Kelly Girtz, the mayor-elect of Athens-Clarke County, worked as an intern for Child Protective Services and during that time encountered families he said could have used help from programs such as the Parental Accountability Court.
“One of the parents, whose home I visited years ago as an intern for Child Protective Services, had piles of laundry and dirty dishes spread around the house,” Girtz said.
Girtz gave his support for the Parental Accountability Court Program at the PAC Kick Off Ceremony for the Western Judicial Circuit on Thursday.
“The PAC Program will offer an alternative to incarceration and help non-payers of child support make regular payments," said Regina M. Quick, the Georgia superior court judge in the Western Circuit holding Parental Accountability Court. The program is a joint effort between the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Child Support Services and Superior Court Judges.
Although already operating in 31 circuits, the PAC Program has recently been implemented in the Western Judicial Circuit, which includes Athens, and has had nine participants, according to Quick.
“Building stronger families for a stronger Georgia is what this program is all about,” Quick said.
From his experience as a parent, Girtz said he understands the challenges that parents face particularly when struggling with difficulties and that is why he supports the program.
“It’s not surprising that people challenged by circumstances much more than us run into some bumps in the road as parents,” Girtz said. “None of these people didn’t care about their kids, but they had challenges finding effective tools to care for them.”
The program will use community resources to address the challenges these parents face that prevent them from meeting their support obligations, according to DHS. The program will offer substance abuse treatment, job assistance and placement, short-term training, coaching and mentoring, educational services and Georgia Work Ready as an alternative to incarceration.
Because of his role as a public policy maker, Girtz wants to make sure the county uses their resources to provide the greatest benefit for families and children in the community.
“We know that when kids are supported, protected, loved and cared for they are more able to learn,” Girtz said. “And they are more able to become productive citizens and effective adults.”
To graduate, participants must meet their child support obligations for a minimum of six consecutive months.
“It takes the absolute rarest breed of a parent to not care about their children,” Girtz said. “Through this program we will help challenged individuals find the tools they need to effectively care for their kids.”