Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, announced a new initiative to offer support to children, foster parents, and providers who serve foster families. The initiative features Karli, a young Sesame Street Muppet in foster care, and her “for-now” parents, Dalia and Clem. Children in foster care often experience many transitions—from their separation from birth parents, to their placement in foster care, to many moves—and the new resources are designed to help children in crisis cope along the way.
The initiative is part of the Sesame Street in Communities program, which provides free, easy-to-use resources for community providers and caregivers on a range of topics, including tough issues like family homelessness and traumatic experiences. The free, bilingual resources released help caregivers and providers support children as they navigate the world of foster care, and they provide simple, approachable tools to help reassure children and help them feel safer.
The number of children in foster care in the U.S. has grown for five consecutive years. In 2017, nearly 443,000 children spent time in foster care—six out of every 1,000 children in the US. Every 47 seconds a child is abused or neglected, and children under age 6 made up nearly half of all child maltreatment cases in 2015. Over 40 percent of all children in foster care in 2016 were under age 6. In response to the growing need for resources to serve children in foster care, Sesame Workshop partnered with national experts on foster care and tested materials with both foster parents and providers. The resources include proven strategies to bolster relationships between caring adults and children and mitigate the effects of traumatic experiences.
“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. “We want foster parents and providers to hear that what they do matters—they have the enormous job of building and rebuilding family structures and children’s sense of safety. By giving the adults in children’s lives the tools they need—with help from the Sesame Street Muppets—we can help both grownups and children feel seen and heard and give them a sense of hope for the future.”
The new resources include:
• New videos featuring Karli, her “for-now” parents, and Sesame Street friends, including: On Your Team, in which Elmo’s dad chats with his old friends Dalia and Clem, who are new foster parents to a little girl named Karli; You Belong, in which Karli worries she doesn’t have a “place at the table” at a pizza party with Elmo in her new foster home; and A Heart Can Grow, in which Karli shares with Elmo an art project that demonstrates that while she may feel like her heart is breaking, it can get bigger at the same time when more love is added.
• The Feeling Basket storybook: A storybook about “finding a place” for big feelings. Accompanying activities help children gain perspective on emotions and learn to label and talk about them.
• Digital interactives, including an Artmaker activity to help children express their feelings through drawing and a “Slow It Down” calming activity for children overwhelmed by big feelings.
• Tips for foster parents to give children coping and calming strategies and provide honest and age-appropriate ways to respond to children’s most difficult questions about foster care. The new materials help promote engagement between foster parents and children and provide ideas for comforting routines that caregivers can do with children anywhere.
Sesame Street in Communities is a program to help community providers, parents, and caregivers give children a strong and healthy start. Sesame Street in Communities partners with community providers to reach parents and caregivers with resources on topics ranging from healthy eating and school readiness to tougher issues like trauma and grief. The materials, which include videos, storybooks, digital interactives, games, and professional development resources, are available for free—in English and Spanish—at www.sesamestreetincommunities.org.