Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the famous children's show “Sesame Street,” received over $800,000 in grant money from the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts (FORE) to continue creating videos and other resources that help young children who live with someone who has a substance use disorder.
Back in 2019, the organization created a “Sesame Street” muppet character named Karli whose mom is dealing with addiction. Videos and other content were created that show Karli and other popular characters, like Elmo, discussing her mom’s sickness and learning to cope.
Each video includes discussion topics and questions parents can use as a guide for relating it to their own lives after watching.
Sesame Workshop said the resources it created deliver the words children in these households need to hear most, “You are not alone. You will be taken care of. Addiction is a sickness and, as with any sickness, people need help to get better. And most importantly: It’s not your fault.”
Right now, there are four videos featuring Karli on the Sesame Workshop website and a coloring activity that teaches the “7 Cs” for children living with a family member’s addiction to remember. Each is geared towards kids aged 1 to 6 six years old.
With the new funding from FORE, the goal is for Sesame Workshop to expand its library of parental addiction resources to strengthen connections between adults and children throughout a parent’s recovery, according to a press release.
The organization plans to collaborate with Morgan County Partnership in West Virginia, Denver Health and All Rise to create the new content and tools, FORE said.
"When a parent struggles with addiction, the whole family struggles," said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. social impact for Sesame Workshop in a statement. “With this generous support from FORE, we aim to equip caring adults with tools to comfort and guide young children through these difficult moments. Together, we can help families heal, reestablish trust and find their path to recovery."
According to the Department of Health and Human Services’s “National and State Estimates of Children with Parents Using Substances, 2015-2019” report, more than 21 million children in the U.S. lived with a parent who misused substances.
A recent federal survey said 1 in 6 Americans — nearly 49 million — reported having a substance abuse disorder in 2022.
All Rise Director of Strategic Engagement Melissa Fitzgerald said their organization believes the justice system must play a role in facilitating recovery for adults and assisting children with understanding what their caregiver is going through. The tools created through their collaboration with Sesame Workshop do just that.
“This partnership underscores how critical it is for treatment and recovery to move beyond the individual and ensure the entire family is part of the healing process,” Fitzgerald told Scripps News.
FORE said young children who live in households with a parent who has a substance use disorder can lack a sense of security and emotional support during crucial developmental years. And their parents can simultaneously struggle with guilt and shame.
The resources offered by Sesame Workshop hope to address these issues.
“Sesame Street” has consistently added characters and storylines over the last few years that help kids understand and cope with several matters, including Zeerak to promote gender equity, Lily who is experiencing homelessness and Ameera who helps kids learn about differently abled bodies.
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