Human Development & Family Studies, Purdue University
Cohort Eight Fellow


Brittany 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. Ms. Mihalec-Adkins is also a Policy Intern with Purdue's Center for Families, and will help coordinate the 2018 Family Impact Seminar for state legislators. 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 consequences of foster placement (for both children and families), the roots and content of stereotypes and stigma surrounding individuals involved with child protective services, and lifelong developmental trajectories of individuals exposed to maltreatment and foster placement during childhood and/or adolescence. 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.  

Prior to beginning her PhD work, Ms. Mihalec-Adkins completed a Master's degree in Educational Psychology, and Bachelor's Degrees in Psychological Sciences and Law & Society - all from Purdue University. 


"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.