MILLER V. YOUAKIM, 440 U. S. 125 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Miller v. Youakim, 440 U.S. 125 (1979)

Miller v. Youakim

No. 77-742

Argued October 30, 1978

Decided February 22, 1979

440 U.S. 125


In administering its Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care program (AFDC-FC), Illinois distinguishes between children who reside with relatives and those who do not. Children placed in unrelated foster homes qualify for the AFDC-FC program, which provides greater monthly payments than the basic AFDC program. But children who are placed in relatives' homes may participate only in the basic AFDC program, because the State defines the term "foster family home" as a facility for children unrelated to the operator. Section 408(a) of the Social Security Act establishes certain conditions of AFDC-FC eligibility, among which is the requirement that the child be placed in "a foster family home." This term is defined in § 408 as "a foster family home for children which is licensed by the State in which it is situated or has been approved . . . as meeting the standards established for such licensing." The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) has interpreted the federal statute to require that States provide AFDC-FC benefits "regardless of whether the . . . foster family home in which a child is placed is operated by a relative." Appellees are four foster children who were removed from their mother's home following a judicial determination of neglect, and their older sister and her husband. Two of these children were placed by the State in the home of their sister and her husband, which was approved as meeting the licensing standards for unrelated foster family homes. Illinois nevertheless refused to make AFDC-FC payments on behalf of the children because they were related to their foster parents. Appellees then brought this action challenging the validity of Illinois' distinction between related and unrelated foster parents. The Court of Appeals, affirming the District Court's judgment for appellees, struck down the Illinois statute.

Held: The AFDC-FC program encompasses foster children who, pursuant to a judicial determination of neglect, have been placed in related homes that meet a State's licensing requirements for

Page 440 U. S. 126

unrelated foster homes. Accordingly, Illinois may not exclude from its AFDC-FC program children who reside with relatives. Pp. 440 U. S. 133-146.

(a) Both the language and Legislative history of § 408 show that the AFDC-FC program was designed to meet the particular needs of all eligible neglected children, whether they are placed with related or unrelated foster parents. Distinguishing among equally neglected children based on their relationship to their foster parents would conflict with Congress' overriding goal of providing the best available care for all dependent children removed from their homes pursuant to a judicial determination of neglect. Pp. 440 U. S. 134-143.

(b) Interpretations by HEW, the agency charged with administering the AFDC-FC program, are entitled to considerable deference. Pp. 440 U. S. 143-144.

562 F.2d 483, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined except STEVENS, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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