Board of Directors
Amy Nieman - President
Board Member since August 2014.
I have been on the board for almost 3 years having been a CASA many years ago for 7 years and then was able to be Harmony House's program coordinator for about 2 years [I think?].
I was motivated to serve because I care deeply about children and families in my community and believe very much in the mission of Family Advocates. Since my work does not allow me to be a CASA or CAYA at this time I believe that working on the board is meaningful for me.
One of the most meaningful moments of my service is and continues to be working alongside the staff of FA, from the visit supervisors, to interns, to program coordinators, every person to a person is dedicated and is fully invested in the work and the well-being of the clients. It is amazing.
I would like the community to know that FA is an organization that serves many children and families and helps them in ways that no one else does. It helps families learn skills to be more successful and while this is important to these families....it is important to ALL of us. Successful families create successful citizens.
Nate Loucks - Vice President
I was asked to join the Board in April 2016. Through the work of State Street and the Pax Center, we have witnessed the tremendous impact of child abuse and neglect in our neighborhoods around LaPorte County. Every child deserves an advocate to push against circumstances that may foster marginalization and hopelessness. When families break down and chaos ensues, I want to be a part of creating solutions to these issues.Family Advocates intervenes and advocates on behalf of children in foster care and the court system knowing that under the layers of neglect and abuse exists an incredible child that is begging to be heard and supported. To be invited to this justice work in a leadership role is a great honor and privilege. Every board member is asked to observe a court hearing where our CASA volunteers do their work. One case stands out in particular (and forgive me for my purposeful generalities). A young teenager had been in a group home for some years. Because of the traumatic physical and sexual abuse they had incurred, they were left with severebehavioral scars. They had been placed in many homes in different parts of the state. The only consistent voice in their life was an advocate who refused to abandon them in the process. No one was writing a story on that advocate. It was difficult and unglamorous work. But, it was essential and critical in the life of that young abused teenager if they are to find any hope for a better future. Navigating the court system can be a challenging endeavor, especially for a child who may feel forgotten or abandoned. On that day in court, the impact of a consistent advocate and friend was tangible. In the last two years, nearly 400 children in LaPorte County were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and entered into the court system. This figure represents a substantial increase in neglect cases in LaPorte County. While eachsituation of removal is often unique, there is a profound connection between the LaPorte County's drug crisis, educationpriorities, and community health priorities. The solution to fixing abuse in a community is undoubtedly costly and complicated. However, ignoring the issue of neglect will be even more costly for our communities in the future.
My advice to all my friends and neighbors: Be empathetic to others. You never know what someone else is going through or what they have gone through to get to that point. The empathy and concern you show can be the catalyst for change someone needs. And, never lose hope that transformation can happen.
Shaw Friedman - Secretary/Treasurer
Board Member since January 1998.
Shaw Friedman was one of the co-founders of Harmony House which began in 1999. He is the Board President of Swanson Center, the county's community mental health center which is a strong supporter of our program and has provided its former outpatient facility at 1005 Michigan Avenue as our permanent home. Working with Executive Director Karen Biernacki and former CASA Board President Betty Daniel-Lanie, Friedman helped create the concept of Harmony House. A practicing attorney in La Porte since 1984 with the law firm of Friedman & Associates, PC he is very committed to non-profit programs such as Harmony House/CASA Program and says some of his most "satisfying work is seeing programs like this one grow and thrive and provide much needed services for our community."
Board Member since January 2008.
Matt is an English teacher at La Porte High School. He obtained his Bachelor degree from Indiana University Bloomington in 2004 and is currently pursuing a Masters in English at Indiana University South Bend. Matt also coaches tennis at La Porte High School.
Board Member since January 2009.
Erika currently serves on the Executive Committee of the National Juvenile Justice Network and is a founding board member of the Children's Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana (CPLI) Erika is the Executive Director of the La Porte County Juvenile Services Center. She obtained her Bachelors degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan and her Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is a 1996 graduate of La Porte High School.
Board Member since January 2014.
Craig is President/CEO of General Insurance Services, Inc. He attended DePauw University where received his degree in Economics and graduated as a Management Fellow. Craig also received his Juris Doctor degree from the Valparaiso University School of Law and he is currently working on his Masters of Business Administration at the University of Notre Dame. Craig has served on the Board of The Portage Economic Development Corporation and The Shirley Heinze Land Trust. He is presently a Board Member of IU Health La Porte Hospital, the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Indiana Human Resource Management Association.
Board Member since September 2006.
Douglas is a resident of Michigan City, IN, and a graduate of Indiana University School of Business. He has been active in the real estate business for many years with Long Beach Realty, and serves on La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors and MCNEAT in Michigan City.
Board Member since December 2014
I have been involved with family advocates board of directors for almost a year and I’m extremely honored to be a part of such an important organization for our community.
It was around the time of the advocate of the year awards when I was truly awed by the impact that each CASA and CAYA has on the lives of those they advocate for.
The most meaningful experience as a board member for me was attending the annual superhero fun fest, it was an amazing event full of fun activities and an opportunity to showcase family advocates.
I would like the community to know that family advocates is an amazing organization that everyone should participate in, there is so much work to be done and it will take all of us as a community to donate our time and resources to help each child in need of an advocate.
Board Member since May 2017