Ursula Elisara, co-founder and CEO of Immerse, is extremely passionate about caregiving and has been a caregiver for both Oranga Tamariki (formerly Child Youth & Family) as well as an NGO over the past 14 years. Beginning with a family/whanau placement and going on to provide non-kin foster care for more than 25 children to date.
With a background in accounting, business ownership and management, Ursula holds a Diploma in Introduction to Child Psychology and the National Diploma (level 4) in Whanau/Family and Foster Care. Ursula, and her husband of 25 years, have four children aged 5 to 19yrs old, including a ‘Home for Life’ placement. Fostering is a family affair.
Ursula is the author of the newly released book, Foster Care ~ Voices from the Frontline, and co-author of a book on grief & loss, HOPE Regardless. Ursula speaks regularly to social workers, caregivers and professional’s on foster care. W ~ ursulaelisara.com
As a registered Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) Practitioner, Ursula offers practical support for families who are raising children with a history of maltreatment and trauma.
“I am only one person, living in one family, who can reach one child at a time… but if I can replicate myself in others then my reach becomes endless.” ~ Ursula Elisara
Marni Otway, lead social worker at Immerse, has worked with ‘at risk’ young people for 25 years in many different capacities. Marni was a counsellor in a residential facility with ‘at risk’ teens for five years and a social worker for foster care agencies for 17 years in Los Angeles (LA).
Marni is the co-founder and previous executive board member of the not-for-profit organisation, Peace4Kids in LA, specifically for foster and ‘at risk’ youth for 16 years.
Marni holds a Masters in Applied Social Work in New Zealand and specialises in Therapeutic Life Story Work for foster children.
Added to her wealth of social work, counselling and parenting knowledge, Marni and her husband Matt are also passionate foster parents.
Dr. Donald Winsted
Dr. Donald Winsted, Clinical Lead at Immerse, has a Ph.D in Counselling Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the state of Texas.
Dr. Winsted brings over two decades of experience in clinical practice working with children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced trauma (neglect, abuse, and institutionalisation). Dr Winsted is actively involved in training biological parents (including those who have lost their children to protective custody), foster parents, adoptive parents, professionals, and paraprofessionals.
Dr. Winsted offers insight for families about the impact of trauma on child development, and offers practical advice for those parenting children who have experienced complex developmental trauma.
As a registered TBRI® Practitioner and Educator, Dr. Winsted is qualified by the Karyn Purvis – Institute of Child Development to train other professionals in the TBRI® framework. Dr Winsted also has experience in implementing TBRI® Day Camps. These camps are specifically designed to address the needs of “children who come from hard places”, and form the basis of our Ingage Saturday programme at Immerse.
Emma Berry co-founded Immerse between 2015-2017. While Emma is no longer actively working at Immerse, her contribution to the foundations of the organisation, along with her contagious passion towards foster care, will remain an invaluable part of the legacy as we relentlessly pursue the vision.