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Staff


karen_biernacki.jpg Karen Biernacki - Chief Executive Officer

While taking a Social Work class at Purdue University North Central in 1989, my research led me to NationalCASA and the concept of utilizing volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children. In January of 1991, I became the first Director of the agency. I received a degree from Indiana University in 1999 and a Mediation License in 2002 from Valparaiso University. Currently, I am a member of the Child Abuse Advisory Team, Family Court Advisory Board, Juvenile Court Advisory Board, the Domestic Violence Task Force, Women in Management, Kiwanis, and the League of Women Voters. I also serve as an appointed member to the Indiana Commission on Abused and Neglected Children and Their Families and the Advisory Commission for GAL/CASA to the Indiana Supreme Court. Contact me at kbiernacki@lpfamilyadvocates.com


2007-09-13_19.19.02.jpg Maggie Fritzen - Executive Assistant

I started working at Family Advocates in June 2014 after getting my Bachelor's Degree from Purdue University North Central in Marketing. Family Advocates is the perfect fit for me because it allows me to do work I love for people who need it. Prior to working at Family Advocates I worked at IU Health La Porte Hospital while working on my degree. I look forward to every day and every event the organization offers to continue my growth. Contact me at mfritzen@lpfamilyadvocates.com


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Lindsay Malik - CASA Program Director for La Porte County

I am Lindsay Malik, the CASA Program Director. I started at Harmony House/ CASA in February 2013. Prior to coming to Harmony House I did case management for Family Court with La Porte County Circuit Court. I graduated from Purdue University North Central with my Bachelor's Degree in Social Work in 2012. I was a CASA volunteer before coming to work here at Harmony House/ CASA. Contact me at LMalik@lpfamilyadvocates.com


Jamie Dillon - CASA Program Coordinator for La Porte County/ Guardian Ad Litem

I first became acquainted with the CASA program through my senior internship at Purdue University North Central. After a month of interning I decided to become a volunteer. In July 2016 I graduated with my Bachelor's degree in Social Work and started working with Family Advcoates. I am excited to make this my full time job and continue to empower and advocate for our community. My husband and I live in La Porte County with our two dogs and three cats. Family Advocates is always in need of volunteers, and I am more than happy to talk with you about our CASA program, Contact me at jdillon@lpfamilyadvocates.com




Elissa Affeld - CASA Program Guardian Ad Litem for La Porte County

In 2016, I graduated with an Associate of Science in Human Services, and I became a Board Certified Human Services Practitioner. In 2018, I will hold a Bachelor's of Social Work. My husband and I blended our families in 2012, and now we have four amazing little girls. I started as an intern for the Harmony House program, and soon after I accepted the Guardian ad Litem position with the CASA program. My passion fighting for the best interests of the children I serve, Contact me at eaffeld@lpfamilyadvocates.com.


Tracey Pollock - CASA Program Guardian Ad Litem for La Porte County

In 2009, I graduated from Indiana University Northwest with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and minors in Psychology and Sociology. My husband and I started a family in 2010 and we now have 3 beautiful daughters. While being a stay-at-home mother, I developed a strong passion for wanting to help abused and neglected children, so I began volunteering as a CASA in 2015. I became the voice for the child. A position opened as a Staff Guardian ad Litem and I was hired in 2016. I really enjoy working with these children and advocating for their best interests. Contact me at tpollock@lpfamilyadvocates.com


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Sara Kroft - CASA Program Director for Pulaski County


I am so pleased to be working with the Pulaski County CASA program. Prior to working with CASA I worked for Junior Achievement in Pulaski and Starke Counties, as well as for the West Central School Corporation, and the Pulaski County Community Foundation, Inc. My husband, two children and I make our home in Western Pulaski County. We enjoy the "country life" and are active in our Church. I earned my Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University. Pulaski County CASA is always looking for volunteers; please contact me if you would like more information. Contact me at skroft@lpfamilyadvocates.com


Patti Ploss - CASA Program Guardian Ad Litem for Pulaski County

Originally from Michigan, I ended up here by way of Phoenix, Arizona! My husband Tony and I have two kids almost ready to leave for college, one after the other. Entering this field, to help children who have no voice is something I have always wanted to do. I taught preschool, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Along the way, I have encountered many children in home situations that are out of their control and no one to help them. Now, as my children are about to embark on their own lives, I can fully dedicate myself to helping children who are in need. Children deserve the very best we can provide, after all, one day, they will be us. Contact me at pploss@lpfamilyadvocates.com


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Brenda Stellema - CAYA Program Director

After the company I worked for closed due to being purchased by an overseas company, I went back to school after 29 years to pursue a college degree. During my education, I was exposed to many people who helped strengthen my desire to serve my community. Serving as an Officer for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Board Member for Keys to Hope Resource Center for the Homeless has given me opportunities to put into action what I have learned. I served on the Board for Harmony House/CASA for a short time when the opportunity arose to develop a program for the at-risk youth in our community in July, 2013. Experience tempered with my education has created a perfect fit for the CAYA program. Please contact me with any interest you may have in the program. Contact me at bstellema@lpfamilyadvocates.com

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Cheryl Highsmith - Harmony House Program Director

I started working with Harmony House/CASA in February 2005. I first began working as a visit supervisor, then was promoted to Harmony House Program Coordinator in September 2005, and most recently to my current position as Harmony House Program Director. I love working with families and watching their interaction. Before coming to Harmony House I worked at Christian Haven, Inc. working with at-risk youth for eleven years. Contact me at chighsmith@lpfamilyadvocates.com


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Lesley Lefeber - Harmony House Program Coordinator

My career began with Harmony House in 2006 as a visit supervisor. I continue to enjoy working with families through the supervised visitation program. In fall 2013, I accepted the position of Harmony House Program Coordinator. As I enjoy the added responsibility, I am still able to work one-on-one with families to work towards the goal of a better future for all. Contact me at LLefeber@lpfamilyadvocates.com



Laura Holloway - Harmony House Michigan City Site Coordinator


Harmony House - Visit Facilitators

  • Stephanie Minix
  • Alix Zimmermann
  • Michelle Stoewer
  • Elizabeth Soltis
  • Jennifer DeVeax
  • Katie Kester

For questions or concerns regarding a supervised visit, contact chighsmith@lpfamilyadvocates.com

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Banana - Therapy Cat - We are sad to say goodby to our sweet Banana who left us at the age of 15 on April 7, 2017. She will be missed and continue in the hearts of our staff and families forever.

In February, 2008, I was adopted by Harmony House/CASA Program from the Maple City Animal Hospital. This is my fifth and forever home now. I have lots of friends that come and visit me on a regular basis and I love my new family. I have even been a great mouse deterrent so I am working for my keep.