The “Fatherhood Program” at Athens Technical College has just become the latest victim of budget cuts and dried-up funding that have already closed similar programs at 10 other Georgia colleges.
The program was created in 1996, aimed at noncustodial fathers who were not meeting their child support obligations. It quickly expanded to encompass participants in schools across the state and was ultimately opened up to women as well.
The idea behind the program is simple: Noncustodial parents who are in contempt of court for not paying support stand the best chance of ultimately doing so if they are encouraged to participate in formal education offerings, obtain degrees, get jobs and become productively immersed in their communities. The alternative: being jailed — often repeatedly — after falling behind in their payments.
There is, unfortunately, no money left to fund their educations, and the Department of Labor has just informed officials in Athens that no more federal stimulus money will be coming in to support the students. The school says it will do its best to continue serving the participants.
Robert Johnson is the program coordinator at Athens Tech, and he says that the program has been a strong winner for both participants and society in every conceivable sense. He says that, just in economic returns, the dollars provided to educate are returned many times over by participants getting jobs and dutifully complying with their support obligations.
Mike Light, an official with the Technical College System of Georgia, says that the men enrolled in the Fatherhood Program have, on average, three children. Every success story, he notes, is defined by a job that enables payment for their support, as opposed to the taxpayers having to step in.
Light considers that an excellent return on investment, and says that education officials are looking hard at alternative funding sources to keep the program going.
Related Resource: Athens Banner-Herald, “Blueprint: Alternatives sought as funds for fatherhood programs cut” Aug. 22, 2011