By Naomi Schaefer Riley, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2019
When “Sesame Street” adds a character and a story line to its fabled neighborhood, people notice. In May, the show’s creators introduced Karli, a Muppet in foster care, and this month they revealed the reason for her situation: Her mom struggles with substance abuse.
In supplemental “Sesame Street in the Community” videos available online, Elmo’s dad explains to him that “Karli’s mother has a disease called addiction. Addiction makes people feel like they need a grown-up drink called alcohol or another kind of drug to feel OK. That can make a person act strange in ways they can’t control.” Elmo and Karli, a green plush 6-and-1/2-year-old with yellow ostrich feather pigtails, talk about “grown up problems” and how sharing can help if you’re sad or scared.
Karli’s separation from her mom might seem too harsh for the “Sesame Street” audience, but because the videos are available online only, parents and caregivers can decide if kids should see them. In fact, the programming does us all a favor with its honest depiction of what fractures families. Substance abuse is the primary reason for the foster care crisis in this country. And “Sesame Street’s” spotlight on it could help redirect our cities and states toward a better approach to confronting it.