Human Development & Family Studies, Purdue University
Cohort Eight Fellow

Brittany Mihalec-Adkins.jpg

Academic Mentor
Sacha M. Klein, PhD
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Michigan State University

Policy Mentor
Elizabeth Day, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Project 2-Gen, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Cornell University

Areas of Expertise

Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems, Mixed Methods, Structural Equation Models,



Brittany Paige Mihalec-Adkins is a PhD student in Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University, seeking graduate certificates in Social Policy and Statistics, and studying under Dr. Sharon Christ - a sociologist and statistician who specializes in using advanced statistical techniques to model developmental trajectories of maltreated individuals over the life course. Ms. Mihalec-Adkins is also a Policy Intern with Purdue's Center for Families, and helped to coordinate the 2018 Family Impact Seminar for Indiana state legislators, which provided legislators with expert presentations regarding the intersection of child protection and the opioid epidemic. Ms. Mihalec-Adkins' primary research interests relate to understanding the experiences of children and parents involved in child welfare interventions, with a particular focus on parents' lived experiences during interventions that involve removing children from the home. Her other research interests include: the short- and long-term developmental consequences of parent-child separation during foster placement (for both children and families), innovative service delivery to families in the child welfare system disrupted by substance use, and the state of reproductive health of young women in the child welfare system (i.e., both system-involved youth and young mothers). She has strong interests in community-based research models and rapid dissemination of results to legislators, practitioners, and affected communities; as such, Ms. Mihalec-Adkins hopes to find opportunities to write about these issues for broader audiences as her career progresses. Ms. Mihalec-Adkins also volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in the Tippecanoe County child welfare system, and has strong interests in bridging sound empirical science with practice and advocacy. She recently completed a pilot program that involved developing "Self-Advocacy Resource Kits" for parents with children in foster care, and administering these kits to parents, public defenders, and service providers in Tippecanoe County. This work was recently awarded second-round funding!


"Don't you want your child back?!" Untangling the psychosocial influences on parental engagement in child welfare interventions"

The need to engage parents in child welfare services is widely acknowledged, but empirical evidence on what influences not only participation but meaningful engagement – particularly in non-voluntary interventions that involve child removals – remains weak. This may be, at least in part, because we know so little about the experience of being a parent “in the system.” Thus, the goals of this dissertation are two-fold: (1) to test a model in which various psychosocial aspects of parents’ experiences – namely: grief, perceived stigma, and felt autonomy – predict a multidimensional conceptualization of engagement, and (2) to qualitatively understand the experience of being a system-involved parent so that we may better serve these parents in their time of greatest need. Understanding parents’ experiences and how they ultimately impact families’ journeys through the child welfare system has implications for developing interventions and policies that promote long-term success and reduce future maltreatment and need for intervention.