Staff

Jackie Dermody

Executive Director

Jackie Dermody is the Executive Director of Family Advocates, Inc., established in 1990. Family Advocates is a non-profit agency that oversees three programs including the state mandated Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, Court Ordered Supervised Visitation and the Community Youth Advocates Program. She is responsible for developing effective resources for the financial health and growth of the organization, building relationships in the community to enhance the mission of the agency; leading and empowering a dynamic team of professionals focused on supporting families in the community, and overseeing day to day operations including programming, budgeting, and grant writing.
Prior to assuming this role in early 2022, she was employed with the United States Senate as a field representative; developed and operated a non-profit agency focused on workforce retention; along with her husband owned and operated a manufacturing company in La Porte for seven years prior to selling the business in 2011. Upon graduation from college, she began her career in La Porte Circuit Court as Juvenile Probation Officer for seven years before transitioning to Adult Probation where she supervised the court’s sex and violent offenders for 15 years. While she has worn many hats, it is through these opportunities that she has developed a passion for providing support and guidance to individuals, facing a wide variety of barriers, by connecting them to community resources that provide the opportunity for a stable, healthy, and productive life.
Jackie received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology from Indiana State in 1989. She currently serves on the Northwest Health Board of Directors and the La Porte County Fetal
Infant Mortality Review Team.

April Greetham

CASA Director

April started at Family Advocates as the CASA Program Director of LaPorte County in 2018. Her passion lies in advocating for the children we serve. She oversees the cases of over two hundred children in our county. She graduated from Purdue University with a B.A. in Sociology.
April went on to work with children and families as a case manager for children with behavioral issues at Madison Center until 2010. She served her country for two years in the Army National Guard.
She and her husband had a son in 2011 and April made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom and enjoyed 4 ½ years watching her son grow. She felt the need to serve, once again, and began working with the elderly and disabled community working to ensure that they received all the resources help them stay in their homes.
Taking on the director position with CASA, April has been able to embrace her passion for social justice and helping her community become a better place. She continues to make quality time with her son and husband by camping, hiking, biking, and doing many other outdoor activities.

Jennifer Childress

CASA Guardian Ad Litem

Jennifer Childress is the Staff Guardian Ad Litem for CASA. As a CASA Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), Jennifer advocates in and out of the courtroom for children who have been adjudicated a Child in Need of Service (CHINS) by representing what is in the child’s best interest as it relates to permanency of residency, life, or therapeutic services, and academic needs. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management, holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration, and is a licensed attorney for the State of Indiana.

Rather than working with and behalf of parents in family law matters, Jennifer prefers advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves. She provides the means for the children to be heard no matter how minor the issue. Jennifer accomplishes this by visiting the children at least once a month, playing and talking with them to understand their needs and wishes.

Jennifer’s love for children extends from her family. She is married with two teenage children and enjoys spending time with them in and out of the home such as playing board games, watching movies, ATV activities, boating, water skiing, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. 

Thelma Darkis

CASA Guardian Ad Litem

Thelma has spent her life working to help others. She is currently a CASA Guardian Ad Litem for Family Advocates ensuring the voices of the children in the CASA program are heard and that their best interests are met. She also worked as a visit supervisor for Harmony House. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Purdue Northwest University.
Thelma has a long history of working to help others excel by playing a small part in bettering their lives. She spent time at a domestic violence shelter working as a victim’s advocate doing intakes and assessments and ensuring that the needs such as shelter, food, and employment of her clients were meet.
She worked for Porter County with the Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition doing outreach and education to teach young people about the dangers of smoking and vaping. In her capacity she traveled to schools and Boy’s and Girl’s clubs to reach out to those she was striving to help.
Thelma has been a CNA and a caregiver. She has an associate degree in social work from Ivy Tech and is certified in Child Protection and Children’s Rights by Harvard University.
Traveling with her husband and spending time with her amazing and supportive family and friends top the list of Thelma’s favorite things to do. She loves the values she has learned in social work practice and believes they are the same principles that are held by the Family Advocates team. And, by the way, if you need a cake decorated, she can do that too!

Brenda Stellema

Director of Grants/Resource Development

Brenda’s passion to make a difference in the community led her 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 she accepted the role to deepen her impact. During her tenure as Program Director, the Community Youth Advocate (CYA) Program has expanded to help a diverse population of community youth. Working together with community partners to empower teens to find their own path to success is one of her greatest joys. Recognized for her youth work, Brenda was one of Ivy Tech’s 2019 Distinguished Alumnus. Brenda has a BSW from Indiana University with a Child & Youth Care Professional (CYC-P) Credential and she is a member of the Indiana Youth Services Association. Brenda is part of the 2019 Executive Journey Fellowship strengthening her collaboration with other youth working professionals throughout Indiana.

Self-care in the social work profession is important so in her free time, Brenda loves to go boating, enjoy the sun and sand as well as spend time with family & friends who provide so much love and support!

Jennifer Lambert

Youth Wellness Court Coordinator

Jennifer Lambert is the Youth Wellness Court Coordinator for Family Advocates. Her main priority is to provide objective advocacy focusing on the best interest of at-risk children and youth. Her hope is to provide a better chance of personal and academic success for these children. Jennifer graduated from Purdue with a degree in Liberal Arts.
Prior to coming to Family Advocates, she was sworn in as a CYA volunteer and is, also, a certified CASA volunteer.
Jennifer also coordinated a school-based mentoring program at the Kesling Campus.
After being a stay-at-home mom for 5 years, in 2005 Jennifer began working for La Porte School Corporation as a single school substitute and discovered her love for helping and encouraging children. She has continued to follow this passion through her personal and professional life. Her children are a driving force behind who she is and how she helps those around her. She strives to mentor and advocate for all the young people that she encounters.
She is a local 4-H leader and very active in the 4-H community and programs. She shares her home with a husband, four children, two mini horses, four goats, a variable number of rabbits, a plethora of chickens, and a dog. In her
“free” time Jennifer likes to craft and spend time with her family.
She is passionate about doing her all to assure a bright future for children and youth in La Porte County.

Cheryl Highsmith

Harmony House Program Director

Cheryl Highsmith is the Harmony House Program Director. She has spent over thirty-two years serving the needs of families and young people facing challenges. She started her career working with boys in a residential facility where she fought hard to ensure a better future for her charges and embraced her core belief that there is no such thing as a “bad boy.” She has helped steer the Family Advocates Harmony House program from its conception. She is known for her compassion to all members of the families who need this service. She has trained a cohort of visitation supervisors and is legendary for her ability to write and teach how to write meaningful and useful notes for case workers, the court and therapists.

Cheryl is married to Doug, they have 2 daughters, Brandi and Briana and daughter-in-love Naomi. This past June they welcomed their first grandchild, Tyler who is a dream to them.

Jan Kiger

CASA Guardian Ad Litem

Jan Kiger is the CASA Guardian Ad Litem for our organization. She has had an exciting and varied life. An Army daughter and an Army wife, she has lived in and visited many countries. She is an accomplished equestrian with an FEI passport and British Horsemaster’s I and the German Silver in Dressage and Combined Training. She has owned car dealerships, a grunge bar and venue, a riding academy, and a consulting and training company. She has done corporate training for such companies as Chevrolet, Domino’s Pizza, Mazd, Keg Restaurants and Morning Sun. You can find her mentioned in the biography of Kurt Cobain. Look for “Hash After the Bash.”
She has an advanced degree in psychology from Seattle University, a masters in Neuro-Linguistics and is a certified hypnotist. She was a part of the project that changed residential care from the medical to the mental health model in Washington State. She contributed to the research for the book, Gentle Care by Moyra Jones.
She has served as a CASA volunteer for three years.

Sneffy

House Cat❤️