Legacy for Children™
How It Works
The Legacy for Children™ intervention is primarily a group-based intervention approach. Here is how it works: A core part of the Legacy program is regular group meetings of mothers, including mother-only time in group and mother–child time in group. The main purpose of these meetings is to provide mothers with an opportunity to develop and explore goals 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 goals. 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.
Two sites, University of Miami and University of California Los Angeles developed curricula for the initial implementation of the Legacy for Children™ program. They use the same philosophy and goals, but adapt the program in different ways. Read more about the study sites here.
Topics: Both curricula cover a wide range of child development knowledge and parenting skills, including:
- basic care, health, and safety,
- language and literacy,
- social and emotional skills,
- playing and learning,
- behavior guidance and limit setting,
- praise and encouragement, and
- parent issues like stress and self-efficacy.
Duration: The two curricula have different start points and length.
The Miami curriculum starts with parenting groups soon after the children are born, and continues until they are age 5. Parenting groups meet weekly for approximately 1.5 hours, year round, with a few breaks for holidays.
The Los Angeles curriculum starts with prenatal sessions that are continued until age 3. There are five weekly group sessions that are conducted prenatally. When the babies reach about 2 months of age, intervention sessions resume and are conducted in blocks of 10 meetings, each followed by a break of 4 to 6 weeks to allow for home visits. The weekly meetings are 2 hours long.
Sessions: Both curricula have mother-only discussion times, and mother-child interaction times.
In the Miami curriculum, each session includes a component focused on building a sense of community, a focused topic discussion with activities, followed by mother–child time when mothers can try out parenting skills with guidance from the group leaders. Topics are repeated as children grow.
In the Los Angeles curriculum, children participate in every two group meetings; the group meetings that are held without children are followed by special sessions planned by the mothers to build a sense of community.
Special occasions: For both sites, there are occasional special sessions for celebrations and field trips. These are planned with the mothers during the group sessions. The group sessions are also supplemented by home visits or one-on-one meetings.
Language: The original curricula were developed for mothers who spoke English, either as a first or second language. Translation of the curricula into Spanish is in progress.
Legacy was built on the philosophy that:
- 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 assumptions in four key areas of parenting: parent self-efficacy, the parent–child relationship, parent responsibility, and a sense of community.
- 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 to the parenting role 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 most when the good intentions of parents also are expressed as positive parenting behavior.
- 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.
- Page last reviewed: February 1, 2017
- Page last updated: August 9, 2016
- Content source:
- Division of Human Development and Disabilities, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention