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Legacy for Children™

Mother and son

Legacy for Children™ is an evidence-based program whose aim is to improve child outcomes by promoting positive parenting among low-income mothers of infants and young children. The name Legacy for Children™ was chosen to reflect the importance of the legacy that parents can pass on to their children.

The Legacy program is based on the belief that parents can have a significant effect on their children’s development. Research has shown that children’s success later in life is linked consistently with how parents interact with their children. It appears that even children who face various challenges, such as poverty or poor neighborhoods, are more likely to overcome these challenges when their parents are involved and invested in providing a safe, stable, and nurturing base of support.


Legacy was built on the philosophy that:

Videos on Legacy

Learn more about how the Legacy for Children™ program helps mothers and makes a difference in a child’s life and in the community.

A Legacy Story

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Watch the video

Legacy: Building Communities of Support

A Legacy Story Thumb
Watch the video

  • Parents can have a positive influence on their child’s development, even when other significant problems remain in their lives.
  • The quality of parent-child relationships is more important than any one parenting practice.
  • There is no one "right" way to parent.
  • Successful parenting involves thoughtful decisions and a sense of responsibility for the child.
  • Parents can develop and sustain a commitment to responsibility best when they belong to a community of other parents who share that sense of parental responsibility.

The program is based on the following assumptions in four key areas of parenting: parent self-efficacy, the parent–child relationship, parent responsibility, and a sense of community.

Parent Self-efficacy
  • Parent self-efficacy can be defined as parents’ belief that they can parent their child well.
  • Parent self-efficacy is based on the parent’s beliefs, rather than actual performance or behavior.
  • There are many ways to be a "good" parent. Critical aspects of positive parenting include commitment and the belief that parents can influence their children’s developmental outcomes.
  • Changes in parents’ thinking and behavior can be difficult and threatening. Successful experiences with children can help build parental self-efficacy.
The Parent-Child Relationship
  • The quality of the parent child relationship is more important than any single parenting practice or skill.
  • Changes take place more easily when the learning environment is safe, emotionally supportive and builds on current strengths and abilities. This is also true for supporting child development within parent–child interactions and for supporting parents in the acquisition of new parenting skills.
  • There are multiple pathways to positive parent-child relationships, and there is no one "right" way to parent.
  • Research has identified some common parent behaviors that seem to be linked with positive parent-child relationships, such as the use of appropriate praise and eye contact.
  • The same learning principles apply in relationships between children and parents, parents and intervention specialists, and intervention specialists and their program supervisors.
  • Children benefit only when the good intentions of parents also are expressed as positive parenting behavior.
Parent Responsibility
  • Parents’ commitment and sense of responsibility for making deliberate and thoughtful choices to improve their children’s welfare is a critical factor in positive parenting.
  • Parents can have positive influences on their children independent from their personal circumstances and the external stressors in their lives.
  • Optimism and personal responsibility can be increased by changing the way parents view events in their lives.

Sense of Community

Parents can develop and sustain a healthy commitment to their children’s development best when they belong to a community of other parents who share a sense of parental responsibility.


The goals of the Legacy for Children™ program are based on this parenting philosophy and applied to a group-based intervention for low-income mothers and their children. The primary emphasis of the Legacy program is on the relationship between the mother and child. A safe, consistent, and responsive mother–child relationship provides the foundation for learning in early childhood by setting the stage for the child to explore and learn. In this way, the child gains a sense of motivation and mastery that might not develop in a less supportive atmosphere. The secondary, but still important, emphasis of Legacy is on the mother’s relationship with her community. Legacy mothers gain a feeling of know-how and security when they have the sense of being part of a supportive community. This competence translates into an even greater investment in parenting, increasing each mother’s ability to be emotionally available and responsive to her child even more.

The Legacy program is geared towards helping mothers make thoughtful choices for their children. The five overall goals are to:

  • Promote the mother’s responsibility for, investment in, and devotion of time and energy to her child.
  • Promote responsive, sensitive mother–child relationships.
  • Support mothers as guides in their children’s behaviors and emotions.
  • Promote each mother’s ability to influence her children’s verbal and brain development.
  • Promote each mother’s sense of community.

How It Works

Three women smilingA core part of the Legacy program is regular group meetings of mothers, including mother-only sessions and mother–child sessions. The main purpose of these meetings is to provide mothers with an opportunity to develop and explore goals and dreams for their children with other mothers in similar circumstances. Intervention specialists, who are skilled in group facilitation and child development, assist mothers in identifying and practicing ways to help their children realize those dreams. In addition, Legacy includes one-on-one sessions with mothers that reinforce the curriculum.

It is important to note that Legacy does not tell mothers how to raise their children. The group sessions encourage exploration, discussion, and trying out a variety of ideas and practices that have been associated with positive outcomes, allowing mothers to decide what is right for themselves and their children.

The Intervention

The initial implementation of the Legacy for Children™ program took place in two sites, using the same philosophy and goals, but adapting the program in different ways.

University of Miami

Parenting groups met weekly for approximately 1.5 hours, year round, with only a few breaks for holidays. Each session included mother–child time when mothers could try out parenting skills with guidance from the group leaders, a component focused on building sense of community, and a focused topic discussion with activities. Topics were repeated as children grew and included: basic care, health and safety, parent issues, behavioral guidance, social skills, play and toy making, language and literacy, and individual differences.

Originally, there also were to be one-on-one home visits to follow up on the group parenting sessions and to reinforce the curriculum. However, these visits were difficult to schedule and most mothers preferred to have the one-on-one visits in conjunction with the group parenting sessions.

There also were two field trips per year to community sites. Celebrations and trips were planned with the mothers during the group sessions. The Miami project aimed to build a sense of community by promoting group cohesion among peers and encouraging parental involvement in the community.

University of California Los Angeles

Parenting groups began with five weekly group sessions conducted prenatally. When the babies reached 2 months of age, intervention sessions were started again and conducted in blocks of 10 meetings and conducted in blocks of 10 weekly meetings, which were followed by a break of 4 to 6 weeks. The weekly meetings were 2 hours long. Topics covered during the group sessions included family health and safety, communication skills, behavioral regulation skills, emotional development, temperament, attachment and autonomy, playing and learning, praise and encouragement, limit setting, and problem solving. These topics were centered on significant changes in child development, or touchpoints. Children participated in every other group meeting; group meetings without children were followed by special sessions planned by the mothers to build a sense of community, including field trips into the community and special celebrations.

A nurse also made two or three visits to the home during the prenatal period and early infancy. Between each block of group sessions, the intervention specialist conducted visits to the home to provide an expanded and individualized focus on the topics that were discussed during the previous group sessions.

Learn more about the Legacy study sites »