In June, Wake County District Court Judge Ashleigh Parker Dunston spoke as part of a panel during the 2019 Strengthening Fatherhood Power Breakfast sponsored by the Family Resource Center South Atlantic. This yearly event strives to strengthen the bond between fathers and their families. It is targeted towards fathers and father-figures 18 years of age and older. The event precedes the North Carolina Fatherhood Conference held in Raleigh.
As a member of the Judicial Branch Speakers Bureau, Judge Dunston was invited to serve on the panel by the Family Resource Center South Atlantic for their 5th Annual Strengthening Fatherhood Power Breakfast. This year, their panel focused on “Issues that Impact Fatherhood in North Carolina.” As a member of the judiciary, they were interested in hearing Judge Dunston’s perspective on the challenges and barriers to engaging fathers in the courtroom and how fathers and their rights are protected.
“I was delighted and honored to serve on this panel because these are extremely important issues that I see in my service in both our Wake County family courtrooms and our child support courtrooms,” said Judge Dunston. “In my role, I believe that it is important to be visible and educate our community and youth. Additionally, it’s important to demonstrate that our court system is accessible and filled with people who truly care.”
Additional panelists included Dr. Paul Lanier with the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Public Safety, Dr. Qiana Cryer-Coupet with North Carolina State University, Brian Hines with the Fatherly Love Movement, and Tamiko Hicks, assistant division director with Wake County Child Support and Enforcement. The event was streamed live on UNC-TV and the entire conference can be viewed on their website.
During the event, the 2019 Dynamic Dad Award was presented to a deserving father. Each year, the Family Resource Center South Atlantic has hosted a father of the year contest for middle and high school students across North Carolina. The theme of the entry is “What My Father Means to Me.” The father of the year winner is then recognized at the North Carolina Fatherhood Conference.
Attendees at the conference were able to ask direct questions of the panelists who provided answers based on their area of knowledge and expertise.
According to Judge Dunston, one common misconception that she constantly battles against in the courtroom is that fathers do not have rights in our court system. “I say it all the time that, although my title is judge, my job is not to judge. My job is to help.”