Purdue University Graduate School
Mihalec-Adkins Dissertation_final_2022v2.pdf (2.15 MB)

Advancing Empirical Understanding of Parents' Experiences and Well-Being in State-Mandated Child Protective Interventions

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posted on 2022-07-22, 19:03 authored by Brittany Paige Mihalec-AdkinsBrittany Paige Mihalec-Adkins


As the default state response to child maltreatment in the U.S., child welfare system (CWS) interventions are delivered to caregivers of 1.3 million children annually (USDHHS, 2021). In theory, CWS interventions aim to reduce risks for child maltreatment by providing services to parents; however, research and anecdotal evidence from stakeholders suggest that many families do not benefit from CWS intervention as intended (Russell et al., 2018). One important feature of CWS interventions is that they differ greatly between families – in ways both intentional and unintentional (Jonson-Reid et al., 2017). As such, exploring how differences in intervention delivery may explain outcomes is of value. For instance, the explanatory potential of parents’ experiences of interventions has been overlooked. The overarching goal of this dissertation was to expand the empirical evidence base related to how focusing on parents’ experiences and well-being during and after CWS interventions can help explain differences in outcomes as traditionally measured (i.e., chronic CWS involvement and ongoing child maltreatment). Paper 1 quantitatively explores levels and trends in parent well-being for three years following a CWS investigation, including how indicators of parent well-being relate to child welfare outcomes. Results suggest that only parents’ mental health remains a consistent predictor of child maltreatment risk after three years, and that no parent well-being indicator predicted CWS re-involvement. Paper 2 expands upon Paper 1 by exploring the role of parents’ experiences with CWS services and caseworkers in shaping trends in parent well-being and child welfare outcomes. Overall, results indicated that no indicators of parents’ experiences predicted odds of CWS re-reports, but that some aspects of parents’ experiences may predict ongoing maltreatment risk. Results also indicated that parents who received or were mandated to a greater number of services overall also reported changes over time in well-being related to mental health, IPV victimization, and drug use-related problems. Findings also suggested that parents from marginalized backgrounds may have different experiences with interventions. Paper 3 qualitatively explored parents’ experiences in a specialized form of CWS intervention (Family Treatment Court), with an emphasis on how parents experience and make sense of the many manifestations of state power during interventions. Together, these three studies offer modest implications for future research and practice related to promoting parent well-being and child safety in the context of the evolving CWS.


Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy Grant

Purdue University Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship

Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Human Development and Family Studies

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Sharon Christ

Additional Committee Member 2

Sara Schmitt

Additional Committee Member 3

German Posada

Additional Committee Member 4

Morgan Cooley

Additional Committee Member 5

Sacha Klein

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