I work for an independent fostering agency called Amicus Foster Care. My role within the agency is to match looked after children with foster families. I am also very lucky because I get to support some of the children we look after, typically those with additional needs such as autism.
In order to make sure our agency is offering the best service we can to young people I started translating some of our forms with Makaton symbols. For example, Foster Carer review forms, complaints procedures and welcome/ farewell letters.
This means that when we have a young person who is a Makaton user or who has a communication difficulty they can find out a bit about what is happening to them in a more usable format. It also means that as an agency we can ascertain a young person’s feelings about their placement and the care they receive in order to make changes and ensure they are safe and happy.
We also use Makaton symbols in welcome books – these tell the young person a bit about where they will be staying, who will be there and what it might be like, for example do they have pets?
We have even created a symbolized young person’s guide to being fostered with Amicus! This tells them who they can contact if they are worried and a bit about the staff and their social worker. It’s also somewhere they can record their likes, dislikes and keep pictures of things that are important to them. I have also used Makaton to support a family to create a life story book for a young boy who has autism. This has been a vital part of his understanding of what has happened to him and where he is now.
We use Makaton with our young people by signing with them, sending them symbolized letters and invitations to events and keeping them and their foster families up to date with topical vocabulary. We also run Makaton training for all staff and carers, and are excited to be running the Makaton Safeguarding workshop later this year!
The impact of using Makaton in our service has been that of creating a far more inclusive agency, where we value the input of all our young people and their views on what we provide. We consider each individual’s communication needs when sending correspondence and planning events. For young people who already use Makaton in their education setting it is a familiar comfort to receive that consistent communication method and gives them a voice within their care setting which we see as being vital.
I love using Makaton and I know our young people and carers do too!