Family Advocates began as The La Porte County CASA Program, Inc. in 1990 providing Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers for abused and neglected children who were adjudicated Children in Need of Services through the court. The CASA movement began in 1977 in Seattle, Washington under the direction of Judge David W. Soukup. In 1982, legislation was created in Indiana that defined the role of the Court Appointed Special Advocate in relationship to the juvenile court proceedings. In 1990, La Porte County trained its first volunteers and over the past 25 years 345 CASA volunteers have spent approximately 1,345,500 hours advocating for over 2,000 abused and neglected children in La Porte County.
As the CASA Program grew and volunteers were advocating for services for children, it became apparent that a safe haven for supervised visits in a home would create an environment more conducive for family interaction and parent education. In 1999, The La Porte County CASA Program and Swanson Center entered into an agreement to create a supervised visitation and safe exchange program in the old Swanson Center outpatient building at 1005 Michigan Avenue in La Porte. Harmony House opened for business in September to provide a home where families could cook and eat together in a kitchen, play games or other activities in several different rooms in the house or play outside. By 2015 over 25,500 hours of supervised visitation has been provided to non-custodial parents and their children in La Porte and Michigan City.
In 2004, the La Porte County CASA Program, Inc. and Harmony House of La Porte County, Inc became Harmony House/CASA Program of La Porte County, Inc.
In 2006, Harmony House/CASA entered into a memorandum of agreement with Pulaski Circuit Court to provide CASA services through the Pulaski County CASA Program. CASA volunteers began representing abused and neglected children in Pulaski County in November of 2006 and by 2015 volunteered over 44,000 hours advocating for 100 children.
The development of a volunteer program for youth who are delinquent began in 2012 and by 2013 the first volunteers were trained as Court Appointed Youth Advocates. These volunteers advocate for the at-risk youth who has committed a crime or a status offense and the court finds that an advocate is needed. The CAYA continues the relationship as a mentor once the youth successfully completes their terms of probation. The new program has already trained 22 volunteers who have mentored 18 youth.
In January of 2015, Harmony House/CASA Program of La Porte County, Inc. became known as Family Advocates. The services and mission remains the same but the opportunity for additional programs for families expands under the new name. Family Advocates is dedicated to providing an environment of integrity and respect. We are committed to objective advocacy focused on the best interest of children and fostering, positive family relationships.