The state agency in charge of collecting and distributing child-support payments has streamlined the DNA-collection process used in paternity cases, and Athens is one of the test sites that will show whether the time-saving change works.

State officials are trying out the DNA program in the Office of Child Support Services in Athens and Newnan, according to the state Department of Human Resources, which oversees the child support services agency.

Medical technicians in the Athens office at 850 Hawthorne Ave. now are allowed to get DNA samples, designed to prove the identity of a father in child-support cases, by taking oral swabs from the adult and child involved in a particular case. The new method saves at least a week in obtaining results, said Mike Patrick, manager of the Athens office.

Previously, the DHR referred all paternity testing to an outside contractor, and the process could take up to a month or more in some cases.

The Athens office drew its first DNA sample Sept. 19 and since then has collected nine samples, Patrick said.

The new procedure has helped get results faster, he said.

"Usually after the last (sample) is drawn we can get written results within two weeks," he said.

The child support agent can simply swab the father, take a photograph, process the paperwork, and put together a package to go to the lab on the same day. Because samples also are needed from the child and sometimes the mother, the process can take more time.

All DNA sampling is court-ordered, and sometimes law enforcement must be called to bring a father in for the sample, but often a father is cooperative, Patrick said. Usually, the men don’t deny their paternity status, but simply want verification, he said.

"The worst thing in the world, to me, is for someone to pay support all the kid’s life, and then later find out (he’s) not the father," Patrick said.

The Athens office oversees 4,526 cases of children who are owed child support, he said.

SOURCE:  Athens Banner-Herald