Georgia Fatherhood Program Assists Parents with Employment Skills and Supporting Their Children
The Georgia Fatherhood Program has been in existence since January 1997 with many milestones since that time. Unfortunately, many customers don’t become aware of the program until a parent falls behind in their court ordered child support.
Although the Georgia Division of Child Support Services (GA DCSS) seeks to educate all parents of the Fatherhood Program, most non-custodial parents (NCPs) do not initially need nor qualify for services when they are first contacted by DCSS. In situations where an NCP is faced with an unexpected loss of a job or they have a substantial decrease in their income, that is the time when they need help.
The Fatherhood Program is administered by Georgia DCSS to help an NCP avoid having to appear before a judge in court. It’s an employment-based service that focuses on providing services that can help the NCP achieve self-sufficiency. It also encourages parents to increase emotional, parental and financial involvement in the lives of the NCP’s children.
- Driver’s License Reinstatement
- Child support Services
- GED Enrollment
- Job Training
- Job Search/Placement
- Volunteer Work Opportunities
- Support order modification, where applicable
More importantly we also educate these parents on the Enforcement process, including income withholding, license suspension process, outreach services, etc. We do this to ensure that they understand the importance of paying support as ordered as well as the consequences of not complying.
How can the Fatherhood Program Help?
When DCSS becomes aware of the parent’s need for services, the agent may make a referral to the program or the parent may ask to enter the program. It’s important to understand that participation by the parent is voluntary.
Once the parent agrees to participate and is enrolled in the program, they must comply with the participant requirements. These include:
- Paying child support while enrolled in the Program;
- Gaining employment within 90 days;
- Providing updates at each accountability session;
- Diligent job searches immediately upon entering the program by registering with the Department of Labor and other employment agencies;
- Reporting new employment within 2 days of accepting any position;
- Being accountable, including treating the Program as if it were a job
If a parent fails to complete the program, (i.e. fails to pay child support or fails to contact their Fatherhood Agent, as required) all enforcement activities will resume as allowed by Georgia law.
What happens if DCSS is not notified about a change in circumstances?
DCSS makes several attempts contact the parent in order to bring them back into compliance. An automated notice is mailed when a parent becomes thirty, sixty or more days delinquent warning them of the consequences and administrative actions that can occur. These include, but are not limited to, denial or suspension of any license, certificate, permit or vehicle tag registration. After a 90 day delinquency, the child support agent mails another warning notice giving the parent several options to bring them into compliance, including an opportunity for the parent to request an administrative hearing regarding the driver’s license suspension. That includes an opportunity to receive Fatherhood or other outreach services to assist them, if they are unemployed or underemployed.
The failure of a parent to respond to these notices can result in the administrative actions noted earlier as well as being found in contempt of their court order. The most common enforcement remedy is driver’s license suspension.
The good news:
- If a parent requests an administrative hearing, GA DCSS will suspend all actions pending the results of the hearing, or
- If they contact their agent to ask about the Fatherhood Program and they are eligible and they enter the program, it is a second alternative to administrative license suspension while they are participating in the program.
Fatherhood Program Completion
Parents who complete the program must work and pay child their child support for sixty consecutive days. Upon successful completion, the case will be monitored by the local child support office. If a parent fails to complete the program, (i.e. fails to pay child support or fails to contact their Fatherhood Agent, as required) all enforcement activities will resume as required by Georgia law.
What if the parent is incarcerated when they get behind in child support?
DCSS and the Department of Corrections and Pardons and Parole have partnered to offer “Re-entry Services”. DCSS provides services to incarcerated NCPs who need them the most because returning citizens have barriers linked to education, employment, and they also have to overcome a criminal record. To accomplish these goals, Fatherhood Agents visit Georgia prisons and educate residents on DCSS services.
Where paternity has not yet been established we provide Paternity Testing to prove parenthood. Then we assist the parent with tools to begin forming bonds with their child, and to expedite the support process once they are released. The Fatherhood Program includes information about 1) Being a better parent, Access and Visitation and Legitimation.
Where an NCP already has a case we discuss how to re-establish contact with their child(ren), and communicate ways to resolve issues regarding their child support case after they have been released back into the community.
Another Re-Entry Initiative
Parental Access, Visitation, and Education (P.A.V.E.) Program. It’s in all thirteen Transitional Centers (TC) statewide for residents with an active child support cases. The PAVE program focuses on the importance of choices, education, and skills to cope with life post-incarceration. Efforts are made to connect/reconnect residents with their children through visitation days with their families.
Are there other Fatherhood Collaborative Partnerships?
There are currently two opportunities to assist NCPs in some regions of the state:
Homeless Veterans Initiative
A Metro-Atlanta Partnership where Fatherhood services are provided and coordinated with Legal Aid and Veterans Affairs to address the needs of veteran participants.
Enhanced Transition Jobs Development Grant
Through a DCSS partnership with Goodwill Industries and the US Department of Labor, Goodwill provides subsidized employment to NCPs with a child support case. Areas served are Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Henry counties.
For information about the Georgia Fatherhood Services Program and other Community Outreach Services, call 1-844-MYGADHS (1-844-694-2347) and select option 1 for DCSS, then select 2 for Agent and then select 3 for Outreach. Noncustodial parents also have the option of requesting additional information via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.