Our History

The Parent Education Network has a proud history of providing quality parenting workshops and courses for parents and caregivers in the community since 1974. PEN was founded on the philosophy of Adlerian psychology, whose approach to humanity considers the virtues of equality, respect, and democratic freedom as its guiding principles.

Parent Education Network began in 1973 when a group of parents attended a parent study group called “Children: The Challenge” at Wedgewood Junior School in Etobicoke. The study group was led by Alan M. Dunn, who at the time was the Co-ordinator of Guidance and Counselling Services at the Etobicoke Board of Education. Explore PEN’s interactive timeline below dating back to 1967.


of the story

Alan M. Dunn, a guidance counsellor working for the Etobicoke Board of Education, discovered Dr. Dreikurs and Adlerian Psychology in 1967 at a convention for the American Personnel and Guidance Association. Alan was so impressed by Dr. Dreikurs, that he invited him to be an expert speaker for the Part 1 of the Guidance Course for teachers offered by the Etobicoke Board of Education in 1968-1969. Alan’s enthusiasm and respect for Dr. Dreikurs, had a profound effect on his growing popularity “... it wasn’t long before I realized that he [Dr. Dreikurs] already had disciples in Toronto”. Among those disciples were Marion Clapham, Pearl Cassel and Edith Dewey. By 1969, Alan joined forces with Edith and Milton Dewey to form the Toronto Association of Individual Psychology (TAIP).
Alan found himself involved in many Adlerian activities and saw his involvement as a facilitator rather than a practitioner. “I found myself conducting workshops and giving papers both within and without Etobicoke. One day in 1973, a public-school principal called me to see if I could run a Children: The Challenge study group in his school on Wednesday mornings from 9:15 to 11:00a.m. The group was composed of a dozen mothers who had children in the school. Well, it turned out to be one of those groups that refused to disband, and so instead, we expanded and started meeting in the evening at the Board office. This was the beginning of the ETOBICOKE FAMILY LIFE EDUCATION COUNCIL, which now has a great track record and is still going strong.”
In 1974 Joan Thornton was the President of the Home and School Council at Wedgewood Junior School, who helped organize the parent study group facilitated by Alan Dunn. Joan quickly recognized the need for a parent education program in Etobicoke and she dedicated the next 18 years serving as the Executive Director of the Etobicoke Family Life Education Council. The importance of Joan’s contribution to her local school community is captured in a Globe and Mail article written by Katy Anderson that stated: “In the early 1970’s, Joan initiated the creation of the Etobicoke Family Life Education Council (EFLEC) now known as the Parent Education Network. She dedicated countless volunteer hours to help its development in order to help other parents with the most important job in their lives raising their children.”
In 1982, the Etobicoke Family Life Education Council was incorporated and registered as a non-profit charitable organization. At that time Humber College was interested in creating a parent education center, so they invited Joan to a luncheon sponsored by Continuing Education to discuss a partnership. In 1984, the E.F.L.E.C. moved into Humber College and hosted many large-scale lectures by popular names including Barbara Coloroso “Kids Are Worth It”, Leo Buscaglia “Love and the Family Today” and Faber & Mazlish “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen” and others. By 1988, the focus of the Council shifted from large lectures, to smaller scale classes that were accessible to people in small group settings to discuss issues around parenting.
In 1991 Joan retired from her position due to health reasons and Katy Anderson took the helm. Katy had a long history of working with Joan dating back to the early inception of Etobicoke Family Life Education Council. Sadly, Joan passed away on March 5, 2001 at the age of 61, leaving behind a legacy of helping others. Over the next few decades, Katy worked tirelessly applying for grants ensuring the longevity and success of the EFLEC. Her contributions to this organization reached far and wide. Katy continued to offer her home as the training ground for new PEN leaders and every facilitator will remember Katy’s kindness, generosity and most of all, advocacy for the Council.
On August 10, 2001 the Etobicoke Family Life Education Council changed its name to the Parent Education Network due to the changing nature of the organization, and the Amalgamation of Etobicoke and Toronto. What began as a grass roots neighbourhood volunteer program in Etobicoke, has evolved into a full-fledged community-wide service provider. Many agencies refer clients to us and request our programs, including: social workers, mental health clinics, libraries, family services, courts, community centres and school boards. The demand for our services has increased steadily over the years but we continue to offer affordable parent education to meet the needs of everyone.
During the early years of the organization the Parent Education Network operated on a volunteer basis relying on small donations from members and community agencies. In 1982 grants from Etobicoke and Metropolitan Toronto Community Services enabled PEN to hire a part-time Program Coordinator and to expand the program to a wider geographical area. Then in 2003 we were partially funded by The Ontario Trillium Foundation and the City of Toronto Community Services Grant Programs. Regretfully, as of December 2011, our city funding was discontinued. We now rely on the generosity of individuals like you, corporate donations, and course fees to sustain us. Our mission is to keep our parenting programs accessible and affordable to parents, while at the same time maintaining fiscal responsibility for the organization.
The Parent Education Network has continued to adapt and grow with the changing world. We are connecting with parents in new ways and are proud to say that our reputation is still going strong. PEN is increasing community engagement by launching an exciting new website and is offering more services to our clients. These services have expanded to offer workshops to individuals and couples, there is also the option to book privately, or small group settings. Parent coaching and consulting will also be on offer. We continue to recognize the need for parent education and we are committed to helping people develop the tools needed to meet the challenges of parenting. We thank you for your continued support.

“It’s possible to retire from being a teacher, but you can’t ever stop being an Adlerian”

- Alan Dunn -


October 21, 1967

The Beginnings

December 19, 1973

An Invitation from Alan to Joan

September 17, 1974

Organizational Meeting of the Etobicoke Family Life Education Council

October 21, 1974

Etobicoke Family Life Education Council & Adlerian Psychology

May 31, 1971

An Introduction to Adlerian Psychology by Alan M. Dunn

November 18, 1987

Humber Adopts the Family Life Education Council Program

May 3, 2002

Joan Thornton “Lives Lived”

October 21, 1970

School Workshops from the 1970’s