Family Conferencing as a Cornerstone of Civil Rights

With millions marching for justice in honor of George Floyd, is it a realistic demand that civil rights be honored in police and justice system encounters, especially in the system’s contact with young people?  We believe that it is absolutely realistic!

Consider that black youth are five times as likely to be arrested or imprisoned compared to white youth.  They are 18 times more likely to be tried as an adult. Nationally, the rate for incarceration of black youth for is 433 per 100,000 compared to 86 for white youth.  Once youth get pulled into the system, the collateral consequences crush their educational opportunities, earnings potential, and voting rights. (See The Sentencing Project.

Overwhelming evidence shows that Family Conferencing and Positive Ticketing can measurably advance the civil rights and safety of our children by keeping them out of the justice system altogether.  This outcome is absolutely realistic.

Our staff have witnessed these outcomes in a major city:

  • The families of youthful offenders dealt with their legal offences within the family and kept them out of the system altogether.
  • The pipeline to mass incarceration stopped. When the first step into the system was blocked, the pipeline broke.
  • Juvenile crime in the city plummeted.
  • The city saved so much money from not incarcerating teens that they vastly increased their funding of youth centers and programs.
  • Police became much more positive toward teens, and teens toward police.

How did this happen?  Parents and family members were restored to their role as the best support and justice system for their own teens.

Here’s some technical notes:

  • Family Conferencing (also called Family Group Conferencing) consists of a volunteer facilitating a meeting with the youthful offender, the victim of the offense, and family members — parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
  • The result is reconciliation and restoration between the young person and victim and a plan for the young person. For example, a teen who gets into trouble in free time after school gets scheduled into the supervision of family members every day, and free time is no longer a problem.
  • Positive Ticketing requires police officers to proactively talk to all kids and teens in a positive manner, not just to kids suspected of wrongdoing. The “tickets” are a card with a positive message and a coupon for a free ice cream or recreational spot.  However, the cards are really just a prop for the adults—the kids really just want a positive conversation.  The proven results are that suspicions and negative interactions are reduced greatly. Arrests drop and the first step into the system is prevented.

The rate of reoffending among teens and kids in Family Conferencing is less than 10% versus 90% for the courts-based justice system.  I’m sure you can easily empathize with a teen facing a family meeting, especially with a grandparent.  That’s a session he or she never want to repeat.  Does this remind you of the difference between discipline and punishment in Workshop 5 of Parenting Partners?   The justice system relies on punishment; the family system goes with discipline.  Discipline empowers young people to learn from mistakes and succeed.

Patty & I taught this family-based justice model in a university school of education for years.  All the educators who learned about it loved it.  Our university offered a major and master’s degree in family conferencing, based on a model from the Maori people in New Zealand. It’s an ancient and proven technology, and it’s not that hard to implement.  It’s a method with a far longer history than the school-to-prison mass incarceration system. 

If you’d like to know more, please let us know and we’ll facilitate a one hour interactive webinar to share what all of us know about this step toward restoring justice and civil rights in our communities.

What do you think?


David Bunker, Executive Director

Family Leadership Inc

Talk with your kids about their Strengths!


Have you had a recent discussion with your children about their strengths? While it is helpful to affirm their efforts and their positive actions, especially during this challenging time, it is even more important to have regular conversations about their strengths! Strengths speak to who we naturally are, not just what we do. Your strengths are things you do all the time without having to think about it. Your children have many natural gifts and talents, and they can quickly turn into strengths when we explore and affirm what they are. Here are some examples for recognizing strengths in your children:

– Does your daughter talk constantly? Is she always uses her words to express herself and getting others involved in the conversation? She has the strength of communication! She can be a natural leader, story teller, communicator and even presenter in her future!

– Does your son love challenging games and puzzles? Or does he love predicting how stories and movies will end? He has a talent for strategy and likes solving problems. Keep giving him things he can think through and solve.

– Does your daughter like things to be neat and tidy? Does she line up her toys and keep her books & stuffed animals in order? She has the strength of organization! Encourage her in her planning and list making skills, she will always be valued for her talent.

– Is your son staying connected with his friends during isolation? Is he showing compassion and concern for everything that’s happening in the world? He has the strength of caring and relating. His ability to be empathetic and sense what people are feeling is a beautiful gift.

Some other strengths to recognize in your children may be talents for achieving, confidence, competing, dependability, discovery, learning, future thinking, creativity, resilience, and many more. We challenge you to have these positive conversations this weekend with your children and we hope it makes them light up!


We are excited to be launching our new professional online learning course called ProStrengths for parent leaders and staff to dive deep into understanding their own strengths and the strengths of those on their team! Inquire with [email protected] if you’d like to bring ProStrengths to your District!

Register Now for Parenting Partners Virtual Leadership Institute!

Parenting Partners will be hosting our annual Leadership Institute virtually using Zoom on June 17-18. While Covid-19 has changed our plans to be together in person, we look forward to connecting with our partners from across the country via Zoom. 

The Virtual Leadership Institute will feature great presentations, practical takeaways, best practice spotlights, and connections with administrators and parent engagement practitioners across the country. We will also be sharing key learnings and resources for these challenging times from Parenting Partners and district partners. 

2020 Virtual Leadership Institute will Include:

    • 6 hours of exciting professional learning through keynote and large group sessions.
    • 2 Breakout sessions of your choice.
    • 2 hours of optional networking through ‘Morning Coffee Chats’.
    • Intensive professional development Add On option
    • Certificate for professional learning hours.
    • PDF Handouts and Chat feedback from each key note and break out session
    • Access to recordings of all keynote presentations.

We encourage all of our partner districts to make plans to attend! For more information, contact [email protected]

Below are some highlights from the 7th Annual Parenting Partners Leadership Institute in San Diego, June 2019.

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Impact of Parenting Partners Workshops Despite Covid-19 Changes

Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic many parents were unable to complete the Parenting Partners workshops. We recently received an encouraging story from a parent at Franklin Middle School in Somerset, New Jersey who participated in four of the sessions. She found the techniques taught to be very influential and applicable as she is spending more time with her children. 

She was kind enough to share her story and the impact Parenting Partners has had on her. Below in her words is how she benefited from the workshops. 

“I am a mother of two beautiful girls age twelve and age four.  I was invited by my twelve-year-old daughter’s counselor at her school to attend a parenting partners workshop at our townships Middle School for a 6-week course. Six weeks, I was hesitant at first, but I must say I was hooked after the first class.

I loved being a part of this workshop. I enjoyed everyone’s stories and having the opportunity to speak openly about parenting and know that “No One Way” is the right way. Everyone has their own strategies and stories and to listen and share those experiences was encouraging and informative. Regrettably, I was only able to complete 4 classes due to COVID-19 but I would love to share what I took away from this experience in that short period of time.  

The very first thing I took away from this parenting workshop was to have more patience and always encourage my children. Middle school is hard, and kids deal with a lot of bullying, opinions of peers, body appearances changes, and pulling away from parents. To hear stories from the teachers and guidance counselors, as well as other parents that shared their experience led me to rethink how I speak to my daughters after a long day of school.  I realized that I needed to build a shield for my daughters at home and use more positive power words. I used the 101 power words tips and noticed an immediate change in their behavior. The power of words goes a very long way. Build up a child to create a strong leader.

Our workshop on listening techniques was by far the best.  I never realized how much I hear my kids but don’t really listen. This was one topic that hit home. I don’t do it intentionally, however living a busy life, as a parent I just tend to tune out my kids at times. Since this class I have become more aware of this. I now put down my phone when my daughters are talking to me. I stop what I’m doing and give them my full undivided attention. Communication is the key, and I have learned to become a sponge, and absorb it all. Credit to this workshop I have learned to let them just talk it out, and not try to fix their problems, but to just listen and help them work through it together.

The favorite tool I find myself using weekly if not daily is the Nevertheless and Regardless shield. This has become a great tool for ending arguments with my four-year-old. I was a little skeptical about using it the first night. But once I saw the power of these two words I was blown away. Now when I say regardless to my daughter she just backs down and does what she was asked to do. LOVE-Love this tool!

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 our classes came to an abrupt end. However, I noticed that I have shared my experience and tools to become a better parent with friends which has helped them enforce positive parenting. I continue to use the tools I learned daily.

Shield English

I want to thank Mrs. Precious Acolatse, Mrs. Melanie Tould, Mrs. Diane AndersonMrs. Mildred Arrieta, Mrs. Rosemary King, Mrs. Karen Ocasio, Mrs. Jill Santoni, Mr. Ian Ferguson and Parenting Partners for making me a better parent.  I am excited to have this guidance and be able to share my learning experiences with other parents and my daughters so that one day they will be great parents to their children.”


Mrs. Tiffany Chiles

Franklin Township Public Schools

Somerset, New Jersey

Thanks for sharing your story Tiffany! The Parenting Partners team loves to hear how the workshops impact people! 

Positive Power Words to build our kids confidence!

Parents- we know most of you are home with your kids full-time for an extended period of time and  we want to share some Positive words with you from our “101 Days of Positive Power Words” poster. These are positive words and phrases you can say to your kids to help encourage and build them up. With everything going on in the world, the days may feel longer and you may be feeling stressed or tired- use these phrases to help stay positive and build your childs self-esteem.

Parent Center Fosters Community at Fontana Middle School

Parents becoming leaders in their families and communities is the reason Parenting Partners workshops exists. That is why we are so happy to feature the Fontana Unified School District in Fontana, California. They have excelled at leading workshops and creating an environment for parents to become leaders and build relationships.

A few weeks ago Malu Pulido, a Team Support Specialist, visited a few schools in the Fontana Unified School Districts including Fontana Middle School where she was encouraged to learn about the impact the workshops have had on the parents at the school. Malu met with Diana Gutierrez who is a Parenting Partners facilitator and Community Liaison who helped develop a Parent Center on her campus. The Parent Center is a place for parents to attend Parenting Partners workshops and also have access to additional resources.

Giving parents a room at the school has encouraged parents and given them the space to learn and grow together. We want to commend Diana for her efforts of developing the Parent Center and for gathering support from the school Principal and School District. Support for projects like this have a profound effect on a school and community, so we are thrilled to hear the vision behind the Parent Center and how it is already having an impact on parents.

After Malu visited she said, “Parents in Fontana Middle School are becoming leaders in the community because they build relationships as they go through the workshops. It’s really cool to see them connect and do more than just attend the workshops.”

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We are excited to see the future of the Parent Center and the impact future Parenting Partners graduates will have on their families and community. Keep up the hard work Diana and the rest of your team!

Come Visit us at Upcoming Conferences Spring 2020

Our team will be presenting at a number of upcoming conferences around the country this spring. If you are attending one of the conferences we encourage to you stop by our booth and workshops to learn more about Parenting Partners and how you can increase parent engagement at your school.

CAASFEP Conference in San Diego, California

Visit our booth to meet Curriculum Authors and National Directors, Patty Bunker and Katie Harri on January 27-29, 2020.

ESEA National Title I Conference, Atlanta, Georgia

Stop by booth #209 and #211 to meet National Directors Patty Bunker and Katie Harri, and a Title I Consultant, Karen Williams.

Our team will also be leading a demonstration workshop that we encourage you to visit if you are attending the conference. The workshop is about: “A Proven Model: Create Strong, Effective Family Engagement with Parenting Partners” on Saturday February 6th at 2:15pm-3:00pm in the Exhibit Hall Stage B.

AASA National Conference of Education in San Diego, California

Come visit our booth in the exhibit hall to learn about Parenting Partners and ask any questions you have about our workshops on February 13-15.

NAFEPA Conference in Washington DC

Patty Bunker, one of our national directors, will be at the conference on March 16-18 and is eager to talk to you about your parent engagement goals.

CABE Regional Conference in San Francisco, California

Katie Harri, a National Director, and two National Trainers, Malu Pulido and Carol Shimer, will be at the conference April 8-11.


Our team is looking forward to meeting you at one of the spring conferences. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out.

New Year, New Parenting Partners Workshops

2020 is officially underway and so are Parenting Partner’s workshops across the country. We are excited to see schools inviting parents and starting the workshops on their campuses.

A district we want to feature this week is McFarland Unified School District in McFarland, California. Facilitators received a refresher training in fall of 2019 and they are eager to put what they learned into practice this semester and involve even more parents at their schools.

The workshops recently started at McFarland Junior High with the help and commitment of the devoted facilitators and the principal, Mr. Robles and Vice Principal, Mr. Grijalva. The support from the school leaders has had a profound impact on the success of the Parenting Partners and Family Meals Challenge workshops. We also want to give a special shout out to some of the great facilitators taking the lead at McFarland Junior High: Leady Montoya, Rene Briones, Blanca Reyes, and Marisa Flores.

There was a great turn out for the workshop with parents excited to return for the 2nd week. The team at McFarland Junior High have done a wonderful job at engaging parents in their community and coming up with new ways to invite parents.

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We appreciate the dedicated facilitators and we look forward to hearing the impact the workshops have on parents in their community.


Harlandale ISD Graduation – 2019

It was a thrill for our Team Support Specialist, Terri D’Agostino, to be in Harlandale in order to attend Harlandale ISD’s second Parenting Partners graduation on December 12th.  Harlandale graduated 106 parents who all wore caps and gowns! They walked in to Pomp and Circumstance, each graduate had their name announced and they all received their graduation certificates along with their own copy of the book Love You Forever. There was a marvelous presentation of pictures from the various campus workshops which played as people entered the room.  The tables were decorated beautifully, and it was all very festive.  The Parenting Partners graduates were surrounded by friends, family members and district VIPs who were all there to cheer them on!

Family Leadership/Parenting Partners would like to congratulate the parent graduates from Harlandale ISD on attending and participating in the Parenting Partner workshops and for taking the steps to become leaders in their community and schools.

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Parenting Partner Graduations – Cutler Elementary School and Crockett Elementary School

Cutler Elementary SchoolCutlerOrosi Joint Unified School District

This is Cutler Elementary School’s 8th graduation since the program started with Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District, CA. Cutler Elementary has been involved with Parenting Partners workshops for 4 years, and this was their largest graduation they have had yet. There were a total of 30 parent graduates – twenty parents had perfect attendance at all six Parenting Partners workshops. The graduation consisted of heart-warming speeches from Maria Sanchez and Mannolio Herrera who spoke on behalf of all of the parents. There were many emotions going around the room.

As a part of Maria Sanchez’s speech, she stated, “Parenting Partners helped us to understand the power of positive words and how to use them all the time with our children.” We are so proud of our Parenting Partners teams and their graduated parents.

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Crockett Elementary School – Crockett ISD

From Crockett Elementary School with Crockett ISD, TX, there were a total of 8 parents that graduated from the Parenting Partners program and each received a graduation certificate for perfect attendance to the Parenting Partners workshops.

These parents have accomplished so much already, and we are excited to see their leadership expand at their school.

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