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  Find a subsidy for special needs children (domestic adoption)
Family Helper editor

(Apr. 15, 2005) Can Canadians who plan to adopt get some kind of ongoing financial help? The answer is yes: you can get a subsidy from most provincial governments, but only when adopting a child with special needs who is in the care of a public agency (so that excludes private domestic and international adoptions).

(Some Canadians have chosen to adopt special needs children from the U.S., where there are subsidized programs for adopting American mixed race and black babies.)

The kind of subsidy I'm talking about is a government benefit to offset the costs of adopting and raising a child with special needs. You might get one-time and monthly payments to defray unusual expenses, such as medical and dental expenses, respite care, counselling services and therapy not covered by health insurance. (See Glossary for the definition of "special needs".) Subsidies are also called "on-going assistance" or "adoption assistance".

How much money can you expect? Some sample rates:
-- Alberta: up to 90% of foster care rates, which run up to $25 a day.
-- British Columbia: up to $806 a month.
-- Manitoba: up to half the maintenance rate for foster care, or up to $11 a day.
-- Nova Scotia: up to $20 a day for board and up to $1,088 for clothing, subject to an income test.
-- Saskatchewan: up to $555 a month.
-- Yukon: up to $27 a day.

The services Alberta offers are typical of those available: medical and dental care, home renovations to meet a child's disability, therapy, day care, respite care, remedial education, travel expenses and rehabilitation.

However, you're out of luck if you live in Prince Edward Island or Quebec, which don't offer an adoption assistance program.

No ministry funding in Ontario

You're not much better off in Ontario, where you're at the mercy of the ability of each Children's Aid Society to scrape together the money for a post-adoption subsidy. And that is because, believe it or not, the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services doesn't fund any form of post-adoption subsidy.

Subsidies in Ontario are at the discretion of each Children's Aid Society. Each one decides how much it spends on post-adoption services (and some offer none at all). CAS's have to find the money in their general fund, and that severely restricts what they can offer.

As an example, take the Grey Owen Sound Children's Aid Society, located in Owen Sound, Ont., just down the road from the Family Helper office in Southampton. The manager of Resources and Children's Services is Daniel Moore, who is also the Vice President of the Adoption Council of Canada (ACC).

Mr. Moore reports that a subsidy is paid based on the special need of the child.There is no standard rate at his agency, but the maximum is $500 per month per child. Apart from monthly payments, no other specific post-adoption services are offered (such as respite care, counselling, residential treatment, parent training), because there is no special funding for adoption subsidies from the provincial ministry. Mr. Moore does note that "we try to stay in touch when we can and provide services when we are able."

Overall, CASs report that there is no fixed subsidy rate; rates are set on a case-by-case basis, depending on the special need. Kenora-Patricia Children and Family Services says, "There is a range that varies from up-front, one-time assistance (typically bedroom furniture) to $0 to $600 per month/per child."

NACAC's subsidy profiles

My source is a survey by the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). Each year NACAC's Adoption Subsidy Resource Center surveys U.S. states about their adoption assistance programs. In 2003 ACC asked NACAC to create adoption assistance profiles for the 13 provinces and territories.

To date, the Subsidy Resource Center has completed eight profiles (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Yukon) and partially finished the Ontario profile. Of 53 child welfare agencies in Ontario, one has no adoption assistance program and 35 have not reported. That leaves 17 Children's Aid Societies for which profiles are available.

You can see the subsidy profiles at the NACAC web site, They give such information as eligibility, payments, special services and program procedures.

NACAC's profiles show that subsidies are funded by many provincial governments. For example, Alberta has a Post Adoption Support Program which is funded by the province's Child and Family Services Authorities. In Nova Scotia the subsidized adoption program is funded under the Children and Family Services Act .

A few summary points about adoption subsidies:
-- Only available when you adopt from a child welfare authority (i.e. from foster care). No international adoptions.
-- Reliably available only in provinces which fund subsidies. Ontario is the notable exception. (Adoption assistance is not funded at the national level.)
-- Generous in some provinces. Payments can run almost as high as foster care payments.

So, if you're considering adopting a child with special needs, ask your social worker if you can get a subsidy and how to do it. And aim to negotiate a subsidy agreement before the adoption is finalized, not after.

For more, see the article at the ACC web site,

Subsidies in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia placed 90 children for adoption in the 2002/2003 fiscal year, including 50 with an adoption subsidy. About 275 children are now in subsidized adoptions. --ACC Newsletter, March 2004

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Contact: Robin Hilborn,
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Copyright 2009 Robin R. Hilborn
Updated Mar. 22, 2006

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