Since it's beginning in 1969, Sesame Street has taken on complex and emotional social issues and explained them in a simple way that children can relate to. With the introduction of a character in foster care named Karli, they explain the basic idea of foster care and address how those children may be feeling. The timing seems appropriate being that May is National Foster Care Month, a great time to spread awareness and understanding about what foster care is and the vital role it plays in the lives of so many young people.
Many young children do not understand what foster care is. What does it mean? Why would a child be in this situation? Where are their parents? Sesame Street introduces the concept and explains it in a simple, relatable way for kids, using the term "for now parents" as a synonym for foster parents.
"I Don't Have a Place"
While Karli is showing Elmo around the dinner table she points out that everyone has a personalized placemat. However when she gets to where hers is supposed to be, it's gone. Karli's mood quickly changes and she sadly states, "I don't have a place." It's a heartbreaking moment that we realize has a much deeper meaning to Karli beyond just a placemat. Elmo is confused and asks why Karli is so sad, but she doesn't want to talk about it. Her foster parents explain, "She's having a hard time, Elmo, but we're here for her, we're her 'for now parents'." They go on to tell Karli, "We know some things are hard to talk about, but we're listening."
Where are Her Parents?
While Karli's foster father is comforting her, Elmo speaks to her foster mother who explains that "Sometimes, even mommies and daddies need help taking care of their children." Her mother is having a hard time and as her foster parents they will keep her safe until her mother can take care of her again. Elmo asks when that will be, and they tell him they don't know for sure, but that for now Karli belongs there with them. They make it very clear to Elmo and Karli (and the viewers of course) that they want Karli there with them. She is valued, protected and cared for. Karli's foster parents tell her "you have a place at our table." They sing a song to reassure her.
You are safe
You are strong
There is a place for you here
Luckily Elmo finds Karli's special placemat underneath the pizza box on the table. It was missing just long enough to help the Sesame Street writers illustrate how children in foster care may be feeling and how to help reassure and support them.
We are so appreciative that Sesame Street has chosen to highlight an issue that we hold near and dear to our hearts. They addressed it in an inclusive and accessible way, something they always do well. Sesame Street celebrates it's 50th anniversary this November with a star-studded celebration episode. We are glad that they embraced foster care as a valuable part of the Sesame Street world to help foster children feel included.
Considering fostering? Click here to find out more.