For more than 50 years, Sesame Street has been the home of a very diverse population. From a childlike red monster, a friendly yellow bird and a green grouch to people of all ages, colors and occupations, the classic TV show makes a concerted effort to depict everyone being treated with compassion and respect. This year, there’s a new neighbor on Sesame Street – Elmo’s friend Karli, a Muppet who is also a foster child.
Karli is like many kids in care; she misses her mom, doesn’t always want to talk about her feelings and sometimes wonders if she belongs in her “for now” family. Her foster parents admit that there are ups and downs to their role but remain focused on keeping Karli safe and loved. Foster families watching the show will relate, and others will empathize and want to help any way they can.
“We want foster parents and providers to hear that what they do matters—they have the enormous job of building and rebuilding family structures and children’s sense of safety,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of US Social Impact at Sesame Workshop. This public support has the potential not only to remove the stigma that is sometimes associated with foster parents but also increase interest in fostering at a time when many states are experiencing a foster parent shortage.
Raising awareness among the general public is key. However, the greatest significance may be to foster children themselves.
An article in the Huffington Post demonstrates the importance of children seeing people who are like them in television and movies and the impact on their self-esteem. Michael Morgan, former professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said, “When you don’t see people like yourself, the message is: You’re invisible. The message is: You don’t count. And the message is: ‘There’s something wrong with me.’”
With her prominent presence on Sesame Street, Karli serves as a positive role model and a comfort to children in foster care.