Our History

The Parent’s Toolshop® was founded by Jody Johnston Pawel, a second-generation parent educator, “Outstanding Social Work Graduate of Wright State University” in 1981, Licensed Social Worker, Certified Family Life Educator, Certified Trauma Support Specialist, and Certified World Class Speaker Coach. (Read her bio here and her “origin story” here.)Pawel has 40 years of experience in child welfare, starting her social work career as a youth leader at a runaway shelter during college and then as a protective service caseworker during the early 1980s.  So, the training programs she develops are always kept updated with the most current parenting, brain science, and trauma research.

From 1986 to 1992, Pawel created The Parent’s Toolshop® parent education curriculum. The process involved an eight-year literature research project reviewing hundreds of parenting resources, screening and weeding out any teachings and tools that were not supported by long-term research. Jody organized these teachings and tools, testing which worked, how they worked best, which order was best to learn and use them, and the best ways to teach them. This plan became the proprietary “secret-sauce system” called “The Universal Blueprint® for Parenting Success” that sets apart The Parent’s Toolshop® from all other parenting programs

Hundreds of parents in the Greater Dayton (Ohio) area heard about the class from three main sources, attended classes held in Jody’s living room, and helped field test and refine the curriculum:

  • From 1985 to 1988, Jody was the Assistant Producer and On-air Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-kid television series.
  • In 1986, Jody founded The Family Network, a local non-profit membership organization that helped parents meet, connect, learn and play together. She served as its President for the first six years.
  • When Jody contacted her local newspapers to take out a classified ad about The Family Network, one did a TV feature story and another wrote a full-page article about Jody and invited her to write a monthly parenting advice column.

In 1992, she was hired by Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) through a grant from the United Way of Greater Dayton (UWGD) to start and coordinate a local prevention program called Families Count, for low-income, high-risk parents, featuring her parenting classes. The grant funding also included the services of a Ph.D. Evaluation Specialist who custom-designed outcome evaluation tools specifically for The Parent’s Toolshop® curriculum.

Thousands of parents were served during this ten-year period, including almost 1300 who attended The Parent’s Toolshop® program. The consistently-outstanding outcomes the program achieved provided the “quasi-experimental” study needed to qualify as a “research-based” parenting program. In 2009 an independent study of The Parent’s Toolshop® curriculum was published in a peer-reviewed journal, which helped the program meet the “promising research-based” criteria set forth by the “Parenting Curriculum Decision-Making Checklist, by Head Start and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

In 1993, Pawel formed Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, Ltd. (PTC) as a private consulting business to provide family life education programs to local sponsors who requested her services outside of her job at CSSMV.

In 1995, due to frequent requests, she developed The Parent’s Toolshop® Group Facilitator Certification Training Program, so others could teach the standardized program with consistently outstanding results.

In 1998, PTC created Ambris Publishing as a subsidiary company and independently published the first (local) edition of The Parent’s Toolshop®: The Universal Blueprint® for Building a Healthy Family.

By 2000, The Parent’s Toolshop® was in bookstores nationwide. Pawel was traveling the country, training parents and family-service professionals, and had over 300 media appearances in the first 3 years of the book’s national launch. She had also certified over 100 Group Facilitators to provide Parent’s Toolshop® programs worldwide.

During the next 10 years, Parents Toolshop® program delivery continued to expand. In 2002, when the United Way grant ended, Jody was hired by the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program, she added trauma-informed content to the curriculum and a 40+ hour series and dozen stand-alone workshops were approved for both foster-adoptive parents and caseworkers. This was the start of “The Foster-Adoptive Parents Toolshop®.”

Throughout all this time, outcome evaluations continued to show what the initial study showed, 92% found the skills they learned in the Parent’s Toolshop® also improved their adult relationships. So, in 2011 The Relationship Toolshop® was founded to partner with relationship niche experts to create new Toolshop® programs and to expand Toolshop® programs and resources worldwide — starting with 15 of our already-certified Parents Toolshop® Group Facilitators. Relationship Toolshop® International Training Institute, LLC became the primary LLC company with PTC and Ambris Publishing as its subsidiaries.