Healthy Families Department
June 16, 2022
Legacy for Children™- Prenatal Block Summary and Next Steps
In February 2022, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) in partnership with Connections Early Years Family Centre became the first organization in Canada to offer the Legacy for Children™ (Legacy) pilot program. Legacy is an evidence-based group intervention designed to improve child health and development by fostering positive parenting among low-income mothers of infants and young children. The Legacy model was developed by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, and was modified by WECHU staff to apply to a Canadian audience.
Legacy for Children™ is implemented over a three year period with mothers joining the program during their last trimester of pregnancy and continuing until their child is three years of age. Each year that participants are involved, they are offered three “blocks” of ten weekly sessions alternating between mother-only and mother-child sessions. Each session is facilitated by a WECHU Social Worker and Public Health Nurse who deliver educational messaging, tips, and tools related to attachment, language, social skills, discipline, literacy, health/safety, and play. Evidence from the United States has shown that participating in the Legacy program has led to:
- Increased parenting knowledge and information;
- Increased confidence among participants in their parenting responsibilities and abilities;
- Increased positive parenting practices among participants;
- Increased participants’ sense of community;
- Promoting optimal growth and development among participating children; and
- Promoting optimal social and emotional development among participating children.
Following the successful implementation of the first “Prenatal” block described below, the WECHU has continued to recruit families for participation in subsequent sessions.
Traditionally an in-person program, WECHU staff modified the initial “Prenatal Block” to be delivered online for a smaller group of program participants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a series of promotional programs, community networks, and self-referrals, the WECHU screened eight interested pregnant mothers for eligibility, with three meeting the requirements to enter the program. Curriculum included in the Prenatal Block intended to start developing a sense of community and to build knowledge about responsible parenting behaviours. The topics covered during the block included, fetal development, physical changes pregnant women experience, exploring one’s beliefs and traditions about pregnancy, preparing for baby’s birth, labour and delivery, infant feeding, preparing for the hospital, and coming home after the hospital. Throughout the five session Prenatal Block participating mothers actively engaged in group discussions and activities, bonded with one another, validated each other’s concerns and feelings, and committed to staying in contact during breaks between blocks of the program. Initial feedback from the launch of the Prenatal Block was positive with one participant providing the below testimonial:
“As the time of my delivery was coming closer day by day, I was thinking a lot about what I have to do. I needed someone to help me and give me suggestions and advice, especially because due to [the] pandemic a lot of things have changed. But because of these sessions and the guidelines from respective health unit organizers, everything's become easier for me, and I feel relief because I know I have support from all of them when I need any help. I really appreciate your efforts and the guidelines which really help me before and after my delivery. “
Since the completion of the Prenatal Block, an additional seven referrals have been received through ongoing promotion and recruitment both within WECHU social media accounts and through partnering agencies. At the time of writing this report, the WECHU intends to offer a hybrid model for subsequent blocks of the program to accommodate participants who choose to attend in-person at the Connections Early Years Family Center with the online version still available for those who prefer this option. Connections Early Years Family Center will also provide childcare for in-person participants. To date, a total of seven participants are registered for the next block (Block One), and promotion is ongoing. Recruitment will end in January 2023 and eligibility is open to new moms who had a baby in March, April, or May 2022. The goal of Block One is to promote mothers’ sense of (parenting) community, supporting parental responsibility, parental investment, and a devotion of time and energy to parenting. Topics covered during Block 1 include, adjusting to life with the newborn, identifying parenting attributes, exploring challenges of parenting, infant states of awareness, regulating infants’ states, reading and responding to babies’ cues, infant feeding, self-care, and play.
Evaluation data will be collected at various points throughout this three year program, and from various evaluation tools including a Parent Satisfaction Survey, Parent Engagement Form, Parent Group Summary Form, and various Ages and Stages (developmental) questionnaires.