Nova Simister-Irving has a dream — to see all children safe and happy. It is a no-brainer to her — the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and mother who has a history of working with children suffering from childhood trauma. She feels, “children were born to love us, and to get loved in return, not to be abused or mistreated.”
Nova — who earned her Master of Science in Social Work from Fordham University in May of 2007 — aspires to follow the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) movement. ACEs refers to traumatic or stressful childhood events including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, intimate partner violence (IVP), substance abuse in a household, household mental illness, divorce, or the incarceration of a member of the household. People that experience such events are more likely to suffer an early death, social problems, health-risk behaviors, and social, emotional, or cognitive impairment. Nova aims to eradicate the silence, or taboo, surrounding childhood trauma. She wants to scream to the world that it is not “OK” and we must do more as a community to end this “secret.”
That is why she has created and serves as Chief Executive Officer of, Zions Place LLC — a safe haven, or “utopia,” where children of all ages who have suffered childhood trauma can come and receive the help they need. The facility, once completed, will be designed for children — many of them from foster care, from the community, off, referred by law enforcement or school officials— to stay for up to six months to a year. It will be equipped with a full-time psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers, registered nurses, dietitian, and trauma-centered teachers and other vital staff members. The facility will include a Trauma-Sensitive School, a safe haven for the children to stay a place where they will they will live, heal, survive and thrive. Providers on staff will teach and help children develop healthy coping mechanisms. Once the children are mentally healthy, they will return to their families or foster care homes. However, caregivers of these children will also receive ACE training to ensure children are not re-traumatized by caregivers who do not understand what the nature of trauma looks like in a child. It is critical for children to feel safe in their environment.
Zions Place is Nova’s vision and something she has always been passionate about creating. A previous foster parent herself through the Administration for Children’s Services, Nova would ideally like to end childhood trauma but since that is out of her control she aims to create a safe place for victims to share their emotions and their stories. She wants to help them heal so they can have the best chance at life.
Zions Place was incorporated in 2008, but before opening the facility Nova wanted to make sure she had the knowledge and experience to successfully operate such a place. She has spent the last 10 years working to develop herself and her skills as a LCSW by doing practical work in the field and learning how to effectively communicate and identify with childhood trauma.
Not only does Nova feel passionate about giving children the right start to their lives, and helping them to be successful longterm, but she believes change can happen at any time in development #NEUROPLASTICITY. She enjoys helping children and adults to change their way of thinking by rewiring their minds and helping to shape their visions for the future despite their traumatic beginnings. Nova is also a motivational speaker. She believes in the power of positive thinking and enjoys sharing how the brain works once you focus and believe in yourself.
Nova is enthusiastic about what she does and is determined to help as many children in need as possible, she is adamant that the opening of Zions Place will do just that.