On Aug. 14, the Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS), under the leadership of Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Robyn Crittenden, received the Innovative Partnership/Collaboration Award for the establishment of the Parental Accountability Court (PAC) program in Georgia.
This national award is given each year to recognize outstanding leadership and management in collaborative programs between a child support agency and a court system or other agency serving parents, families or children. Cobb Superior Court Judge Ann Harris attended the presentation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on behalf of the Georgia Superior Court Judges who oversee parental accountability court programs.
The PAC program is a unique collaboration between Georgia’s Superior Court Judges and DHS/DCSS.
It provides judges with an alternative to incarceration in contempt cases arising from non-payment of child support, thereby reducing incarceration costs in the local community. Through judicial oversight, PACs assist in transitioning chronic non-payers of child support to financial self-sufficiency and parental responsibility by addressing the underlying issues that hinder their ability to support their children. Modeled after accountability courts that have proven successful for veterans, drug users and those with mental illness, PAC programs partner with existing community resources to provide participants with education, training and employment opportunities, along with substance abuse and mental health counseling when needed.
PAC participant Gregory Bingham credits the Cobb program for motivating him not only to get and maintain employment but also to take advantage of opportunities to improve his prospects.
Since entering the program in early 2018, he has received a raise and is currently pursuing his GED.
“Human nature is telling yourself, I’ll just put this off again and again, but the program made me come to court and be accountable for my actions,” Bingham said. “Being a part of the PAC made me realize I needed to step up and be a man for my current household and my daughter. I couldn’t have done that without the PAC program.”
Due to the efforts of PAC’s across the state, since 2012 some 6,200 non-custodial parents have avoided incarceration, $6.6 million in child support has been collected, and 9,461 children have received child support.
“We are extremely proud of this recognition and owe the success of the program to the joint efforts of our PAC judges, program coordinators, DHS/DCSS leadership, and participants who genuinely desire to make positive changes in their lives and those of their children,” said Judge Harris.
Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to recognize Georgia’s PAC judges and leadership at the State Capitol on Sept. 5.
For more information, contact Amanda Marshall at 770-528-8101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.