Addiction is slowing coming out of the woodwork as a stigma that people don’t talk about. In the past few years, it’s no secret that there has been an opioid addiction epidemic. It affects millions of people. More than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And for all those that don’t die, there are hundreds of thousands still struggling to get and stay clean. All of these people are somebody’s daughter or son. And many of them have children, which is why Sesame Street is tackling such a sobering subject for young people.
The Addiction Crisis
There is a young generation that is growing up without parents or in the custody of other relatives due to this epidemic, similar to the crack epidemic of the 1990’s. Many addicted people end up involved in the justice system, bouncing from treatment-to-treatment, or lost in their addiction bouncing from couch to couch. Many children are too young to understand their parent’s addiction or explain it to others. In some cases, the stigma may be too great to talk about it at all.
Sesame Street, however, thinks that kids need to hear it talked about and explained in a way they understand.
Sesame Street’s New Character Combats Stigma
Sesame Street Workshop has decided to create a character whose Mom is fighting addiction. The 6-year-old Muppet character, named Karli, is meant to represent a character that all kids in foster care can relate to. In the US, almost 6 million children younger than 11 have one or more parents \living with addiction. In 2017, almost a third of the 268,000 children and teens removed by child services across the US came from families that struggle with addiction.
While Karli may not end up on the Sesame Street mainstream television show, Sesame Workshop has educational content online that classrooms around the world rely on. And they often take their workshops on the road to schools and other institutions for outreach to kids.
Addiction education for kids and other resources, which are part of the Sesame Street in Communities program, are freely available on www.SesameStreetinCommunities.org.
The nonprofit says that their programming delivers a message that kids in addicted families need to hear more than anything: “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.” They also tell kids to remember that it’s not their fault.