Updated November 2017

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

Provincial Contact

Janet Nearing
Dept. of Community Services
Family & Children’s Services Division
Box 696
Halifax, NS B3J 2T7

NACAC Volunteer

Rose Marie Smith
Adoptive Parents Assn. of Nova Scotia
Halifax, NS

What Is Adoption Assistance?

Adoption assistance may be available for children with 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 email us at adoption.assistance@nacac.org.

Nova Scotia’s Adoption Resources on the Web

Who Is Eligible for Adoption Assistance?

1. Nova Scotia’s legal definition of special needs is as follows:

The eligibility criteria for pre legal and post legal subsidized adoption is as follows:

  • child must be under 19 years of age
  • child must be residing with the adoptive parents
  • child either is or was previously in the care of a child welfare agency in Nova Scotia
  • approval of the Executive Director/District Manager
  • child has a special service need or a special placement need.

Child has a special service need because of one or more of the following:

  • A diagnosed physical or mental disability;
  • A diagnosed emotional disturbance or behavioural problem;
  • A diagnosed developmental delay or learning disability;
  • A diagnosed medical condition;


Child has a special placement need because of one or more of the following:

  • The child is a member of a sibling group who should be placed together, either jointly or successively.
  • The child has established significant emotional ties for a period of at least one year with a person or persons who propose to adopt the child.
  • It is in the child’s best interests to be placed in a family with the same ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural heritage or, where this is not possible, with a family who is sensitive to the child’s heritage.


It is determined by the Executive Director or District Manager that post-legal adoption designation should be granted due to special service needs as identified in Subsection 3, which have arisen and which can be clearly linked to pre-adoption history or circumstances.

What Supports and Services Are Available?

2. If available, the standard adoption assistance rate in Nova Scotia is:

The maintenance rates range from $14.64 to $21.02 per diem for board and $471 to $1,088 for clothing as determined by the age of the child and an income test, as per Appendix 65(e).

However, maintenance rates are not provided in all cases.  Where there is an identified need for maintenance rates, an income test is applied.  The majority of payments are the actual costs of services not covered by personal or provincial medical plans.

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 Nova Scotia offers special allowances over and above the standard rate, the criteria used to define the higher rates are as follows:

Exceptional Needs Funds may be provided where a child requires extensive or unusual care.  The rates range include:

Care Need Monthly Rate
Low $200
Moderate $300
High $425

The “Extraordinary Needs Assessment Tool” determines the exceptional care rate provided a child. 

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 Nova Scotia?

Benefits available to the child may include one or more of the following:

  • Clothing allowance
  • Medical
  • Eye examinations and glassesDental
  • Counselling/Psychotherapy
  • Transportation
  • Accommodation where it is necessary to travel long distances and remain overnight due to medical, dental, or therapeutic appointments
  • Tutoring
  • Daycare
  • Recreation activities which have been recommended by a social worker, therapist, or medical specialist to meet the child’s special physical, emotional, behavioural, developmental, and/or intellectual challenges
  • Legal fees
  • Exceptional Needs Funds where a child requires extensive or unusual care.

In addition, the subsidized adoption program provides for financial assistance to offset some of the costs of adopting a child with special needs.  The agencies are not mandated to provide post legal adoption services such as counselling.  Families are referred for this assistance.  We do not cover residential care or services outside of Nova Scotia.  The subsidy is focused on services for the child in their community, therefore we do not cover services for the parents such as marital counselling and courses.  We do provide pre-service training for adoptive parents and plan to expand this to include core training programs in concert with the foster care program.

5. What medical or dental services are available in Nova Scotia?

Medical and dental services are provided.

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

Benefits are available up to 19 years of age if a child meets the eligibility criteria and may be extended to 21 years if the child is in school.

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

Children privately adopted through a step parent or relative adoption, where the child is/was not placed in the home by a child welfare agency in Nova Scotia, do not meet the eligibility criteria for the subsidy program.  In some cases, children are placed by child welfare agencies with relatives.  These children are in the care and custody of the agency by court order or by consent.  In these cases, if they meet the eligibility criteria, subsidy may be provided.

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

No, there are no private agencies in Nova Scotia.

What Should Families Know About Applying for Adoption Assistance?

9. When do subsidy payments begin?

The effective date of the agreement is the date the adoptive parents sign the agreement after subsidy has been approved by the Executive Director or District Manager.

10. Will Nova Scotia consider my family income to determine my child’s benefit package?

Where there is an identified need for maintenance rates, an income test is applied as defined in Schedule 65(e).

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

Information on the Subsidized Adoption Program can be obtained by contacting the local agency.

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

The Department of Community Services establishes the rates.

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

The Executive Director or District Manager determines eligibility.  The agreements are negotiated by the caseworker but must be approved by the Executive Director or District Manager.

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?

A reasonable effort shall be made to place the child with adoptive parent(s) who do not require financial support, except where the child has been in the home for a minimum of one year and significant emotional ties exist.

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

The agreements are negotiated by the caseworker.

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 Nova Scotia?

The terms of Schedule A shall be reviewed annually or within 60 days of a written request of either party to the Agreement.  The review shall be conducted in person.  When the adoptive parent(s) reside outside of Nova Scotia, the agency responsible for payment of the subsidy shall arrange for the review to the conducted by the child welfare authority in the area where the family resides.  The adoptive parent(s) and caseworker shall assess whether the services being provided are meeting the special needs of the child and whether the costs are justified relative to the benefits.  Schedule A of the Subsidized Adoption Agreement will identify the services and/or financial assistance to be provided, frequency, and/or duration and anticipated costs over a one year period.

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

The adoptive parents or Agency/District Agency may request a review of the subsidized adoption agreement at any time based on changes in the special service needs of the child or the adoptive family’s financial ability to meet those needs.

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 Nova Scotia?

No.  We have post legal adoption designations to meet this need.

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

If subsidized adoption benefits are refused, terminated, or deemed inadequate, the adoptive parent(s) may apply in writing to the Executive Director/District Manager for review.  The Executive Director/District Manager will conduct a review and advise the adoptive parent(s) of their decision within 60 days of receipt of request.

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.

Children may obtain subsidized adoption benefits after an adoption has been finalized if it is determined by the Executive Director or District Manager that a post-legal adoption designation should be granted due to special service needs which have arisen and which can be clearly linked to pre-adoption history or circumstances.

What Else Do Families Need to Know?

21. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Nova Scotia?

There are 19 agencies across the province that deliver adoption services.  These include children’s aid societies, family and children’s services agencies, district offices of the Department of Community Services, and one approved child-placing agency.  The subsidized adoption program is provided under Section 87 of the Children and Family Services Act along with the Adoption Manual of Policy and Procedures.  The Department of Community Services sets the standards and the service is determined by the mandated agencies in the area where the adoptive parents reside.  If the parents reside out of province, the agency that placed the child is responsible for care.

22. Below are other programs that may delineate Nova Scotia’s adoption assistance program from others around the country.


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