On June 5, a graduation ceremony was held at the Butts County Courthouse for 11 Parental Accountability Court (PAC) program participants.

The ceremony opened up with a congratulatory video message from Gov. Nathan Deal before the Honorable Judge William Fears presented the participants their certificates of completion.

PAC Coordinator Stacey Sitten assisted and prepared the PAC participants along the way for successful completion of the program. 

“I think [the PAC Program has] given them the opportunity to get their self-dignity back,” said Sitten. “A lot of them feel like they’ve lost it because they’ve lost their license, they don’t get to see their kids, and they don’t get to pay their child support, so it’s like a snowball effect for them. I think this program helps restore that. It gives them a hope that they didn’t feel like they had.”

Senior Outreach Manager Clarence Burge, the Honorable Judge Sharon Sullivan and Fears were also keynote speakers at the graduation ceremony.

“We not only care about you, we care about your families as well,” said Burge. “We care about your children, we care about this program, we care about the communities that you live in and we’re here to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that you can take your rightful place in society as a fully functioning citizen and enjoy all the benefits of the life that you’ve created for yourself.”

Sullivan, who has been a juvenile court judge for 18 years, told a story about how the graduates’ participation in the PAC Program is making a big difference in not only their lives, but their children’s lives as well.

“I look around at the graduates and I see a lot of faces who’ve accomplished a lot during the program, and you should feel proud,” said Sullivan. “Your families should feel proud. The people who have worked with you are all very proud.”

Under Gov. Deal’s criminal justice reform, the incarceration and recidivism rate in Georgia has decreased dramatically, according to Fears.

“We realize now that if we don’t give people the tools to go out and go to work, that we’re going to start the rinse-repeat cycle all over again,” said Fears. “If we just put people back out on the streets with no skills and no training or no supervision, we’re making the same mistakes over and over again.”

“If there is an opportunity – wherever it is —whether it’s faith-based, court ordered or whatever, take hold of it because these are programs that will help you better your life and I’d highly recommend that all of them do that,” said Sitten. “It’s a win-win for the families and it can help them see what they’re doing in their lives from a different perspective and how they can change things.”

About Parental Accountability Court (PAC)

The PAC program is a joint effort of the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Child Support Services and Superior Court Judges to offer an alternative to incarceration and to help chronic non-payers of child support make regular payments. The program utilizes community resources to address barriers that keep parents from meeting their support obligations. Each program, including the services provided to participants, is tailored to the needs of the local community.

Superior Court Judges provide judicial oversight and collaborate with the Department of Human Services (DHS) PAC coordinators to implement the program. PAC coordinators connect participants to existing community resources. To graduate, participants must meet their child support obligations for a minimum of six consecutive months.