Accountability Court praises parent success
Cobb County’s Parental Accountability Court had seven reasons to celebrate this week, as seven fathers graduated from the program after establishing a firmer financial foundation for their families.
Superior Court Judge Ann B. Harris, who presides over the court and is pictured above with some of the graduates, could barely contain her excitement, heaping praise on each graduate for overcoming many obstacles to reach a new day.
“These participants stepped up to the plate regarding their responsibilities -- several of them through the difficulties of COVID, when employment was so hard to come by,” Judge Harris said. “They persevered and achieved financial stability for themselves and their children, and in many cases built stronger relationships with their children.”
The court, also known as PAC, aims to help chronic nonpayers of child support overcome barriers that are keeping them from financially supporting their children. PAC connects individuals with community partners offering literacy and education, job assessment and placement, substance abuse treatment, and other support.
Parents can be found in contempt of court and jailed for nonpayment of child support. But jailing a parent doesn’t deliver any financial support for the children and usually exacerbates the family’s situation.
“The PAC program helped me look at life differently,” graduate Bobby Jenkins said. “It showed me how to become a better parent and it showed me how to better manage my money, to take better care of my responsibility.”
Since its creation in 2017, Cobb’s PAC has served 94 noncustodial parents and collected nearly $720,000 in child support for 219 children. The PAC program is a joint effort of the state Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) and Superior Court Judges. There are 44 PACs around the state.
PAC uses community resources and judicial oversight to address barriers that keep parents from meeting their support obligations. Each program, including services provided to participants, is tailored to the needs of the local community. Superior Court Judges provide judicial oversight and collaborate with PAC coordinators to connect participants to existing resources.
Cobb’s program team includes Rebekah Beaver, Jessica Ferguson, Kim Van Alstine and Liberty Richards of DCSS; Amelia Pray of the Cobb District Attorney’s Office; and Sherrod Jones of WorkSource Cobb.
Community partners include Georgia HOPE, the Salvation Army, MUST Ministries, Goodwill of North Georgia, Cobb Community Connections, Chattahoochee Technical College, and Highland Rivers Behavioral Health, as well as the Cobb Sheriff’s Office and Cobb’s Probation Office.
Superior Court Administrator Christopher Hansard, firstname.lastname@example.org