Adoption Assistance Reimbursement

Northwestern University recognizes that faculty and staff choose to build their families in many ways. In order to support eligible faculty and staff who are adoptive parents, the University offers an Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Program.

What is the Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Program?

Effective January 1, 2015, the Northwestern University Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Program was established for the benefit of eligible Northwestern University faculty and staff. The purpose of the Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Program is to provide reimbursement for all or a portion of the expenses resulting from the adoption of an Eligible Child. The Program is intended to satisfy the requirements of section 137 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), and to provide reimbursement to eligible employees that are excludable from federal gross income under section 137 of the Code.


All active, benefits eligible faculty and staff, with at least three years of continuous service at the time of the adoption. The adoption must be completed on or after 1/1/15 to be considered eligible for reimbursement.

Qualified Adoption Expenses

  • Adoption agency placement fees
  • Attorney fees for the adoption
  • Court costs for the adoption
  • Reasonable and necessary transportation and lodging associated with the adoption
  • Other reasonable expenses which are directly related to, and the principal purpose of which is for, the legal adoption of an Eligible Child (as defined below) by an eligible faculty or staff member

The following expenses are not reimbursable:

  • Adoption of individuals eighteen years or older
  • Adoption of a spouse's or domestic partner's child, including step-children
  • Expenses paid for carrying out a surrogate parenting arrangement
  • Adoption expenses incurred prior to the effective date (1/1/15) of this program
  • Expenses paid in violation of state or federal law
  • Expenses paid for establishing legal guardianship
  • Expenses reimbursed, paid or funded under any state, local or federal program or other source. (For example, adoption assistance expense reimbursed through another employer.)
  • Expenses claimed as a credit or deduction on your personal tax return

Eligible Child

The term "Eligible Child" means any child who has not reached age 18 and who is not the child of the employee's spouse or domestic partner.

Limitation on Adoption Assistance Reimbursement

Adoption assistance reimbursement is limited to $5,000 with respect to any Eligible Child. This is a limit on the total qualified adoption expenses that may be reimbursed in connection with any Eligible Child. There is also a limit of two adoptions per household for the lifetime of employment at Northwestern. For example, if two University employees in the same household wish to seek reimbursement for a qualified adoption, they are eligible for a maximum of two adoption reimbursements during the lifetime of their employment at Northwestern. All adoptions covered under this reimbursement program must be finalized after the faculty or staff member has completed three years of employment at Northwestern, and after the effective date of the program (1/1/15).

Reimbursement Procedure

To obtain reimbursement, the eligible employee must submit to the University all of the following information within six months of finalizing the adoption:

  • Complete the Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Form and submit to the Office of Work/Life & Family Resources along with:
  • Documentation of all fees, costs and other expenses incurred in connection with the adoption of an Eligible Child (including detailed receipts, invoices, canceled checks, etc.)
  • Documentation that indicates whether the child is a citizen or resident of the United States
  • For the adoption of an Eligible Child who is not a citizen or resident of the United States, a final decree of adoption by a competent authority of the foreign-sending country, as well as evidence that the child has been issued the appropriate visa from the State Department of the United States
  • For the adoption of an Eligible Child who is a citizen or resident of the United States, a final decree of adoption

Tax Exclusion or Tax Credit

The tax laws regarding the adoption tax credit are complicated and they affect different individuals in different ways. A professional tax advisor is your best source of information about whether you should seek payment of Qualifying Adoption Expenses from the Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Program or claim the adoption tax credit. While you may be entitled to claim both a credit and an exclusion from income for Qualified Adoption Expenses of an eligible child, both cannot be claimed on the same expenses. Because each taxpayer’s circumstances are unique, you should determine whether the credit or employer payment is more beneficial to you. The tax exclusion for Qualified Adoption Expenses begins to phase out for taxpayers with certain modified adjusted gross incomes (the phase out limits are published by the IRS annually). The University does not provide personal tax assistance. Please consult your tax advisor for more information. You may also obtain further information from IRS Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses and its instructions that can be obtained from the IRS website.

Program Administrator

The program will be administered by the Office of Work/Life & Family Resources (or any individual or entity to whom the Vice President of Human Resources has authorized and empowered to issue uniform rules and adopt forms to be used in carrying out the purposes of the program). The program administrator may make and enforce such rules and regulations as is deemed necessary or proper for the efficient administration of the program. The program administrator will determine whether expenses are qualified adoption expenses eligible for reimbursement under the program. Additionally, the program administrator will have discretionary authority to interpret the program and decide any and all matters arising hereunder, including the right to remedy possible ambiguities, inconsistencies or omissions and make factual determinations.

Any such corrections, interpretations, determinations of the provisions of the program by the program administrator will be final, binding and conclusive upon all parties, including the University, employees, their families and dependents.

Amendment and Termination

The program is subject to amendment or termination at any time, and for any reason, by the University or pursuant to a written instrument executed by the University’s Vice President of Human Resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please see the Adoption Assistance FAQ webpage.