Darla Henry & Associates
February 2016
Dear (Contact First Name),

Happy Leap Year!  

As you know, a leap year is a year containing one additional day added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the seasonal year.  The name "leap year" comes from the fact that while a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week from one year to the next, the day of the week in the 12 months following the leap day (from March 1 through February 28 of the following year) will advance two days due to the extra day (thus "leaping over" one of the days in the week).

In our child welfare systems we are charged to stay focused on time frames to achieve permanency.  We cannot, however, "leap over" the work that our children and families must do to be in readiness for new relationships.  WE CANNOT "FIX" KIDS in the same way that we have "fixed" the calendar; IT IS THEIR WORK TO DO!

Ours is to follow their work, at their pace, as they tell their story, a story of horror, craziness, pain, joy, heartache, fear, and on and on. We are merely witnesses to the telling of these stories as they make sense out of what happened to them; as they try to establish who they are, and, as they determine who will be there for them in their daily lives to protect and love them.   

Excerpted from Henry, D. L. (2010).  The 3-5-7 Model: A practice approach to permanency.  Stories of hope & healing for children, youth and families.  Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing.)

So, I encourage you to support the journey with your children and families as they grieve losses and give meaning to their important relationships!

Leap Year information from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_year
Integration is the term we use to describe the process by which one develops the ability to understand their connections, relationships and membership in numerous families.  Many children/youth have lived with a variety of individuals or families before coming into care, and they may have also had several different living situations while in care (foster homes, residential facilities, etc.).  Their membership within all these family systems and relationships needs to be explored so they can begin to understand who had meaning for them and for whom they had meaning.  As a result, the child gains the understanding that they belong to more than one family, increasing feelings of belongingness and permanency.

During integration, children and youth accept that they do not have to choose membership in a single family but they can live with one family and still care for and be cared by another family.  "Decreasing loyalty conflicts is an important task for all adults involved in the child's life.  Foster parents can help the child by accepting his feelings about birth parents, both positive and negative, and by being supportive of contacts with the birth family even if they are painful.  When foster parents behave as though it is acceptable for the child to love two sets of parents it becomes easier for both the child and his birth parents to accept the current situation.  Encouraging the child to have pictures of the birth family, and not discouraging him from talking of them, are ways to allow the birth family into the foster family without necessarily having them physically present (A Child's Journey Through Placement, Vera Fahlberg, p.171)."

We must be mindful that loyalty to biological families, or other families/individuals reflects the child's care for others and represents the child's attachment in that relationship.  Loyalty is also a foundation for identity development based on family characteristics.  No judgment should be placed on these feelings; rather, the child/youth must feel accepted in having these feelings and the meaning that the child gives each of their relationships should be honored.  No matter the parent-child relationship, and the reasons the child/youth may not be able to live with their family, they still desire to know that they are loved by their parents.  This is the opportunity to explore the love of a parent and the parent's capacity to be a good parent.

Integration is achieved when youth are able to give meaning to past and current relationships through the exploration of feelings about those relationships, and to make decisions about integral persons with whom they desire to develop relationships with and/or remain connected with.  Integration is relationship building work and the task of resource families and workers is to support this work.

Sands of Time and Place

Key Concept:  Working with Family Relationships and Loyalty

Primary Questions: 
  Where Am I Going?  How Will I Get There?

Purpose:  To help the child/youth see how past, current and the future relationships can be inter-connected.

Materials Needed:  Different colors of sand, a small container, a teaspoon

Getting Started:  Ask the child to create a list of important adults who have been part of his life.  After identifying the number of people, (including birth, foster, residential staff, and adoptive parents), ask the child/youth to identify a color of sand for each of these important relationships.  Then, using the teaspoon, place an amount of sand in the jar that corresponds to the importance or impact of that person in the child's life (as defined by the child).  The colored sand will form layers in the jar, allowing the child/youth to see their various relationships in relation to each other. Talk with the child about the importance of each person, recognizing the significance of all by asking the child for his thoughts about each of them.  If the child decides to stir the sand in the jar so that it is all mixed together, use this to talk about how all of these important relationships are integrated and part of the child. 

Welcome to Sierra Forever Families of Sacramento, California! It was great to spend time with Sierra and also with the folks at California Alliances' Executive Conference.    
Know and use today's 3-5-7 Model©!  lf you have never fully implemented the 3-5-7 Model© in practice or if you would like to learn about our tools and resources that help you to maintain fidelity to the model we'd love to hear from you!