Better World

Sesame Street Introduces Karli, a Friend For Kids Dealing With Addiction

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Sesame Street has done an excellent job of tackling tough subjects over the years. From creating their first homeless character to the first muppet with autism, they’ve aimed to teach our children understanding through exposure to situations they might not be familiar with. At the same time, these characters offer support and representation to kids who are facing some of these tough issues themselves. Last year, Sesame Street introduced us to Karli, a character in the foster care system. 

They are now expanding Karli’s story to include a parent struggling with addiction.

According to Sesame Street, “There are 5.7 million children under age 11, or one in eight children, living in households with a parent who has a substance abuse disorder” and the numbers are growing. “One in three of these children will enter foster care due to parental addiction, a number that has grown by more than 50% in the past decade.” Sesame Street’s willingness to create a character like Karli will help children affected by addiction see themselves in someone else.

Adding Karli’s story into their line-up of characters also gives parents talking points to discuss addiction with children who may not be affected, but could have peers who are. The Sesame Street Communities website, a site devoted to community initiatives, offers a number of resources from conversation tips for parents to children’s activities. Karli’s story is available through online episodes with easy to understand clips, like this one where Elmo’s dad explains what Karlie’s mom is going through to Elmo.

“Addiction is often seen as a ‘grown-up’ issue, but it impacts children in ways that aren’t always visible. Having a parent battling addiction can be one of the most isolating and stressful situations young children and their families face,” said Sherrie Westin, President of Social Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop. “Sesame Street has always been a source of comfort to children during the toughest of times, and our new resources are designed to break down the stigma of parental addiction and help families build hope for the future.”

The addition of a character like Karli illustrates how prevalent addiction is in today’s society. According to experts, her presence is necessary. Jerry Moe, National Director of Children’s Programs at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and key advisor on the new initiative offers, “For children who connect to Karli, hearing, ‘It’s not your fault—you are not alone, and there are safe people and places that can help,’ opens a path to hope and healing. This Sesame Street in Communities resource fills a huge void for millions of families hurt by addiction and helps kids be kids again.” 

For a comprehensive list and support materials for all issues Sesame Street in Communities is tackling, visit

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -