3-5-7 Model®

About This Program

Target Population: Young people and parents (biological, foster, kinship, and adoptive) receiving services in the child welfare system

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 21

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 21

Program Overview

The 3-5-7 Model® is a copyrighted strengths-based approach. It is designed to empower young people and families to engage in the work of grieving their losses and rebuilding their relationships with the goals of well-being, safety, and permanency. The 3-5-7 Model® incorporates the underpinnings from child development, attachment, separation and loss, trauma, family systems, relationship development, and resiliency theories in order to provide a directional approach designed to achieve permanency in relationships. The 3-5-7 Model® uses tools (e.g., lifebooks, loss/life lines, life maps) to support work around issues of separation and loss, identity formation, attachment, and building relationships, and it also supports deeper therapeutic work centered on the trauma of abuse, abandonment, and neglect experiences. Practice applications can be made throughout all family work for case management services from intake (preservation of the family), to child protection to placement services. Along with being a standalone program as described in this entry, the 3-5-7 Model® is a social work practice focused on engagement strategies and is designed to be integrated with other child welfare practice models (e.g., Family Finding, Signs of Safety, 30 Days to Family.) The 3-5-7 Model® is designed to fully involve all families with a goal of establishing relationships of permanency. All aspects of the model can be applied to all individuals who have experienced trauma in relationships that have been important to their well-being. The 3-5-7 Model® supports kinship, foster, and adoptive family relationships.

Program Goals

The overall goals of the 3-5-7 Model® are:

  • Give a voice to your experiences
  • Honor your past relationships
  • Answer your questions
  • Create connections
  • Visualize future, including the actualization of permanent relationships

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for 3-5-7 Model®.

Essential Components

The essential components of the 3-5-7 Model® include:

  • The 3-5-7 Model® framework consists of:
    • 3 Tasks:
      • Clarification
      • Integration
      • Actualization
      • The three tasks of the 3-5-7 Model® guide the interventions with individuals in working with them towards improving well-being and readiness for permanency. These three (3) tasks are designed to provide the methodology to assure readiness of children and their families to determine permanent relationship opportunities and framing the work to be done around trauma issues. They indicate where each individual is in reconciling and grieving losses and in moving toward rebuilding relationships. The 3-5-7 Model® Is designed to ensure that young people know their when they are ready to join/rejoin families and ideally actualize relationships of permanence.
    • 5 Questions:
      • Who Am I?
      • What Happened to Me?
      • Where Am I Going?
      • How Will I Get There?
      • When Will I Know I Belong?
      • The five conceptual questions provide the frames of reference to explore the issues of identity, loss, attachment, relationship building, and permanency/safety/belonging. Exploring the issues identified in these five questions is designed to help organize the work to be done through a variety of engagements including activities that provide opportunities to explore life events and experiences around relationships. The behaviors and comments of individuals provide clues as the work that still remains towards resolution of the painful events and relationships of their lives.
    • The 3-5-7 Model® Readiness Continuum is a decision-support tool that is designed to be used to understand and further guide the work of the individual in Clarification, Integration, and Actualization tasks. The 3-5-7 Model® Readiness Continuum is designed to provide an organized framework by which workers can evaluate their observations and understanding of the individual's experiences. Using the 3-5-7 Model® Readiness Continuum tool, workers determine at which points within the 3 Tasks and 5 Conceptual Questions the individual appears to be located in the grief work and relationship building process. Use of the tool allows workers to make sessions with the individual more purposeful and meaningful, and provide a directional approach. Identifying where the individual is in the process of resolving grief and rebuilding relationships is designed to allow workers to select activities and experiences to offer that are most likely to enhance and support the individual's movement to the next task.
    • 7 Skill Elements:
      • Establishing the perception of safety through authentic listening, physical location, and continuity of time spent with young people and their families
      • Providing opportunities to explore feelings and understanding of life events
      • Being present to the exploration
      • Listening to the stories
      • Affirming current and past perceptions
      • Briefly speaking in response to questions, comments, and reactions of young people
      • Recognizing and accepting that current behaviors reflect grief responses
      • The 7 skills/interpersonal abilities guide the efforts of professionals and caregivers to support the work of young people and their families to grieve losses and rebuild relationships. The use of engagement strategies, including activities and exercises, are critical to engage young people and their families in their work. The 3-5-7 Model® Skills Development Guide is a tool that is designed to further define and bring clarity to the 7 Skills. The guide is used to support the development of worker skills and to help ensure that the 3-5-7 Model® is used with fidelity. The tool is comprised of 27 items that describe the 7 Skills on a continuum from Lacking to Strong. The tool can be used as self-report or observation measure, and the data collected from the tool identifies additional training and coaching needs for workers. The 3-5-7 Model Skills Development Guide is available to programs to support professional development in the 7 Skills of the model.
  • Key Practice Considerations:
    • Use of Lifebooks and activities: Supporting the individual in navigating the 3 Tasks of the 3-5-7 Model® is the primary focus of the professional in this practice. Activities and exercises are designed to be useful in engaging individuals in the work, shifting the emphasis from cognitive talking strategies to feelings expressions and explorations. The 3-5-7 Model® Workbook describes activities that are designed to be helpful in providing opportunities for individuals to do the work of clarification, integration, and actualization. The 3-5-7 Model® Workbook Activities at a Glance page is used to help workers identify appropriate activities based on the individual's task. The worker prepares to introduce the activity to the individual, and using the 7 Skills, facilitates the process of the individual's work. The responsiveness of the individual (their level of engagement) assists the worker in determining if the selected activity was aligned with the Clarification, Integration and Actualization needs. Examples include: Life maps, life/loss lines, and collages. Lifebooks are used as a tool for continuity of the grief process and support of the work. Lifebooks are designed to provide a tangible account for the individual of the work that they are doing. It is a concrete source for reflection between sessions and reminder of the tasks of clarification, integration, and actualization.
    • Recommended staffing: Ideally when staff can have dedicated time to engage individuals to consistently meet with them, the following time frames are suggested. Staffing for 3-5-7 Model® implementation can accommodate a caseload size (based on 1 full-time employee) not to exceed four individuals in the first twelve weeks post training, 6 individuals between 12 and 24 weeks posttraining, and 8 individuals six months post training. One year posttraining and thereafter caseload size is recommended not to exceed 10 individuals. Staff is recommended to work flexible schedules to accommodate days and times that fit the individual's schedule. Supervision is recommended to occur a minimum of every week for the first twelve weeks and every 2 weeks during the remainder of the first year. Supervision sessions are often 1-3 hours in duration.
    • Consistency of services: Continuity is a key component of the model. Services must be provided on a consistent basis in a stable relationship with the professional. This gives the opportunity for all individuals to do their work of exploring feelings of grief, hurt and pain. Length of each contact will depend on age and ability of the individual to engage with the professional. Sessions should not end solely on the basis of time, but rather at a point when any active expression of emotion has reached a manageable level for the individual.
    • Duration of services: Length of time to engage individuals in 3-5-7 Model® work varies with program objectives.
      • Over the years, engagement with individuals practicing the 3-5-7 Model® approach has evolved into a variety of methodologies from short-term to longer engagements that for individuals to ideally achieve successes in clarification and integration tasks towards actualization of readiness for decisions about relationships that provide commitments of permanency. With current trending in the delivery of child welfare services, many agencies are required to provide short-term services towards permanency decisions for young people and their families. While the focus of the use of the 3-5-7 Model® is to assure time needed towards relationship commitments, decisions emerging from successes in doing the three tasks and are determined by individuals within their own time needs.
      • Ideally a service of 12 consecutive months is common but the number of sessions needed is different for each young person, depending on their age, developmental abilities, previous grief work, and the support they receive. Assuming the worker has an adequate skill level, the young person will demonstrate willingness to engage in the work by the time 4-6 sessions are conducted (translated to 2-3 months of service if sessions are consistently every other week). A minimum of 6 months of consecutive service is recommended. After 6 months, a re-evaluation of the location of the young person along the tasks can be made to determine the potential benefit from additional sessions. Young people may work actively for a period of time followed by periods of time where their work is more dormant.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

3-5-7 Model® directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Behaviors that indicate grief, including anxiety, regression, physiological symptoms, denial of feelings/events, confused attachments to rejecting or unreliable parents, rebellious behaviors, delayed expression of feelings, self-blame for being in placement, and conflicting loyalties to all parent figures in their lives

Parent/Caregiver Services

3-5-7 Model® directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Adult caregivers (birth parents, kinship parents, foster and adoption parents) and child care staff who experience difficulty in parenting or managing the behaviors with which grieving and traumatized children and youth present

Recommended Intensity:

One face-to-face interaction at least biweekly is suggested, with a phone contact in the off week. Contact times can range from 15 minutes to an hour or more depending on the needs of the individual and the activity planned.

Recommended Duration:

12 months is common; the minimum recommended amount is 6 months.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Adoptive Home
  • Birth Family Home
  • Foster / Kinship Care
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care


3-5-7 Model® includes a homework component:

The 3-5-7 Model® program encourages all team members to be knowledgeable about the grief process and their role in supporting the building of relationships. Lifebooks are essential to capture the work of individuals as they engage in the tasks of Clarification, Integration, and Actualization. All work is entered in their life story book, providing opportunities to continue their work even when not in the presence of a worker.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Location of sessions must be conducive to the young person's individual perception of safety. Comfortable and quiet meeting rooms and/or ability to meet young people in a space where they feel safe; supplies to engage the young person in activities (paper, markers, glue, scissors, stickers, other various crafting supplies).

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Professionals are required to have a bachelor's degree in human services courses of study. Other qualifications include: knowledge in child development, abuse and neglect issues, grief and loss, foster care and adoption, and family dynamics; plus skills for engagement of young people, communication skills with other professionals, self-awareness of own issues, ability to work with all parenting connections for young people.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Darla L. Henry & Associates, Inc. provides Initial Inquiry Consultation services at no cost to organizations. Initial Inquiry services support the work of the organization leading up to the start of training, application, and implementation activities. Darla L. Henry & Associates, Inc. engages organizations in a preparation process that is specific to individual needs. Continuity of services is provided through the training, application, and implementation phases of systems change. Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and online communication forums, in addition to the on-site training and consultation provided, facilitates the work of each organization's implementation plan.

The intention is to work with an organization to fully implement the practices of the 3-5-7 Model® through a customized plan. This will include installation, initial implementation and full implementation strategies. Outlined below are descriptions of possible activities that comprise each phase.

  • Installation (Clarification): Darla L. Henry & Associates, Inc. supports overall implementation of the 3-5-7 Model® by using a consultative process focusing on preparation of organization systems to support 3-5-7 Model® practices. Implementation of the 3-5-7 Model® requires a team of individuals at the trainee organization who will champion the activities of implementation and provide leadership through an Implementation Team structure. This team will coordinate and facilitate planning meetings, follow up with attendees, support documentation needs, and identify additional resources needed to support implementation. This team will assist the organization in navigating the tasks of organizational change as impacted by the 3-5-7 Model®. This Includes foundational training of at least two consecutive days and can include all agency staff, depending on agency objectives.
  • Initial Implementation (Integration): Training begins with a 1-day overview and a 2nd day session for applications of practicing the 3-5-7 Model®, including introduction to the Readiness Continuum and Skills Development Guide Tools. Within six weeks, a third day of training is recommended as an on-site coaching experience where cases are presented and the Readiness Continuum is applied towards use of the 3-5-7 Model®. Coaching begins about one month (minimally) following the initial training and those who will be using the 3-5-7 Model® in their practices are encouraged to identify a case to begin implementing the model after training. Coaching sessions are provided via web conferencing technology; are structured, one-hour sessions, occurring once or twice a month; and provide direct staff and/or supervisors with support on applications of the 3-5-7 Model®. A minimum of 10 coaching sessions are required as part of implementation the program. Organizations are encouraged to continue coaching sessions on an ongoing basis to become proficient in practicing the 3-5-7 Model®. Additional 3-5-7 Model® programs, Resource Parent Program and Groups Program for adolescents, are built on the continued coaching applications. An onsite consultation session is provided 10 months post training to support the fidelity of practice applications. In the second year, consultation/coaching is continued and the foundation is built upon by introducing enhanced programming such as the 3-5-7 Model® Resource Parent Program and 3-5-7 Model® Groups Program.
  • Full Implementation (Actualization): Coaching continues based on staff and supervisory skill development needs to maintain fidelity to the practice of the 3-5-7 Model®. Coaching is a critical implementation support that can strengthen the practice of the 3-5-7 Model®. The purpose of coaching is to ensure that concepts learned in the training environment are integrated into practice, and transfer of learning is supported through ongoing feedback to promote practice change and prevent practice drift by supporting system regulation toward a new normal, a new homeostasis. Coaching sessions provide support in the following areas: feedback regarding fidelity of the 3-5-7 Model®; problem-solving assistance and feedback related to decision making; acquisition of new skills/strategies; a sounding board for ideas, handling stress, or seeking balance between personal and professional life; reduction in practice drift associated with bringing a new practice into organizations; and objective observation of readiness for practice change.
  • Measurement and Evaluation of Outcomes and Internal Trainer Certification are features that can be included at any step of programming. These activities should be explored in the Implementation Planning phase.

Additional information about each phase is located on the program's website.

Number of days/hours:

Total training content is a minimum of three days (six hours each). Coaching and consultation hours are determined by organization and program readiness factors and needs.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for 3-5-7 Model®.

Additional References

Henry, D. (2005). The 3-5-7 Model: Preparing children for permanency. Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 197–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2004.09.002

Henry, D. L. (2010). The 3-5-7 Model: A practice approach to permanency. Sunbury Press.

Henry, D., & Manning, G. (2011). Integrating child welfare and mental health practices: Actualizing youth permanency using the 3-5-7 Model. American Humane Association Journal, 26(1), 30–48.

Contact Information

Stephanie H. Wolfe, MSW, LSW, SFW, LSFW
Title: Purveyor
Agency/Affiliation: The Academy for Child Welfare Practice
Website: www.3-5-7model.org
Phone: (814) 934-8496

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: September 2023

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: December 2023

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: August 2011