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Public Assistance Denied to Pregnant Minor


A New York Family Lawyer said that the mother applied for public assistance and medical aid from the County Department of Social Services for herself and her unborn child. At the time of the application, she was 20 years old and living separate and apart from her husband and residing in the home of her parents in Bethpage. Without any factual determination concerning the amount of child support actually furnished by her parents, the County Department of Social Services notified her that her application for eligibility for public assistance was being denied. The agency’s position was that she is under twenty-one, her parents are responsible for her, she is residing with her own parents, and they are of sufficient ability to support her. As far as the unborn child, there are no needs to be met for the unborn child.

Following a fair hearing proceeding, the hearing officer rendered a decision affirming the denial of assistance by the County Department of Social Services on the grounds that when a pregnant woman applies for public assistance for her unborn child and her needs are being met, the unborn child has no unmet needs.

Thereafter,a New York Divorce Lawyer said the mother commenced the Article 78 proceeding wherein she seeks to annul the determination after the fair hearing challenging the alleged practice and policy of the respondents of denying public assistance to married minors on the grounds that they are the legal responsibility of their parents; denying eligibility of married minors for public assistance by assuming resources of legally non-responsible relatives is available for their support without a finding that such resources are in fact being expended for the minor’s support; and denying eligibility of the unborn child for public assistance on the grounds that the pregnant mother’s needs are being met and the unborn child is precluded from establishing independent needs.

A Westchester County Family Lawyer said at the outset it is noted that the pleadings as framed do not seek class action relief, nor does the Court make its determination as a class action, but only on the basis of the individual relief sought in the petition.

The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program is established pursuant to the Social Security Act. The program is designed to provide financial assistance to needy, dependent children and the parents or caretakers who live with and care for them. While states are not required to establish an AFDC program authorized by the Social Security Act, if they elect to do so, they must abide by the federal requirements as set forth in the Act and the implementing regulations.

A Suffolk County Family Lawyer said that the Court finds that mother, a married minor, was improperly denied eligibility for assistance for herself and her intrauterine child on the grounds that her parents were responsible for her child support. In that the petitioner mother is married, she is considered as being emancipated. The mother is separated from her husband and temporarily residing with her parents. The fair hearing failed to elicit information as to her income or financial resources, if any. Nor did the Department of Social Services apparently follow up the disclosure that the Family Court had made provisions for payment of child support by the husband. The parent’s income is of no consequence in this matter even if it could be assumed there was an obligation to support the mother, their daughter, there is no such obligation for the unborn child. However, the Court recognized that many states do have plans which provide aid to unborn children. The states in accordance therewith have the option of including unborn children within their plan. New York States is one of those states which have exercised the option to include unborn children in its state plan.

There is no question that the mother was pregnant for a period longer than four months and that in the interim she has given birth to a son. As a result, she at the least would have been eligible for public assistance as grantee for her unborn child regardless of whether she herself was eligible for assistance since, as noted above, the Legislature of the State of New York has so provided.

Finally, the question as to the administrative letter must be addressed. The letter categorically establishes eligibility at the time pregnancy is medically verified provided there is a deprivation factor.

A woman, pregnant out-of-wedlock and not living with the alleged father of the unborn child, would be categorically eligible for ADC when the pregnancy is medically verified. The deprivation factor is continued absence of the father.

The medically verified pregnancy of the wife does not constitute a deprivation factor until the fourth month of pregnancy. A woman is considered, for the purposes of ADC, to be incapacitated from the fourth month of medically verified pregnancy until twelve (12) weeks after delivery or until pregnancy is otherwise terminated. ADC categorical eligibility exists from the fourth month of the medically verified pregnancy. To this point the Court observes it is a strange paradox that a woman pregnant out-of-wedlock apparently has superior parental rights to a married woman whose husband has left her to her own resources where all other factors are the same. However, the administrative letter noted above continues to make an even greater distinction. The administrative letter further states that although an unborn child is included in the public assistance case count and the household is considered to be increased by one (1) from the fourth month of pregnancy which has been medically verified, the unborn child has no needs independent of the mother.

When a pregnant woman applies for public assistance for her unborn child and her needs are being met, the unborn child has no unmet needs. There are, therefore, no needs to be met under a public assistance program. For example, parents of a pregnant daughter are meeting all of the daughter’s needs. An application for public assistance for the unborn child would be denied since the unborn child has no needs apart from the mother and the mother’s needs are being met.

The instant matter is squarely on point with the illustration cited in the administrative letter to a certain point. Here, the daughter and the mother, resides with her parents. However, she is a married woman and is, therefore, emancipated. There is no requirement for her parents to support her or her unborn child. The letter is an attempt to change legislation enacted by the New York State Legislature. The proper function of an administrative rule or letter is to implement, not amend a statute. Furthermore, there is no testimony or other showing in the fair hearing minutes that the mother’s emancipation was considered, or that her husband was obligated to support her, and that he did in fact do so. Nor was there any investigation into the claim that her medical expenses due to for each pregnancy were in fact due and unpaid.

Furthermore, it has been called to the attention of the Court that, subsequent to the petition, the hospital expenses attending the delivery of the child have been paid by another county Department of Social Services.

Accordingly, it is the finding of the Court, in concurrence with the statutes, regulations and cases cited that the holding in the fair hearing determination must be reversed and that medical and financial assistance should have been granted to the mother as grantee for her unborn infant from the fourth month of pregnancy until the commencement of the period covered by the County Department of Social Services; that a further investigation as to the mother’s income sources, if any, is necessary to determine her eligibility for assistance and granted if appropriate.

Though it is the government’s duty to make sure that every citizen is fairly provided for, it is also our individual obligation to provide for ourselves and for our children. Nine months of being pregnant is more than enough to plan and prepare. If you think that you need support, speak with the Nassau County Child Support Lawyer or the Nassau County Family Attorney from Stephen Bilkis and Associates. A Nassau County Child Custody Lawyer can help you in your legal actions in case you need them.

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