For 50 years and counting, Sesame Street has been on a mission to help kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. And throughout those five decades, the show has always embraced diversity and inclusion, adding characters like Julia, who has autism and her family to help other children see what it means to have special needs.
This May 2019, Sesame Workshop is introducing the new Muppet, Karli, and her foster parents, Dalia and Clem, to raise awareness on foster care among kids. Kids in foster care experience transitions like being separated from birth parents and moving from home to home, which can become a cycle in an endless loop.
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Sesame Workshop recognizes the foster parents' role in building family structures and nurturing a child's sense of safety. "Fostering a child takes patience, resilience, and sacrifice, and we know that caring adults hold the power to buffer the effects of traumatic experiences on young children," said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, in a press release.
By giving the adults the tools they need like Sesame Street's bilingual resources, caregivers can guide children through coping and calming strategies and provide honest and age-appropriate ways to respond to their most difficult questions about foster care. "Both grownups and children feel seen and heard and give them a sense of hope for the future," Dr. Betancourt said.
In her debut on Sesame Street, Karli, who has lime green fur and yellow hair in ponytails, and Elmo play the sport called Monsterball (it's like soccer for Muppets) and have Pizza Party Tuesdays at Karli's foster, or "for now" parents' home.
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One of the videos shows how foster kids feel like they don't belong when Karli felt sad when she couldn't find her placemat, her place in the table, during one Pizza Party Tuesday. "She's having a hard time, Elmo, but we're here for her. We're her 'for now' parents," Clem explained. "Hey Karli, we know some things are hard to talk about, but we're listening," he added.
When Elmo asked what "for now" parents are, Dalia explained, "Sometimes, even mommies and daddies need some help taking care of her children. Karli's mommy has been having a hard time, so we are her foster parents or her 'for now' parents. We will keep her safe until her mommy can take care of her again," she said.
At the Monsterball game on the bleachers, Elmo's dad asked Karli's foster parents Clem and Dalia how things have been since they've begun caring for Karli. "Well, changes like this can be really rough for kids and for adults, too," Clem replied. "It has its ups and down. But no matter what, we try to let Karli know we are always here for her," Dalia added.
Karli shared with Elmo how hearts can grow, as her foster mom Dalia explained it to her. Karli drew herself and her mom inside a heart and then drew her foster parents, surrounding them with a bigger heart. "Dalia told me that even when our hearts feel sad and small, they could still grow. The more love they get, the more they grow," Karli said.
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Aside from these videos, Sesame Workshop resources also include printables, digital interactives, calming-down activities, storybooks to help children gain perspective and manage their big feelings, and tips from people who have also been in the same situation.