How a new Sesame Street character is shining a light on an important health problem

How a new Sesame Street character is shining a light on an important health problem

Elmo, Grover and the gang have a new friend designed to support children and families affected by parental addiction. Muppet Karli was first introduced in May 2019 as a foster child, and according to an announcement made last week by the Sesame Workshop, will have her storyline expanded to include why she was placed in foster care. Her mother had to go away for treatment of an addiction.

Addiction affects millions every year. The Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, states there are 5.7 million children under age 11, or one in eight children, living in households with a parent who has a substance abuse disorder. One in three of these children will enter foster care due to parental addiction, a number that has grown by more than 50% in the past decade.

“In a study conducted by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the effects of drug abuse on family members, specifically children, can be long lasting,” says Sara Bailey, an addiction recovery counselor at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Parental substance use can create chronic depression, anxiety, low self-worth, feelings of helplessness and guilt in children.

Addiction can negatively affect family units through isolation, perpetuation of emotional turmoil and negative mindsets, financial instability, abuse, risk of disease and divorce,” Bailey says. “Fortunately, these situations do not have to continue. Various support services, such as Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics, exist to help family members cope with addiction.”

Sesame Street has always been a source of comfort to children during the toughest of times, said Sherrie Westin, President of Social Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop in a release. “Our new resources are designed to break down the stigma of parental addiction and help families build hope for the future.”

If you or someone you know could benefit from treatment for alcohol or substance abuse, you can get help from Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and elsewhere. If you live in Illinois, click here. If you live in Wisconsin, click here.

Photo Credit: Sesame Workshop

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  1. I would like to add that there is also a program for teenagers that suffer from the family disease of alcoholism called Alateen. It’s like Al-anon but for teenagers.

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.