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February 2005Vol. 6, No. 1A Model for Preparing Children for Permanency

A new model presents an easy-to-remember method for preparing children in temporary out-of-home care for their transition to permanency of any type (reunification, kinship care, adoption, or permanent legal custodianship). The "3-5-7 model" involves the exploration of three tasks and five questions, using seven critical skills by the child welfare worker. This method provides tools and language to help child welfare professionals and foster parents assess children's readiness for permanency and to help the children reconcile their past losses.

The completion of three tasks by the child is designed to show where the child is in the resolution process. The tasks are:

  • Clarification of what has happened
  • Integration of events, especially family membership
  • Actualization (self-understanding)

The completion of these tasks is aided by answering five questions:

  • Who am I? (question related to identity)
  • What happened to me? (question related to loss)
  • Where am I going? (question related to attachment)
  • How will I get there? (question related to relationships)
  • When will I know I belong? (question related to claiming and safety)

The worker makes use of seven critical skills in preparing the child:

  • Engaging the child
  • Listening to the child
  • Telling the truth
  • Validating the child's life story
  • Creating a safe space for the child
  • Realizing that it is never too late to go back in time
  • Embracing pain as part of the process

The author stresses the importance of life books as a critical tool in this process. The life book assists the child, worker, and families as they complete the tasks of clarification, integration, and self-actualization. As different sections of the life book are completed, the worker and family can identify the progress of the child in the preparation process for permanency.

In 2003, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Office of Children and Youth, adopted the 3-5-7 model for all children in their child welfare system who were preparing for permanency. Activities and exercises for intervention techniques were formalized in a manual entitled Recipes for Success. Outcome-based research using pre- and posttest surveys of social workers who are implementing this model is under development.

An advantage of the 3-5-7 model is that it establishes a common language for those working with children in placement and moves the field toward standardizing practice in the preparation of children for permanency. Standardization of language and practice assures continuity in the preparation process for a child. Even if a child is moved or is assigned a new worker, other workers or families can resume the effort at the point of interruption so the child does not have to restart the entire process.

The full article, "The 3-5-7 Model: Preparing Children for Permanency," can be found in the February 2005 issue of Children and Youth Services Review or online: