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 that empowers young people and families to engage in the work of grieving their losses and re-building relationships towards 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 to provide a directional approach to achieving permanency in relationships. The 3-5-7 Model® uses tools (e.g., lifebooks, loss/life lines) to support work around issues of separation and loss, identity formation, attachment, and building relationships, and it also supports deeper therapeutic work around abuse, abandonment, and neglect experiences. Practice applications can be made throughout ongoing case management services, from intake to child protective to placement services. Along with being a standalone program as described in this entry, the three tasks of the 3-5-7 Model® are designed to be able to be used with other child welfare practice models. The 3-5-7 Model® supports kinship, foster, and adoptive family relationships. The 3-5-7 Model® can also be used an engagement strategy with birth families.

Program Goals

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

  • Give young people and families a voice to their experiences
  • Honor their past relationships
  • Answer their questions
  • Create connections
  • Visualize future, including the actualization of permanent relationships

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 young people and families in working with them towards improving well-being and readiness for permanency. These three (3) tasks provide the methodology to assure readiness of children and their families to determine permanent relationship opportunities. They indicate where each individual is in reconciling and grieving losses and in moving toward rebuilding relationships. The 3-5-7 Model® takes the “guess work” or the “we hope it works” approach out of permanency decision making. Young people know when they are ready and families know when they are ready to actualize placements.
    • 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 organizes the work to be done through various activities and techniques. 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 used to understand and further guide the work of the individual in Clarification, Integration and Actualization. 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 allows 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 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 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 further defines and brings clarity to the 7 Skills. The guide is used to support the development of worker skills and to 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 young person 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 critical to engage young people 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 helpful to providing opportunities for young people to do the work of clarification, integration, and actualization. The 3-5-7 Model® Workbook Activities at a Glance is used to help workers identify appropriate activities based on the young person’s task. The worker prepares to introduce the activity to the young person, and using the 7 Skills, facilitates the process of the young person’s work. The responsiveness of the young person (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. Life books are one of the best tools for continuity of the grief process and support of the work. Lifebooks provide a tangible account for the young person of the work that they are doing. It is a concrete source for reflection between sessions and evidence of the tasks of clarification, integration, and actualization.
    • Recommended staffing: It is suggested that staffing for 3-5-7 Model® implementation accommodate a caseload size (based on 1 full-time employee) not to exceed four young people in the first twelve weeks post training, 6 young people between 12 and 24 weeks post training, and 8 young people six months post training. One year posttraining and thereafter caseload size is recommended not exceed 10 young people. Staff is recommended to work flexible schedules to accommodate days and times that fit the young person’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.

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 (foster/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:

Continuity is a key component of the model. Services must be provided on a consistent basis in a stable relationship with the professional. This assures the opportunity for all individuals to do their work of exploring feelings of grief, hurt and pain. One face-to-face interaction at least bi-weekly is suggested, with a phone contact in the off week. Length of each contact will depend on age and ability of the young person to engage with the professional. Contact times can range from 15 minutes to an hour or more depending on the needs of the young person and the activity planned. 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 young person.

Recommended Duration:

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 consistent 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.

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 relationship building. The use of life books help young people their work of Clarification, Integration and Actualization, even when not in the presence of 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).

Education 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.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program, and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

Darla L. Henry & Associates 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 is provided through the training, application, and implementation phases of systems change. Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and on-line 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 describes possible activities that comprise each phase.

  • Installation (Clarification): Darla L. Henry & Associates supports overall implementation of the 3-5-7 Model© by using a consultative process focusing on preparation of systems to support 3-5-7 Model© practices. Implementation of the 3-5-7 Model© requires a team of individuals 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 two consecutive days.
  • Initial Implementation (Integration): Training begins with a 2-day overview and applications session. Four months later, a one day session on the tools of the model is provided. Coaching begins about one month (minimally) following the initial training. Provided via web-conferencing technology, these sessions are structured, one-hour sessions, occurring once or twice a month that provide direct staff and/or supervisors with support on applications of the 3-5-7 Model©. 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): In the third year, coaching continues based on staff and supervisory skill development needs to maintain fidelity to the practice of the 3-5-7 Model©.
  • 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 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.L.(2010). The 3-5-7 Model: A Practice Approach to Permanency. Sunbury Press: Camp Hill, PA.

Henry, D. (2005).  The 3-5-7 Model: Preparing children for permanency.  Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 197–212.

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

Darla L. Henry, PhD, MSW
Agency/Affiliation: Darla L. Henry & Associates
Website: darlahenry.org
Phone: (717) 919-6286
Fax: (717) 651-9730

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: September 2013

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: December 2017

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: August 2011