(Source: Flynn Larsen/Sesameworkshop.org)

“Sesame Street” Tackles Opioid Addiction Through Character In Foster Care

by | October 14, 2019

Popular children’s show Sesame Street has introduced Karli to the cast, a Muppet who grew up in foster care due to her mother’s addiction problem.

With the introduction of this new character, Sesame Street is hoping to address the opioid problem in the US — a crisis that claimed over 47,000 lives in 2017 alone.

Karli, a six-year-old bright green muppet with yellow hair, can be seen sharing her story on Sesame Street in Communities, a free online extension of the Sesame Street show. Karli tells of how her mum had to go away for a while because she had a “grown-up problem.”

Speaking to NBC News in an interview, Muppet Karli said “I love my mom so much” but “she couldn’t take good care of me because she was having such a tough time.”

The creators of the show decided to help tackle this problem as statistics show around 5.7 million children under the age of 11 in the US have a parent with a substance addiction — or one in every eight children.

The show explores different ways to address feelings, such as through art, breathing exercises and honest conversations.

muppet karli sesame street
Karli talks to fellow Muppet Elmo about her story. (Source: Zach Hyman/Sesameworkshop.org)

Sesame Street Helping Children Relate To Addiction

Kama Einhorn, one of the senior content managers for Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street, explained that “There’s nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective.”

Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president for US social impact at Sesame Workshop says that how children are impacted by addiction “is something that we don’t hear about or, more importantly, don’t hear (in) a children’s voice or perspective.”

Karli is occasionally joined on the show by Salia Woodbury, a very real 10-year-old girl with first-hand experience of parental addiction. Her mother and father have been in recovery for around eight years. Salia, who has three sisters, has said that “we’re strong and we can all work together to go through it.”

According to Salia’s mother, Jaana Woodbury, the show helps to open minds and tackle stigma when it comes to those grappling with addiction.

“When I was going through addiction, I felt extremely alone and isolated,” she said.

“I didn’t have any connection to the outside world…I think it’s amazing that Sesame Street is using their platform to share resources to help other women and fathers.”

This isn’t the first time that Sesame Street, which has been on the air since 1969, has addressed tough subjects. Over the years the program has explored issues such as food poverty, HIV, homelessness and the prison system. 

What do you think of the way Sesame Street is tackling this issue? Let us know in the comments below!


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