Back in May, the Sesame Street franchise introduced a storyline in which Karli, a 6-year-old green Muppet with piggy-tail shocks of yellow hair, became the show’s first character living in foster care. And now, the online series Sesame Street in Communities is explaining why Karli’s mom had to go away: She’s in treatment for drug addiction.
Having tackled homelessness with a Muppet character named Lily in December, Sesame Street again is taking on an issue that requires the venerable children’s series’ experience with nuanced and compassionate storytelling.
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In a video from the storyline titled “A Friend Like You” posted on YouTube, Karli introduces her human friend Salia Woodbury, a 10-year-old who shares the story of her own parents’ battle with opioid addition (watch the segment above). “Both our parents have had the same problem: addiction,” Karli says to the camera.
“My mom and dad told me that addiction is a sickness,” Salia says.
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” says Karli. “A sickness that makes a person feel like they have to take drugs or drink alcohol to feel OK.” Karli goes on to explain that their parents’ “grownup problem” is not the fault of the children and that “grownup problems need grownups to help fix the problem, so my mom had to go away for a little while.”
The Karli and Salia segments, available in both English and Spanish at the online Sesame Street in Communities, have not yet appeared on the HBO and PBS Sesame Street broadcasts.
In other elements of the storyline, the popular Elmo character discusses the addiction issue with dad Louie, who explains that addiction is a sickness (watch that video below).
In materials available to children’s providers via the online Sesame Street in Communities initiative, adults are advised on how to discuss addiction with kids, and includes such statistics as those indicating 5.7 million children under age 11 live in households with a parent with substance use disorder.