Why Karli coming to The Neighborhood is so important

Sesame Street tackles the topic and stigmas of addiction

Will Seward

More stories from Will Seward


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Karli is the newest Muppet to join the rest of the Muppets in The Neighborhood on Sesame Street. This progressive character is in foster care while her mom is taking care of herself, according to one of the foster, or “for-now” parents, Dalia, in this clip.

Sesame Street is bravely tackling the issue and societal stigma of addiction and foster care, which Jerry Moe — the National Director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Children’s Program — said is huge for our society.

“Kids are the first to get hurt by this disease, and unfortunately, the last to get help,” Moe said, “We need to make sure that there are more programs like (these) that really provide the resources that kids need to get help.”

A common and unfortunate misconception of addiction is that it is a moral failure and not a disease. The American Medical Association defined alcoholism, which is a form of addiction, as a disease back in 1956 — which is now 63 years ago.

“The biggest myth or misconception is that people who get this disease are weak-willed, they lack morals,” Moe said, “and if they could just pull themselves up from the bootstraps, it would all be okay.”

Moe explained that these misconceptions are not applied to other diseases such as cancer because cancer does not have the misunderstanding and stigma that addiction does.

According to Moe, somewhere between 25 and 33 percent of children are growing up in the United States with a loved one of theirs who has been hurt by addiction.

“While little kids might not have the cognitive development to connect all the dots and interpret (what’s happening) appropriately, they know something’s wrong,” Moe said. “A lot of kids make up a story for it all to make sense.”

These stories can range from taking the blame for what is happening to thinking they are not good enough to prevent or help it. Moe said it is this weight that is often incredibly painful and traumatic for children to experience.

With Sesame Street being aimed at a young audience, it makes perfect sense how Karli can serve to help children understand, process and seek help for the feelings that they are experiencing.

Another way Sesame Street is seeking to help families is through online resources, such as this coloring page that discusses the “7 Cs.”

This can be explained to younger children, and after they understand, the child can then color the page and keep it as a beneficial reminder of healthy behaviors and thoughts.

These resources not only help the children who are affected but also the adults, giving them a tool they can give to their children to process what they experience.

My take on this is that Karli is a priceless tool that will give many children a character they will be able to relate to.

This will not only benefit the child, but also the loved one of theirs who is suffering from addiction by knowing that the people who love them are being taken care of as well. 

Sesame Street approaches the topic very well and presents it to the audience of young children in a way that will make sense to them. 

Seward can be reached at [email protected]