoption.  If the Director denies a request, the adoptive parent may appeal to the Minister of Health & Social Services.  The Minister establishes an appeal committee to review the decision of the Director.  The decision of the appeal committee is final.

20. Families may request assistance after the finalization of an adoption under certain circumstances. Below is the process by which families access adoption benefits after finalization.

The adoptive parents need to apply to the Director of Adoptions.  The Director needs to be satisfied that the child has a congentital physical or mental condition that was not apparent prior to adoption and the care, and/or treatment for the condition will place an undue burden on the financial resources of the adoptive parents.

What Else Do Families Need to Know?

21. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Northwest Territories?

The program is territorially supervised and locally administered.  The Director of Adoptions is the territorial authority.  Social workers are employed by Health and Social Services Authorities and receive statutory training to be appointed as adoptions workers.  These adoptions workers report to the Director of Adoptions, through the local Authority.

22. Below are other programs that may delineate Northwest Territories’ adoption assistance program from others around the country.



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