Looking to find a caregiver for a loved one with special needs? Searching high and low for respite or Comm Hab to support your loved one’s Life Plan?

Get in line.

A new platform, Shivoo, currently available for individuals living in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y., hopes to help. Launched on Nov. 1, 2023, it connects children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) with caregivers and is open to all, regardless of an individual’s participation in New York State services.

The platform already has well over 700 caregivers in the system, some of whom have direct experience and others who are “peripherally” involved in the disability community, according to co-founder Susan Golkin. (For more on staffing, see the short Q&A below.) The service costs $20 a month to use but is reimbursable by Self-Direction and cancellable at any time.

The Boost spoke with Golkin, who along with co-founder Chancy Blumenfrucht is an independent Self-Direction broker, about the new platform. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

You know the first question: What does Shivoo mean?

[Laughs] It’s an Australian word that means “party and community.” Everybody should be together in one community, and everyone should have the same opportunities.

And for that, you need staff.

Yes. There’s a massive crisis here. As brokers, we know people [with I/DD] without staff who just end up sitting on a couch, and parents who have to quit jobs to be the caregivers. The pressure is real.

How long has Shivoo taken from conception to up and running?

It’s been a few years’ journey. Originally we were thinking of creating an employment site because both Chancy and I believe everyone should have a job and that anybody can get a job. But people who hire people with I/DD kept asking about the individual bringing staff with them [such as a job coach]. We ran into this looking at other spaces, too, such as housing. The question kept coming up: “Where’s the staff?'”

You’ve said you’re hoping to help “revitalize” comm hab as a career option. Can you elaborate?

Some staff on the site may have direct experience working with individuals with disabilities or they’re peripherally involved and understand this [population]. They may be in special ed in some way or are nurses or LPNs. They’re all looking for either a career change or extra income from an opportunity they never knew existed. That’s our secret sauce.

We give them a 40-minute workshop, but we’ve also met with OPWDD [the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities] about working together on a micro-credentialing program and we’re hopeful that will happen.

Are there plans for expansion?

Yes. We’re dipping into Long Island now, and we hope to cover all of New York State in the future.

People need staff everywhere. We hope to be part of changing the way people see people with disabilities. They’re your next-door neighbor, they’re in the community with jobs — but for this [to become the norm], staff is needed.

Additional Info

If you’re paying privately, the hourly rate is up to you and the caregiver. If you have Self Direction, you can spend up to $35/hour depending on the FI and your budget.

On the Shivoo site — which you should read carefully — it’s noted that the platform does not conduct background checks, criminal checks or reference checks on staff. For those who qualify for Medicaid benefits through New York State’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and enroll in Self Direction, a Fiscal Intermediary agency is required to perform fingerprinting and several background checks on prospective staff.

Be sure to check out the Shivoo FAQs page to get your other questions answered.

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