MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
At issue in this appeal is whether Illinois may exclude from its Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care program children who reside with relatives.
The Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care program (AFDC-FC) authorizes federal financial subsidies
Appellees are four foster children, their older sister (Linda Youakim), and her husband (Marcel Youakim). In 1969, Illinois removed the children from their mother's home and made them wards of the State following a judicial determination
The exclusion of foster children living with related caretakers from Illinois' AFDC-FC program reflects the State's view that the home of a relative covered under basic AFDC is not a "foster family home" within the meaning of § 408 (a) (3), the federal AFDC-FC eligibility provision at issue here. Interpreting that provision, Illinois defines a "foster family home" as
Homes that do not meet the definition may not be licensed,
Although Illinois refused to make Foster Care payments, it did provide each child basic AFDC benefits of approximately $63 a month, substantially less than the applicable $105 AFDC-FC rate.
In 1973, the Youakims and the four foster children brought a class action under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 for themselves and persons similarly situated, challenging Illinois' distinction between related and unrelated foster parents as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge District Court certified the class, but granted
While the direct appeal from the summary judgment was pending in this Court, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) issued a formal interpretation of the scope of the federal AFDC-FC program, providing in pertinent part:
In light of this administrative interpretation, we vacated the judgment and directed the District Court to consider whether the Illinois foster care scheme is inconsistent with the Social Security Act and therefore invalid under the Supremacy Clause, U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Youakim v. Miller, 425 U.S. 231 (1976) (per curiam).
On remand, the District Court granted summary judgment for appellees, holding that the State's denial of AFDC-FC benefits and services to otherwise eligible foster children who live with relatives conflicts with §§ 401 and 408 of the Social Security Act. 431 F.Supp. 40, 45 (ND Ill. 1976).
The Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the judgment of the District Court. 562 F.2d 483 (CA7 1977).
We noted probable jurisdiction, 434 U.S. 1060 (1978), and now affirm.
A participating State may not deny assistance to persons who meet eligibility standards defined in the Social Security Act unless Congress clearly has indicated that the standards
In arguing that related foster care does not fall within § 408's definition of "foster family home," appellants submit that Congress enacted the Foster Care program solely for the benefit of children not otherwise eligible for categorical assistance. We disagree. The purpose of the AFDC-FC program was not simply to duplicate the AFDC program for a different class of beneficiaries. As the language and legislative history of § 408 demonstrate, the Foster Care program was designed to meet the particular needs of all eligible neglected children, whether they are placed with related or unrelated foster parents.
Section 408 (a), in defining "dependent child," establishes four conditions of AFDC-FC eligibility. First, the child must have been removed from the home of a parent or other relative specified in § 406 (a), the basic AFDC eligibility provision, "as a result of a judicial determination to the effect that continuation therein would be contrary to the welfare of such child." § 408 (a) (1), 42 U. S. C. § 608 (a) (1). Second, the State must remain responsible for the placement and care of the child. § 408 (a) (2), 42 U. S. C. § 608 (a) (2). Third, the
The dispute in this case centers on the meaning of "foster family home" as used in the third eligibility requirement, § 408 (a) (3) of the Act. The statute itself defines this phrase in sweeping language:
Congress manifestly did not limit the term to encompass only the homes of nonrelated caretakers. Rather, any home that a State approves as meeting its licensing standards falls within the ambit of this definitional provision. That Congress intended no distinction between related and unrelated foster homes is further demonstrated by the AFDC-FC definition of "aid to families with dependent children," which includes foster care for eligible children who live "in the foster family home of any individual." § 408 (b) (1), 42 U. S. C. § 608 (b) (1) (emphasis added). Far from excluding related caretakers, the statute uses the broadest possible language when it refers to the homes of foster parents.
Appellants concede that these provisions do not explicitly bar from the Foster Care program children living with related foster parents. Juris. Statement 11; Brief for Appellants 22; Reply Brief for Appellants 5; 562 F. 2d, at 486, and n. 4. Nevertheless, they infer from two isolated passages of § 408 a congressional intent to except relatives' homes from the definition of "foster family home."
Appellants construe the "notwithstanding" language of § 408 (a) (1) in conjunction with § 408 (a) (3) as creating a class of AFDC-FC beneficiaries distinct from the dependent children covered under basic AFDC. In their view, "notwithstanding § 406 (a)" means that the Foster Care definition of "dependent child" both suspends the basic AFDC requirement that the child reside with a parent or close relative, and precludes a foster child who meets that requirement from participating in the AFDC-FC program. Under appellants' construction, §§ 408 (a) (1) and (3) would read: For the purpose of Foster Care aid, a "dependent child" shall only include a child who would meet the requirements of § 406 (a) except that he has been both removed from the home of a parent or relative specified in § 406 (a) and placed in a nonrelative's home.
The difficulty with this strained interpretation is that § 408 (a) (1) does not use the word "only." It states that a dependent child shall "also" include a child removed from the home of a parent or relative. Thus, there is no basis for construing language that unquestionably expands the scope of the term "dependent child" as implicitly contracting the definition to exclude a child who meets the eligibility criteria of § 406 (a). Because § 408 (a) (1) does not have the preclusive meaning
Appellants next maintain that interpreting AFDC-FC to encompass foster care by relatives would render meaningless another provision of the program. Section 408 (f) (1) of the Act obligates States to ensure that
According to appellants, if related homes were "foster family homes," it would be unnecessary to require States to make the home of a relative suitable for placement when the foster child already lives in a relative's home.
By ignoring the critical word "or," appellants misconstrue the import of this provision. To be sure, § 408 (f) expresses a preference for the return of children to their original home or their transfer to the care of a relative. Congress, however, expressed this preference in the alternative. When a child is placed in related foster care, the State obviously can satisfy § 408 (f) (1) by working toward his ultimate return to the home from which he was removed, in this case the mother's home. Thus, § 408 (f) (1) is fully consonant with including in the AFDC-FC program foster children placed with relatives.
Had Congress intended to exclude related foster parents from the definition of "foster family home," it presumably would have done so explicitly, just as it restricted the definition of "child-care institution."
The legislative history and structure of the Act fortify our conclusion that the language of § 408 should be given its full scope. The Foster Care program was enacted in the aftermath of HEW's declaration that States could no longer discontinue basic AFDC assistance due to unsuitable home conditions "while the child continues to reside in the home." State Letter No. 452, Bureau of Public Assistance, Social Security Administration, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Jan. 17, 1961) (hereinafter Flemming Ruling). In directing States "either to improve the home conditions" or "make arrangements for the child elsewhere," ibid., the Ruling prompted Congress to encourage state protection of neglected children.
Although a fundamental purpose of the Foster Care program was to facilitate removal of children from their homes, Congress also took steps to "safeguard" intact family units from unnecessary upheaval. See S. Rep. No. 165, p. 7; 107 Cong. Rec. 6388 (1961) (remarks of Sen. Byrd).
Congress was also concerned with assuring that States place neglected children in substitute homes determined appropriate for foster care. See S. Rep. No. 165, pp. 6-7. To deter indiscriminate foster placements, Congress required that States establish licensing standards for every foster home, § 408 (definition of "foster family home"), and supervise the placement of foster children. § 408 (a) (2); see 45 CFR §§ 220.19 (a), 233.110 (a) (2) (i) (1977). The legislative materials at no point suggest that Congress intended to subject some foster homes, but not others, to minimum standards of quality, as could result if § 408 excluded relatives' homes from the definition of "foster family home." Indeed, in authorizing an approval procedure as an alternative to actual licensing of "foster family homes,"
The specific services offered by the AFDC-FC program further indicate that Congress did not intend to distinguish between related and unrelated foster caretakers. Congress attached considerable significance to the unique needs and special problems of abused children who are removed from their homes by court order, distinguishing them as a class from other dependent children:
Section 408 embodies Congress' recognition of the peculiar status of neglected children in requiring that States continually supervise the care of these children, § 408 (a) (2), develop a plan tailored to the needs of each foster child "to assure that he receives proper care," § 408 (f) (1), and periodically review both the necessity of retaining the child in foster care and the appropriateness of the care being provided. See ibid.; 45 CFR §§ 220.19 (b), (c), 233.110 (a) (2) (ii) (1977). Additionally, the States must work to improve the conditions in the foster child's original home or to transfer him to a relative when feasible, § 408 (f) (1); see supra, at 137. This procedure comports with Congress' preference for care of dependent children by relatives, a policy underlying the categorical assistance program since its inception in
That Congress had no such intent is also evidenced by the 1967 amendments to the Act, which increased the federal matching
Our interpretation of the statute and its legislative history is buttressed by HEW Program Instruction APA-PI-75-9,
We noted in vacating the original three-judge District Court decision in this case that "[t]he interpretation of a statute by an agency charged with its enforcement is a substantial factor to be considered in construing the statute." Youakim v. Miller, 425 U. S., at 235-236, citing New York Dept. of Social Services v. Dublino, 413 U.S. 405, 421 (1973); Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 94, 121 (1973); Investment Co. Institute v. Camp, 401 U.S. 617, 626-627 (1971). Administrative interpretations are especially persuasive where, as here, the agency participated in developing the provision. Adams v. United States, 319 U.S. 312, 314-315 (1943); United States v. American Trucking Assns., 310 U.S. 534, 549 (1940). HEW's Program Instruction is fully supported by the statute, its legislative history, and the common-sense observation that all dependent foster children are similarly in need of the protections and monetary benefits afforded by the AFDC-FC program.
We think it clear that Congress designed the AFDC-FC program to include foster children placed with relatives. The overriding purpose of § 408 was to assure that the most appropriate substitute care be given to those dependent children so mistreated that a court has ordered them removed from their homes. The need for additional AFDC-FC resources—both monetary and service related—to provide a proper remedial environment for such foster children arises from the status of the child as a subject of prior neglect, not from the status of the foster parent.
The judgment below is
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
"Payment to States for foster home care of dependent children; definitions
"Effective for the period beginning May 1, 1961—
"(a) the term `dependent child' shall, notwithstanding section 606 (a) of this title, also include a child (1) who would meet the requirements of such section 606 (a) or of section 607 of this title except for his removal after April 30, 1961, from the home of a relative (specified in such section 606 (a)) as a result of a judicial determination to the effect that continuation therein would be contrary to the welfare of such child, (2) whose placement and care are the responsibility of (A) the State or local agency administering the State plan approved under section 602 of this title . . ., (3) who has been placed in a foster family home or child-care institution as a result of such determination, and (4) who (A) received aid under such State plan in or for the month in which court proceedings leading to such determination were initiated, or (B) (i) would have received such aid in or for such month if application had been made therefor, or (ii) in the case of a child who had been living with a relative specified in section 606 (a) of this title within 6 months prior to the month in which such proceedings were initiated, would have received such aid in or for such month if in such month he had been living with (and removed from the home of) such a relative and application had been made therefor;
"(b) the term `aid to families with dependent children' shall, notwithstanding section 606 (b) of this title, include also foster care in behalf of a child described in paragraph (a) of this section—
"(1) in the foster family home of any individual, whether the payment therefor is made to such individual or to a public or nonprofit private child-placement or child-care agency, or
"(2) in a child-care institution, whether the payment therefor is made to such institution or to a public or nonprofit private child-placement or child-care agency . . . .
"(c) the number of individuals counted under clause (A) of section 603 (a) (1) of this title for any month shall include individuals . . . with respect to whom expenditures were made in such month . . . .
"but only with respect to a State whose State plan approved under section 602 of this title—
"(e) includes aid for any child described in paragraph (a) of this section, and
"(f) includes provision for (1) development of a plan for each such child (including periodic review of the necessity for the child's being in a foster family home or child-care institution) to assure that he receives proper care and that services are provided which are designed to improve the conditions in the home from which he was removed or to otherwise make possible his being placed in the home of a relative specified in section 606 (a) of this title . . . .
"For purposes of this section, the term `foster family home' means a foster family home for children which is licensed by the State in which it is situated or has been approved, by the agency of such State responsible for licensing homes of this type, as meeting the standards established for such licensing; and the term `child-care institution' means a nonprofit private child-care institution which is licensed by the State in which it is situated or has been approved, by the agency of such State responsible for licensing or approval of institutions of this type, as meeting the standards established for such licensing."
"When used in this part—
"(a) The term `dependent child' means a needy child (1) who has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of the death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent, and who is living with his father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, stepfather, stepmother, stepbrother, stepsister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, or niece, in a place of residence maintained by one or more of such relatives as his or their own home, and (2) who is (A) under the age of eighteen, or (B) under the age of twenty-one and (as determined by the State in accordance with standards prescribed by the Secretary) a student regularly attending a school, college, or university, or regularly attending a course of vocational or technical training designed to fit him for gainful employment."
The Agency documented its approval in two "Relative Home Placement Agreements" which were identical, both in form and in obligations imposed, to those used for unrelated foster care placements, except that the term "foster" was sometimes crossed out, two references were made to the familial relationship among appellees, and the usual promise of AFDC-FC benefits was deleted. See 431 F.Supp. 40, 43-44, and nn. 4, 5 (ND Ill. 1976); App. 20-23.
"any person, group of persons, agency, association or organization, whether established for gain or otherwise, who or which receives or arranges for care or placement of one or more children, unrelated to the operator of the facility . . . ." Ill. Ann. Stat., ch. 23, § 2212.05 (Supp. 1978) (emphasis added).