“Parent Accountability is more of what we are, helping parents be accountable,” Simpson said. The term “child support” carries a lot of emotional impact that detracts from the mission, he said.
Simpson will speak about the Parent Accountability Court at a 7 p.m. Monday public meeting, part of the League of Women Voters Carrollton-Carroll County’s annual “Meet the League” event. It will be held in the jury assembly room at the Carroll County Courthouse.
The court was established with a $350,000 grant from the Federal Office of Child Support and was the first child support court in Georgia. Simpson said other counties have studied Carroll’s system and about 30 child support courts are now operating in Georgia.
“We copied the successful drug court model,” he said. “Applied Research Services did a control group study of our child support court and found that its participants paid 1,000 percent more child support than members of the control group.”
Simpson said the old method was to put parents who didn’t pay child support into jail. He said the Parent Accountability Court helps the parents stay out of jail and earn money to make their support payments.
“We sign a consent agreement with them,” he said. “They agree to participate in work, go to school and get drug treatment, if they need it.”
He said the program now has about 120 participants, which saves about $60 per day, per person, in jail costs, which represents a total savings of about $7,200 per day.
Simpson said the court program works with a number of agencies to put the participants on a career track.
“About 75 percent have no high school diploma,” he said. “We require them to get a GED diploma and that lets them go to technical college.”
He said the program uses incentives such as coupons, gas cards and cash to keep the people on track. For those who violate the rules, the sanctions include weekends in jail, community service work and sitting all day in court.
The 2012 Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 1176, legislation known as the Criminal Justice Reform Bill, with the goal of reducing the state’s inmate population by problem-solving courts, such as those in Carroll County. Former state Sen. Bill Hamrick was the Senate sponsor of the legislation. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal in May, becoming effective July 1.