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Adoption in Nunavut

Adoption provides an opportunity for children to have a forever family, to stay connected with their culture and community while providing them the stability and permanence that every child needs.

Adoptions in Nunavut occur under the Nunavut Adoption Act, and the Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act.

The Nunavut Adoption Act deals with Adoptions of children living in Nunavut. It also deals with inter-jurisdictional adoptions. The Nunavut Adoption Act is designed to ensure that potential adoptive children are placed in loving homes. Its objective is to promote the best interests of children that are being adopted and to provide the means for establishing the legal status of a child within a family.

The Nunavut Adoption Act is intended to protect the rights of everyone involved in an Adoption: the child, the child’s Birth parents and the Adoptive parents.

The Department of Family Services promotes an open adoption model that supports meaningful connections between a birth and adoptive family. Open adoptions commit to long term connection between birth and adoptive families as a way of ensuring the adoptive child develops a healthy sense of identity, personal history and connection to culture. Open adoption refers to any adoption in which the adoptive and birth parents have made a commitment to maintain a lifelong ongoing relationship for the benefit of the child.

Everyone benefits from open adoption. It means that children grow up knowing their birth parents, their culture, language and traditions. Important medical history is shared and families can openly exchange information as the child grows.


Who may Adopt?

The following person(s) may adopt a child under the Nunavut Act;

  • A single person who has obtained the age of majority.
  • A couple where at least one person has attained the age of majority.
  • A spouse, where the child is the child of their spouse and neither spouse is married to another person.


Adoption Information for Birth Parents

Who can I talk to?

It is important that you make the best plan for your child, ensuring them a loving and permanent home.

If you are unsure whether Adoption is the right choice for you, a Social Service Worker in your community may be able to help you.

The decision remains yours as to whether or not you choose Adoption.

There is a lot to think about, and the Community Social Service Worker can help. You will find out what your choices are so that you can make the best plan for your child.



Types of Adoption

There are four types of adoption in Nunavut:

Aboriginal Custom Adoption - Custom adoption is a long standing and accepted practice of child placement in the aboriginal culture. One or both birth parents and adopting parents must be of Inuit, Dene or Metis descent and must be a resident of or have some legitimate connection to Nunavut.

Custom adoption is an arrangement for care of children between the natural parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) (usually relatives or other people in the same community).  Adoption is deemed to have taken place at the time of placement.

The Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act, was passed on September 30, 1995 and since that time custom adoptions have been processed by Adoption Commissioners in the various Nunavut and Northwest Territories communities.  Adoption certificates are completed by Commissioners and forwarded to the Nunavut Court of Justice where they are certified, stamped and filed by the Nunavut Court Clerk.

Private Adoption occurs when the child to be adopted is not in the care of the Director of Child and Family Services. It can be arranged by individuals (birth parent(s) and adopting parent(s)) themselves as long as the requirements of the Adoption Act and the Regulations have been met.  Children can be placed in adoptive families out of Nunavut but then the requirements of both Nunavut and the host Province or Territory must be met.

Private adoption matters have been regulated to protect the interests of all parties, and to ensure the protection and well-being of the child.

Step-parent adoption also falls under the Private Adoption designation. Step-parent adoption occurs when one spouse adopts the other spouse’s biological child. Neither spouse can be married to another person.

Departmental Adoption occurs when the child being adopted is in the permanent care and custody of the Director of Child and Family Services.  This can happen in one of two ways:

  • A parent delivers the child to a Child Protection Worker for the purpose of adoption, and the consents required have been provided to the Director (Sec. 37.(1) of the Child and Family Services Act).
  • A child has been apprehended (Sec. 33 of the Child and Family Services Act) and eventually comes into the permanent care and custody of the Director of Child and Family Services.

Subsidized Departmental Adoptions are only available for a child in Permanent Custody and eligible for Adoption placement.  Subsidized Departmental Adoption assistance encourages and secures the Adoption of children by providing supports, both financial and non-financial, to Adoptive families.

Subsidized Departmental Adoption assistance is based on the belief that Adoption is preferable to long-term Foster care as it provides children with a sense of belonging, stability, and permanence as a life-long member of a family.

There are two basic types of assistance provided. Assistance may be provided based on:

  • the special needs of the child; and/or
  • ​to support the basic care needs of the child when it would create an undue financial burden on the Adoptive parent(s).

The Director may arrange for the provision of the following other assistance referred to in subsection 17(1) of the Nunavut Adoption Act to an applicant or an adoptive parent unless it is otherwise provided by the Government of Nunavut or its agencies or by any other government or its agencies.

International Adoption occurs when a child is adopted from a country other than Canada. International Adoptions are regulated by the Nunavut Adoption Act, the Nunavut Inter-country Adoption Act (Hague Convention), federal immigration laws, and the laws of the child’s country of origin. All these laws must be observed.

The Nunavut Adoption Act governs Adoptions that will be completed in Nunavut after the child joins his or her new family in Canada. Adoptions that are completed in the child’s country are governed by the Inter-country Adoption Act and must involve a licensed Inter-country Adoption agency. Nunavut has no private licensed agencies and relies on southern licensed agencies to facilitate Inter-country Adoptions. 

   What is the Hague Convention?

In May 1993, 66 countries, including Canada, reached an agreement on the Hague
Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country
Adoption (or the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption
). The Convention seeks
to establish a cooperative framework between the countries of origin of children in need
of Adoption and their receiving countries to ensure that the child’s best interests are



What About the Adoption of Inuit children?

The Nunavut Adoption Act stresses the importance of a child’s physical, mental and emotional well being as well as the child’s cultural, linguistic and spiritual ties in relation to Adoption. There is particular recognition given to preserving the heritage and cultural ties of Inuit children.

In Private Adoption, Birth parents may provide consent to consultation with their Inuit organization regarding preparing an Adoption plan for their child. The Inuit organization may assist the Birth parents in identifying extended family members who may wish to adopt.

For children in permanent custody of the Director of Children and Family Services, the Director consults with the child’s Inuit organization for their input toward an Adoption plan for the child.   When extended family or approved Inuit families cannot be found, the Director will consider approved Adoptive parents with other backgrounds as potential Adoptive parents providing, they express a willingness to promote and preserve the child’s awareness of his/her cultural heritage.



For Adoptions completed in Nunavut and governed by the Nunavut Adoptions Act, Birth parents must take note of the following summaries of offences under the Nunavut Adoptions Act:

No person shall publish in any way an advertisement searching for a child for Adoption or to find Adoptive parents for children. Every person who does, with exception of the Director of Adoptions, is guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both (Section 74).

Every person, other than the Director, who gives or receives any payment or reward, either directly or indirectly, to obtain or assist in obtaining a child for the purpose of Adoption, is guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to either a fine not exceeding $10,000, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or both. This does not apply to the payment of costs and charges for services under the Nunavut Adoption Act or Regulations, such as fees and expenses to a lawyer for proper legal services or fees and expenses to a medical professional for the required medical examination and report (Section 75).




For more information contact your local Family Wellness office.

You may also contact the Nunavut Adoption Specialist at the address below:

Department of Family Services
Government of Nunavut
Box 1000, Stn. 1240
Iqaluit, Nunavut
X0A 0H0

Phone: 867- 975-5200
Fax: 867- 975-5298
Phone: 867-975-5232
Fax: 867-975-5298