For nearly 50 years Sesame Street has presented children with characters and stories that reflect the real-life faces and experiences they themselves or those they love may face in their real lives -- including some difficult situations that may be hard to talk about. Now, Sesame Street is continuing in that vein with the introduction of Karli, the beloved educational program's first ever puppet in foster care.
Karli, a yellow-haired green monster friend of Elmo's, is part of the Sesame Street in Communities program that offers free resources for caregivers and community partners on various challenging topics. In a new video entitled "You Belong", viewers are introduced to Karli and her foster parents Darlia and Clem when Elmo comes over for a pizza party. However, when Karli unexpectedly can't find her special placemat, it prompts the character to grow upset about not having a place. This leads Darlia to explain to Elmo that because Karli's mother is having a hard time, she and Clem are her "for-now parents" and that they will "keep her safe until her mommy can take care of her again."
We are excited to announce a new @SesameCommunity initiative to support foster children, foster parents, & providers who serve foster families. With the help of Karli, a Muppet in foster care, these resources aim to reassure children & help them feel safe. https://t.co/Vtpl1rOh1g pic.twitter.com/jwrt3VovfG— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) May 20, 2019
Other videos in the series help give some insight on the parenting side of being a foster parent. The "On Your Team" video features Dalia and Clem talking to Elmo's father, Louie, about fostering.
"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," Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop said in a press release. "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."
The timing of Karli's introduction is significant as May is National Foster Care Month and, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Children's Bureau, there are currently more than 440,000 children in foster care.
Karli isn't the first time Sesame Street has taken on more difficult issues as part of the Sesame Street in Communities program. Late last year the puppet Lily was revealed to be experiencing homelessness along with her family. Lily had previously made headlines as the first Sesame Street character to be shown experiencing food insecurity as well -- both of those being issues that far too many children themselves experience in real life.
Karli and Lily are both part of the Sesame Street in Communities initiative and it's important to note that their scenes will not air on the television version of Sesame Street. Instead, the videos are available via the initiative's YouTube Page as resources for families, caregivers, and community support figures. Additional resources are available on the initiative's website which you can further explore here.
What do you think about the introduction of a puppet in foster care? Let us know in the comments below.