Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - North Dakota

Date: September 2023

What specific factors or conditions does your State consider to determine that a child cannot be placed with an adoptive family without providing financial assistance? ("What is your State definition of special needs?")

A child with special needs is defined as a child that has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to placement or adoption without financial assistance:

  • Seven years of age or older
  • Member of a minority race
  • Member of a sibling group being placed together for adoption
  • Age 0-18 years with a physical, emotional, or mental disability or diagnosed by a licensed physician to be a high risk for such a disability


What is the maximum amount a family may receive in non-recurring adoption expenses from your State? (Adoptive parents can receive reimbursement of certain approved, "one-time" adoption expenses incurred in the process of finalizing a special needs adoption.)

$2,000 per child


Does your State enter into deferred adoption assistance agreements? (In some States, adoptive parents can enter into an agreement in which they choose to defer the receipt of a Medicaid card, the monthly monetary payment, or both and can elect to receive the Medicaid card and/or monetary payment at another time.)

North Dakota offers deferred adoption assistance. A monthly payment may be deferred if agreed upon by the adoptive family and the county. Payment for nonrecurring expenses may be made and Medicaid offered for a family who defers the monthly subsidy. A monthly amount may be negotiated at any point the child’s needs warrant reconsideration.


When can adoption assistance payments and benefits begin in your State?

Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in North Dakota at adoption placement.


How are changes made to the adoption assistance agreement in your State?

  • When can a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • How does a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • What if a parent does not receive the change they request in the adoption assistance agreement?

Adoptive families can request a change in the adoption assistance agreement any time there is a documented change in the needs of the child or the circumstances of the family. Parents can make a request for modification of the agreement at an annual review or whenever there is a change that requires a change in payment level.

The request for modification must be made in writing to the county social service office administering the adoption assistance grant and must detail the specific reasons for the requested change in adoption assistance amount, including rationale for the specific amount requested. If the parent is requesting an amount that exceeds the regular foster care rate for the child’s age, the adoption subsidy worker shall document the special needs of the child that warrant the higher amount. Negotiation regarding requested changes may be initiated by the county social service office administering the adoption assistance grant. Additional documentation may be requested during the negotiation process. Contact information for county social services offices may be found on the North Dakota (ND) Department of Human Services (DHS) website.


What types of postadoption services are available in your State, and how do you find out more about them?

North Dakota offers a program called the North Dakota Post Adopt Network which is contracted through the Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK) Program. The program is a collaborative effort of Catholic Charities North Dakota. New adoptive families receive a personal contact at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after the finalization of their adoption to see if there are any outstanding needs for services or support.

Families apply for postadoption services through their local county social service or regional human service center offices and may also contact the Post Adoption network via email:

Contact information for the North Dakota regional human services centers is available on the NDDHS website.

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate North Dakota's respite programs.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or post adoption services contact for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


What mental health services are provided by your State?

Public mental health services for children in North Dakota are administered by the Department of Human Services through collaboration between the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Children and Family Services Division. The Children’s Mental Health System of Care is also known as the Partnerships Program for Children's Mental Health. Services include the following examples: psychiatric and psychological evaluations, inpatient hospitalization (psychiatric unit), individual-group-family psychotherapy, partial hospitalization services, and inpatient psychiatric and residential treatment centers services for the care and treatment of metal illness or disorders.

Specific information about services covered and related contacts may be found in the following sections of the NDDHS website:

Medicaid General Information
Regional contacts

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or medical assistance specialist for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


Does your State provide additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under your State medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance?

North Dakota does not provide additional services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under their sate medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance.


What is your State's process for applying for a fair hearing? (A fair hearing is a legal, administrative procedure that provides a forum to address disagreements with agency decisions.)

Adoptive parents may appeal an agency's decision to reduce, change or terminate subsidized adoption or where they feel they have been wrongly denied a subsidy, in accordance with rules and procedures of the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services (NDDHS) fair hearing and appeal process. Adoptive parent appealing an agency’s decision must do so within thirty days of the decision and must submit their request in writing. Inquiries may be sent to the Appeal Supervisor. In situations where the adoptive parents apply for a subsidy after the adoption is finalized, the review of the application and determination of eligibility will be at the discretion of the Department of Human Services. The decision of the Department may not be appealed.

Parents must make a written request to the county social service office administering the adoption assistance or the North Dakota Department of Human Services to initiate the process.

The NDDHS or county social service agency must receive the hearing request within thirty days of the mailing date of the notice of contested DHS action. If someone else makes a written request for the adoptive parent, it must include a written statement, signed by the parent, informing DHS that the person named is the family’s representative. After a timely request for a hearing is received, and if the issue is an appealable one, the office of administrative hearings will send a notice giving the date, time, and place of the hearing. This notice will be sent to the family at least ten days before the hearing. The notice also will inform parents what to do if they cannot come to the hearing as scheduled. The family may bring witnesses, friends, relatives, and a lawyer to assist in presenting the case.

The hearing officer will listen to both sides but will not make a decision at the hearing. Instead, the hearing officer will issue a recommended decision to the NDDHS after the hearing. Then, the NDDHS will either accept or reject the hearing officer’s recommended decision. Families will receive the NDDHS written decision in the mail a few weeks later. Parents should receive a decision within ninety days of the hearing request. The hearing officer will record the hearing so that the facts are taken down correctly. After the NDDHS decision is issued, parents can obtain a copy, for a fee, of the tape by contacting the NDDHS. If parents disagree with the decision, they may appeal to the district court.


Does your state, territory, or tribe offer a guardianship subsidy or assistance (monthly payments and medical coverage) program?

Yes. Assistance is available regardless of the child’s title IV-E eligibility. There is no difference in benefits or eligibility between IV-E and State/territorial/tribal guardianship programs. The program is not IV-E funded so the same program serves all eligible children.

  • Does the guardianship assistance program differ from the adoption assistance program? Yes
  • If so, how does it differ? The difference is in the amount of subsidy.


What are the eligibility criteria for a child to receive guardianship assistance?

Children must be 12 or older (or placed with a sibling who is 12 or older) and must have been in foster care for at least six months. The case worker must have ruled out reunification and adoption.


Do families have to meet a kinship definition to receive guardianship assistance? If yes, how is kinship defined?

No definition required. The intent of the subsidized guardianship program is that a fit and willing relative or other adult with whom the child has already established a relationship, such as a foster parent, will become the guardian. In those cases, the establishment of the legal guardian/ward status formalizes and gives legal recognition to an existing personal relationship. However, a legal guardian/ward relationship may be established without any pre-existing personal relationship between the guardian and the ward.


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