Staff

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. Has been 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.

Maggie Fritzen

Deputy Officer

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.

Lesley Lefeber

Office Manager

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. 

April Greetham

CASA Director

In 2006, I graduated from Purdue University Calumet with a B.A. in Sociology. After graduation, I worked as a case manager at Madison Center, working with children and joined the Army National Guard from 2009 to 2012. My husband and I had our first and only son in 2011 and I made the decision to become a stay at home mother. After 4 ½ years, I returned to social work, working with the elderly and disabled community. I grew strong bonds within this community but my passion lies in bettering the lives of children, the reason I went into social services in the very beginning. With my new role within Family Advocates, I will be able to advocate and fight for the best interest of the children we serve, helping to create a better community.

Neki McCray

CASA Volunteer Coordinator

In 2015, I received my Associates of Science in Business. I went on to further my education and received my Bachelors of Science in April 2018 from Indiana Wesleyan University. I have always been concerned with the past, present and future lives of the children. In my new role here at Family Advocates I am able to be effective and possibly make a difference in their lives.

Mark Lewis

La Porte County CASA - Youth Specialist

I am a BASW student in my senior year at Purdue University Northwest. I was in foster care from age 13 until aging out at 18 years old. It was during this time and thanks to my therapist who was also my role model, that I developed a desire to help others in foster care. After aging out of foster care, I spent 4 years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantryman completing two combat tours. After leaving the Marine Corps, I moved to South Carolina where I began school and participated in volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels. I moved back to Indiana and continued my education at PNW where I completed my Junior internship with Sandcastle Shelter and Keys to Hope in Michigan City. I am now working on my senior internship with LaPorte County CASA and have also accepted a position as the newest staff member, filling the role of CASA Youth Specialist.

Caitlyn Kalisik

CASA Program Guardian Ad Litem

After honorably discharging from the U.S Marine Corps in 2018, I decided to pursue a degree in Social Work and am currently a Senior at Purdue University – Northwest. I’m zealous about my role as a Guardian Ad Litem and look forward to advocating for our society’s most vulnerable!

Brenda Stellema

CYA Program Director

My passion to make a difference in the community led me to Family Advocates in 2013 as a member of the agency’s Board of Directors. An opportunity to develop a mentoring/advocacy program arose shortly after so I accepted that role to deepen my impact. During my tenure as Program Director, the Court Youth Advocate (CYA) Program has expanded to help not only youth involved in delinquency court but also assist those involved in alternative education plans as well as community-based programming. Recognized for impacting community youth, I was one of Ivy Tech’s 2019 Distinguished Alumnus. Working together with community partners is one of my greatest joys to empower our youth to find their own path to success. I have a BSW from Indiana University with a Child & Youth Care (CY-C) Credential and I’m a member of the Indiana Youth Services Association. I am part of the 2019 Executive Journey Fellowship strengthening my collaboration with other youth working professionals throughout Indiana.
Self-care in the social work profession is important so in my free time, I love to go boating, enjoying the sun and sand as well as spend time with my family & friends who provide so much love and support!

Kayla Pedraza

CYA Volunteer Coordinator,
Visit Facilitator and Social Media Manager

In August of 2018, I was an intern with the CASA Program at Family Advocates. I had a case of my own to serve on throughout my senior year of college and beyond until it closed. The internship ended in May of 2019 when I graduated from Purdue Northwest with a bachelor’s in social work. In October of the same year, I married my high school sweetheart whom I have been with for five years. Shortly after my wedding in November of 2019, I was able to come back to Family Advocates! Currently, I work as the CYA Volunteer Coordinator, Visit Facilitator and Social Media Manager for Family Advocates. I love working with the CYA Volunteers and Family Advocates Staff towards helping youth and families have a bright future.

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.

Helen Patterson

Visit Facilitator

Note:

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