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Sesame Street shows how addiction affects families


Photo by Sesame Street 

by Catherine Kirch

Sesame Street recently revealed that one of its puppet characters is in foster care because her mother is in recovery for addiction. The character, Karli, joined the show in May, adding to a cast that has been increasing its inclusivity over the past few years, including a homeless puppet and a puppet with autism.

Sesame Workshop, Sesame Street’s nonprofit, unveiled Karli’s story in a series of online videos in an effort to provide resources for caregivers to talk to children about parental substance abuse. The videos describe Karli’s situation in a number of ways, helping viewers understand addiction, develop empathy, and discuss healthy methods for dealing with tough emotions.

As we continue to battle the opioid crisis, it is important to understand that addiction doesn’t just affect the addicted—it can affect everyone around them, including their families and children. In the United States, the number of children entering foster care because of parental substance abuse has more than doubled over the past twenty years. In fact, thirty-six percent of children who entered foster care in 2017 did so due to parental addiction.

Keeping Families Together

Good Shepherd Services is an agency of Catholic Charities of New York that helps young people and their families thrive no matter their circumstances.

Since the 1940s, Good Shepherd Services has been helping the youth of New York City by creating opportunities for success. This goal is supported by over 80 programs, including after-school and summer camps, college and career preparation programs, community centers, and more.

Good Shepherd Services recognizes that one of the best ways to support young people is by serving their parents and families as well. Their family counseling services take a holistic approach, serving the whole family by working with individual family members to understand conflict and refer them to relevant resources. Good Shepherd Services also offer domestic violence programs to help families live safely.

Another family program, called Transitions, offers casework services and counseling for families struggling with substance abuse and other mental health issues. By supporting families like the ones Karli represents, Good Shepherd Services plays a crucial role in overcoming some of the most difficult situations that families face.

The goal of these family programs is to keep families together, avoiding entry or re-entry into the foster care system and reuniting children with their birth parents whenever possible. When this is not a possibility, Good Shepherd Services works to find a permanent adoptive home where the child can thrive.

To learn more about Good Shepherd Services, visit their website.

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