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Agency (Public) Adoptions

There are two kinds of agency adoptions in Nova Scotia. The first type of adoption is for children who are in the permanent care and custody of the Department of Community Services. The other type of adoption arranged by the agency is called ‘voluntary placement.’ A voluntary placement occurs when an expectant parent consents to the adoption of her child.

Children in Care and Custody

Children who are in the care and custody of an Agency or District Office of the Department of Community Services can be placed for adoption once the court system determines their birth family is unable to meet their needs. The majority of these children are described as having special needs. These special needs could include having learning, behavioural, emotional or physical challenges. Other types of special needs include having been abused or neglected, being part of a sibling group that needs to stay together, children who are between the ages of 8 and 16 years old, or they need to be placed in homes compatible with their culture. (See Mi’kmaw Adoptions and African Nova Scotians below)

Section 68 Agreement (Voluntary Placement of Child for Adoption)

Voluntary placement accounts for a very small percentage of agency adoptions. This type of adoption occurs when an expectant mother chooses to place her child for adoption with a Child Placing Agency, Child Welfare Agency or District Office of the Department of Community Services. In most cases, the child is placed with a family chosen by the expectant parent(s) from the approved waiting adoptive families. Sometimes, an expectant mother already knows a family she wants to adopt her child but in order for an adoption to proceed, the family must have a home study completed by an approved private practitioner for the Agency’s or District Office’s approval.

Waiting adoptive families that become aware of an expectant mother who wishes to place her child with them, should contact the Nova Scotia Adoption Information Line at Line at 1-866-259-7780. Your family will be directed to the appropriate Child Welfare Agency or District office.

PRIDE Education Program

In Nova Scotia, prospective adoptive parents are now required to attend an education program called PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education). This nine session course, which amounts to 27 hours of training, is offered by the Department of Community Services. Ideally, the applicant’s participation in a PRIDE training program should be concurrent with the completion of their SAFE home study.

PRIDE’s curriculum offers adoptive parents the information that will help prepare them for the responsibilities involved in raising their children and incorporate information about the following:

  • Adoption and child welfare systems, processes and laws
  • Attachment as a central issue in all adoptions
  • Loss issues in adoption
  • Impact of adoption on your own family
  • Child development, child management and an overview of issues specific to the needs of adopted children
  • The effects of neglect, lack of stimulation, abuse, institutionalization on children
  • Identity formation and the importance of cultural and racial awareness
  • The importance of connections and continuity for children

The SAFE Home Study

This type of home study was designed to evaluate families for adoption, foster care licensure, concurrent planning, and relative placement.

A social worker from the Department of Community Services will meet with you and your family over the course of several months and during these interviews, a number of topics will be explored. Such issues will include:

  • Your family’s motivation for adopting and understanding of adoption’s life long issues
  • Your strengths and limitations in parenting styles/attitudes
  • The stability of your relationships (with partners, family, friends) and sources of support.
  • Your financial and employment situation, health status, lifestyle, home and neighbourhood environments, interests and hobbies
  • Your understanding of open and closed adoption and their implications
  • The age, ethnicity, health status and other characteristics of children that would best match the applicants.
  • Your understanding of sharing adoption information with the child

You will also be required to complete a number of forms and questionnaires including the following:

  • Medical reports (completed by you and your family doctor)
  • Proof of marriage, if applicable
  • Police clearance reports
  • Child welfare record checks
  • Home safety checks
  • Letters of reference from family, friends
  • A financial statement

The SAFE home study is focused on a family’s strengths and a respectful evaluation process while keeping in mind that the agency’s most important duty is to protect the best interests of the children in care.

* Most prospective adoptive and foster families find the home study process intimidating and intrusive. Social workers and agencies do not expect families to be perfect; they are looking for people who have certain strengths and those who have successfully and proactively overcome life’s challenges.

Mi’kmaw Adoption

To preserve their Native heritage, Mi’kmaq children in Nova Scotia must be placed in culturally appropriate adoptive homes. Families must speak and understand Mi’kmaw and be able to provide culturally enriched activities to support the children’s well-being. The majority of Mi’kmaq children available for adoption are ages 11 to 16 and will therefore require sensitivity and understanding during the adjustment period to a new home, new school and new community.

To inquire about adopting a child who is Mi’kmaw, you may contact one of the Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services in the province. For mainland Nova Scotia, contact the Shubenacadie Office at 902-758-3553. For Cape Breton, contact the Eskasoni Office at 902-379-2433.

Adoption of Children of African Nova Scotian and Bi-racial Heritage

Like First Nations children, the Department of Community Services attempts to place children of African Nova Scotian and Bi-racial heritage in culturally appropriate homes. Community Services is looking for African or interracial Nova Scotian/Canadian families that have:

  • a sense of African Nova Scotian history and culture
  • an understanding of stereotypes and expectations of African Nova Scotian children
  • the ability to support a child who may encounter racism coping mechanisms and strategies
  • knowledge of health issues (skin/hair care, sickle cell anemia)
  • appropriate community resources

Based on the needs of the child at the time of placement, adoptive families may be eligible for financial subsidies. There’s also an urgent need for families that will adopt sibling groups.

Steps for Agency Adoptions in Nova Scotia

STEP 1: Nova Scotians who are interested in adopting must first call the Nova Scotia Adoption Information Line at 1-866-259-7780.

STEP 2: Attend an evening information session where you’ll fill out some application forms and forms for criminal and child abuse checks. Nova Scotia is divided into four regions so you will attend the information session in your area.

STEP 3: Get trained! Attend the mandatory 27 hour training program called PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education).

STEP 4: The Home study! A social worker will be assigned from your Agency or District Office of the Department of Community Services for your family and will conduct your home study. The home study or assessment consists of approximately 4 to 6 interviews with the worker and members of your family.

STEP 5: Wait! Once the home study is complete and approved, your family will be placed on the active waiting list to adopt. As children become available for adoption, workers search through their current and active family profiles and will try to find the best match for the child.

STEP 6: The match! When your family is matched with a child, your social worker will contact you and give you information about the child. The information provided will include the child’s medical history, social background and any other information you will need to make your decision. If you choose to accept the match, a series of pre-placement visits is conducted in order to achieve a comfort level for the child and family prior to the final move into the adoption home.

STEP 7: Welcome your new son or daughter home! Once the pre-placement visits have been completed, your child will be placed in your home. Depending on the child and his/her best interests, there may be a need for post-placement contact with your child’s siblings, other birth family members or with the foster parents.

STEP 8: Following placement an adoption worker will visit with your family to provide support and counsel regarding djustment issues. This period of supervision will continue for a minimum of 6 months as required by legislation or for whatever period of time is required for the family to be prepared for legal finalization of the adoption. This is frequently a period ranging from 12 to 24 months.

STEP 9: Adoption finalization! The adoption is finalized in the court serving the area where the adoptive family lives. All legal work is provided with the assistance of the agency and no fee is involved.

Financial Assistance for Children with Special Needs

Adoptive families may be eligible to receive an adoption subsidy from the Minister for children that have special needs.

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

  • the child must be under 19 years of age
  • child must be residing with the adoptive parents
  • the 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

A 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;


The 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.

For more information on Nova Scotia’s adoption subsidy:

Janet Nearing
Dept. of Community Services
Family & Children’s Services Division Box 696
Halifax, NS B3J 2T7
Phone: 902-424-3205
Fax: 902-424-0708
E-mail: nearinjl@gov.ns.ca


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