The Forsyth County Court System has added a new program to its roster aimed at improving the well-being of local children and lowering the incarceration rates among noncustodial fathers.
On Friday, the system officially kicked off its Parental Accountability Court (PAC) program, a partnership between the Georgia Department of Human Services and the Forsyth County Superior Court to help “habitual nonpayers of child support” begin to make regular payments and avoid incarceration, while increasing parent’s financial and emotion involvement in their children’s lives.
At the celebration kickoff event on Friday, a Department of Human Services representative told the gathered crowd that with Forsyth County’s kickoff, 45 of the state’s 49 judicial circuits are now committed to the PAC program.
“Since 2009, we have served 3,900 participants in this program; over 10,900 children have benefited from this program; we collected $10.2 million dollars; and we have 127 participants that have graduated from the program,” said Tangela Grey, Department of Human Services spokeswoman.
According to a court system press release, across the state of Georgia PAC programs have proven to be successful at reducing incarceration costs and addressing the root causes of a parent’s nonpayment of child support, like substance abuse, illiteracy and mental health issues.
“The PAC program indeed benefits all members of the family: the father, the mother and above all, the children,” Grey said.
Speaking to the crowd at the event, Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley said that after years of serving as a drug court judge, he has seen those benefits firsthand.
Bagley said that participants in programs like Forsyth County’s drug court are motivated by the judiciary, and often worry about disappointing their judge.
“I’ve been a drug court judge for 15, 16 years now. I am keenly aware of the importance of judicial interaction with those who are involved with the criminal and civil justice system,” he said. “We know that from our other accountability courts, lives are changed because of the interaction and the involvement of the judiciary.”
Wrapping up the event, a PAC program graduate from a different county spoke to the crowd about his experiences in the program and how it changed his life.
“When I came into this program, I was in contempt, and when I started, nothing seemed right. I had trouble holding down a job, and I just kept getting farther and farther behind,” the man said.
The man said the program gave him the help he needed to face his problems and overcome them.
“Now, I’m working on getting visitation with my daughter, that is that last step that I’ve been working toward for the last 10 years now,” he said. “This program has changed my life, with everything, for the better.”