NB v. Sybinski

Decision Date28 February 2000
Docket NumberNo. 49A02-9904-CV-311.,49A02-9904-CV-311.
PartiesN.B., et al., Appellants-Plaintiffs, v. Peter A. SYBINSKI, et al., Appellees-Defendants.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Jacquelyn E. Bowie, Kenneth J. Falk, Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Indianapolis, Indiana, Attorneys for Appellants.

Jeffrey A. Modisett, Attorney General of Indiana, Jon Laramore, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana, Attorneys for Appellees.


GARRARD, Senior Judge.

Case Summary

N.B., et al. ("Class") appeal the trial court's order of summary judgment in favor of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, et al. ("State") holding that the family cap policy of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program ("TANF") is constitutional. We affirm.

Statement of Issues

The Class presents three issues for our review, which we consolidate and restate as follows:

I. Whether the family cap provision violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution; and

II. Whether the family cap provision violates substantive due process.

Facts and Procedural History

Before June 1994, Indiana participated in the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children ("AFDC") program, which provided cash benefits to low-income families with needy children. See IND. CODE § 12-13-7-1(10); 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., repealed by Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-193, § 103(a), 110 Stat. 2112. AFDC was a joint federal-state program funded primarily by the federal government but implemented by the states. State programs were required to meet certain federal guidelines, but each state retained freedom in operating its program.

In June 1994, Indiana requested waivers of certain AFDC requirements so that Indiana could implement an experimental reform project pursuant to section 1115 of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1315(a) (1994). On December 15, 1994, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved thirty-three of Indiana's forty-two waiver requests, and the State, through the FSSA, implemented the waivers on May 1, 1995. These waivers included the family cap, time limitations on welfare benefits, work requirements, school attendance requirements, and child immunization guidelines. These waivers were codified by the General Assembly in 1995. In December 1995, Indiana sought thirty-two additional waivers in an attempt to expand its welfare reform efforts. HHS approved the additional waivers in August 1996, and Indiana implemented the waivers on June 1, 1997. These waivers included further work requirements, a 24-month lifetime limit on receiving AFDC, a requirement that minor heads of AFDC households live with a responsible adult, and a child care voucher program.

In August 1996, the federal government passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which eliminated the federal AFDC program and replaced it with a block grant to states that provided Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq. (1996). The block grants provide greater flexibility to states in designing and operating their own welfare programs. The PRWORA permitted states with waivers to continue to implement the welfare programs they had commenced under prior law until the waivers expire. 42 U.S.C. § 615 (1996). Indiana continues to operate under the 1994 and 1996 waivers and will do so until April 2002. States operating under waivers continue to receive federal funds for implementation and evaluation of their welfare reforms. 42 U.S.C. §§ 615, 1315 (1996).

Pursuant to its waivers, Indiana implemented a welfare reform program with the stated intention "to keep families together, to emphasize the dignity of work and to achieve self-sufficiency through personal responsibility." Supp. Record at 4. In his request for the waivers, Governor Bayh stated that Indiana's welfare reform proposal had four basic premises:

Work must be more attractive than welfare; each recipient must be responsible for, and participate in, the process of self-sufficiency; ... the welfare system must ensure equity with the unsubsidized working poor; [and] public assistance must be a temporary situation rather than a permanent way of life.

Supp. Record at 3.

Although Indiana has implemented several reforms under the waivers, the Class limits its challenge to the family cap provision. Under Indiana's former AFDC program, when an AFDC recipient gave birth to a child, the family's AFDC benefits were increased by approximately $59 a month to provide for the needs of the newborn. The family cap provision, however, eliminates the automatic increase provided under AFDC. Under the family cap rule, TANF assistance is not provided to a child who is born to a TANF recipient ten or more months following the month in which the family began receiving benefits. There are four exceptions in which the welfare grant will be increased upon the birth of an additional child: 1) when the child was conceived through incest or sexual assault; 2) when the child is born to a minor included in an AFDC grant who becomes a first-time minor parent; 3) when the child does not reside with his or her parent; and 4) when the child was conceived in a month that the family was not on TANF. Supp. Record at 122, 182. Although they do not receive an increase in cash benefits, children subject to the family cap remain eligible for other benefits including vouchers for food products through the Women-Infants-Children's program, food stamps, and Medicaid payments.

Indiana's stated purposes for the family cap emphasized that: 1) giving birth is an issue of personal responsibility; 2) giving birth to an additional child may create further barriers to financial independence and self-sufficiency; 3) families should consider the financial and personal responsibility involved in having a child; and 4) eliminating the automatic increase in benefits places welfare recipients on par with working families. Supp. Record at 47; Record at 53. For evaluation purposes, Indiana hypothesized that the family cap would lead to a reduced childbirth rate. Specifically, the State theorized that reduced fertility would lead to fewer children born into a dependent situation; an increase in work; and more parent time per child. Supp. Record at 553-54.

Under the federal waivers, Indiana is required to conduct its welfare reform program as an experimental project in order to evaluate the effects of the changes. 42 U.S.C. § 1315(a). The approval from HHS set forth requirements for the project. Under Indiana's plan, all AFDC recipients were placed randomly into either an experimental group or a control group. Those in the experimental group received benefits and services under Indiana's welfare reform program as permitted by the federal waivers. Those in the control group continued to receive benefits under the AFDC rules in effect prior to grant of the waivers. Approximately 95 percent of recipients were in the experimental group, and 5 percent in the control group.

Indiana contracted with Abt Associates, Inc. ("Abt") to evaluate the changes implemented under the waivers. The evaluation is designed to measure differences between the experimental group (welfare reform/TANF) and the control group (AFDC). The two groups are evaluated regarding the goals of welfare reform such as personal responsibility, self-sufficiency, and equity with the working poor. Abt is not separately evaluating any specific effects that might arise solely from the family cap. Abt will evaluate the costs and benefits of welfare reform to welfare recipients, taxpayers, and the state. Through surveys and statistical databases, Abt will compile data about births in both groups, as well as data on children born in the experimental group who do not live with their parents. In addition, the evaluation will measure the effects of welfare reform on family structure and child well-being.

N.B. and her minor child, L.K., filed their complaint on May 22, 1997. N.B. has two children in addition to L.K. and had been receiving AFDC benefits approximately three years prior to filing the complaint. L.K. was born to N.B. on February 22, 1997. L.K. was conceived despite N.B.'s use of birth control at the time of L.K.'s conception. N.B.'s TANF caseworker informed her that her cash benefits would not increase after the birth of L.K. because L.K. was born ten months or more after N.B. began receiving AFDC/TANF benefits. On October 23, 1997, by agreement of the parties, the trial court certified a plaintiff class consisting of TANF recipients and their children who, because of the federal waivers, are not eligible for additional cash benefits upon the birth of a child. The Class moved for summary judgment on October 21, 1998. The State responded and moved for summary judgment on December 18, 1998. On April 19, 1999, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the State. This appeal now ensues.

Discussion and Decision
Standard of Review

Our summary judgment standard of review is well settled. Upon review of the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment, we apply the same legal standard as the trial court. Erie Insurance Co. v. American Painting Co., 678 N.E.2d 844, 845 (Ind.Ct.App.1997). Summary judgment shall be granted if the designated evidence shows that there is no genuine issue as to a material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ind. Trial Rule 56(C); Sizemore v. Arnold, 647 N.E.2d 697, 698-99 (Ind.Ct. App.1995). Once the moving party has sustained its initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue and the appropriateness of judgment as a matter of law, the party opposing summary judgment must respond by designating specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Stephenson v. Ledbetter, 596 N.E.2d 1369, 1371 (Ind.1992). We will resolve any doubt as to fact or inference to be...

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