'Sesame Street' teaches kids about opioid epidemic, effects on family

The children's show "Sesame Street" isn't afraid of introducing tough subjects but at an age-appropriate level.

Now the public television program, which is in its 50th season, is tackling the country's opioid epidemic, NBC News reported.

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Sesame Street says 5.7 million children in the U.S. under the age of 11 have a parent who has an addiction.


The Muppet character Karli's storyline explains that she is in foster care because her mother is addicted to opioids. Karli was added to the cast earlier this year to represent children in foster care.

In the episode, Karli tells her friends that her mother "was away for a while because she had a grown-up problem" and that she attends group meetings to help her recover, People magazine reported.

Karli also shares that she has her own group meetings for children whose parents are dealing with the same issues as her mother, according to People magazine.

Sesame Street in Communities is an initiative that gives content free to parents and caregivers and is made for children who are the victims of addiction but can go unnoticed.

"How they're impacted by addiction is often something that we don't hear about or, more importantly, don't hear (in) a children's voice or perspective," Jeanette Betancourt, a senior vice president at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces "Sesame Street," told NBC News.

Karli is joined in the episode by real children who were victims of their parent's addiction in real life.

Salia Woodbury is one of the children who is showing others in their position that they are not alone, NBC News reported.

Salia explains in the episode that she lives with her grandparents after both her mother and father went "to a place to help them feel better," People magazine reported.

Credit: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Credit: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

"Addiction is a sickness. It makes people feel like they need drugs and alcohol to feel OK," Salia says in the episode. "They were gone for 60 days and it felt like 60 years.

The show also introduces viewers to Salia's parents. Her mom says during the episode, "We had to leave for 60 days to go get help because we wanted you to have a good life, but first we had to take care of ourselves so that we could do that."

"Sesame Street" has been introducing more serious stories focusing on topics that many of the children are going through themselves.

Lily was introduced in 2011 to explain childhood poverty and food insecurity, and last year was a homeless Muppet.

Alex was the first Muppet character to have a dad in jail in 2013.

In 2015, the show introduced Julia, a Muppet who is on the autism spectrum.

For more on how "Sesame Street" is helping educate families and their communities about addiction, click here.

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