The Family Minds Institute is a non-profit dedicated to helping support foster and adoptive parents, and the professionals who serve them, through research, trainings, interventions and supports that are designed to increase child resilience and strengthen family relationships.
If you help a parent, you help a child. That is the premise behind the Family Minds Institute. This is particularly needed for foster and adoptive parents, who rarely recieve quality trainings or interventions that are supported by the research. This is also true for the profesionals who serve foster and adoptive parents and their children. Our trainings and interventions are based on attachment theory, neuroscience, and other psychoanalytic work. Our goal is that every family has access to the education and training they need to build child resilience and support healthy family relationships that enhance children's mental health.
Research has shown that one of the most effective ways to help children heal from trauma is through their relationship with their caregivers. This is especially true for foster and adoptive children: David Howe, a world-renowned researcher in attachment and foster children, has stated (2006) that the most effective and impactful way to help foster children is to “work with and through” the foster parents themselves (p.129). Foster and adoptive families often do not have access to the resources they need and struggle to find ways to improve their relationships or manage behavior. Sometimes children have access to clinical services, but the parents themselves are often left with no support.
Additionally, the trainings that are available for foster and adoptive parents are lacking in research evidence and thus their effectiveness is questionable. It's one thing to have a good idea, it's another to show it works. Family Minds seeks to add to the research literature by evaluating interventions and providing opportunities to vastly improve upon the services available to parents and those involved in child welfare system. This includes providing training and assistance to staff and professionals who work with such families.
One of the ways to significantly impact the mental health and development of foster children is to give them caregivers who have the traits that generate secure attachment in children. Research shows that parents who are skilled at mentalizing have high rates of secure attachments with their children. By supporting foster parents’ ability for reflective functioning and mentalization, they are also gaining the ability to not only regulate themselves, but also regulate the arousal of their foster children. Foster children, in particular, can significantly benefit from learning to recognize and reflect on their feelings in a more conscious and regulated way. Teaching foster parents about this helps them understand their foster children and their behaviors better, and helps them interact with them in a more sensitive and reflective manner.
Why do we need this non-profit?
Meet our Board
Tina Adkins, MA, MSc, PhD
Founder and Executive Director
Dr. Adkins has worked her entire career in the field of child welfare. She began as a Child Protective Services worker and went on to become a counselor and then specialize in attachment and child development. She went to London to learn about cutting edge child welfare interventions and obtained two of her degrees from University College London and the Anna Freud Center. Her dissertation work involved working with central Texas foster parents and creating a practical promising intervention for foster and adoptive parents called "Family Minds". Dr. Adkins also works for The University of Texas Austin as a Researcher for the Child and Family Research Institute at the School of Social Work. She has a BS in Psychology from Texas A&M University, an MA in Counseling from Texas State University, an MS in Developmental Psychoanalytic Psychology and a PhD in Psychoanalytic Studies from University College London (UCL). Dr. Adkins is an experienced and dynamic trainer, has developed a number of highly rated curricula and trained many foster/adoptive parents through DFPS and other child placing agencies over the past 10 years. She continues to speak at conferences and deliver trainings to parents and staff.
Michele Murphy-Smith, PhD, RN, RD
Dr. Murphy-Smith worked with the Texas Department of Health in the 1990s to help primary care organizations provide evidence-based clinical preventive services. Through the work with community health centers and residency programs across the State, she learned about the essential role of the full spectrum of staff members in creating organizations that did excellent work. Measurable outcomes were exciting, but more so the creativity and joy that were unleashed when all staff members valued each other and started working together to create the workplace in which they and their patients could thrive. She is now proud to work towards the vision of ensuring excellent recovery support services for all Texans through her work with Via Hope and UT's Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health.