Sesame Street Addresses Parents and Incarceration

Sesame Street tackles more than the ABCs and 123s with a new educational outreach program for children.

The iconic children’s television program has recently launched a new campaign called “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration,” which, according to is geared toward helping children ages 3-8 cope when a parent is incarcerated:

The website contains a number of techniques and tools that will help families deal with the challenges that result from this situation. Among the online resources featured in the program are videos, printable brochures, cellphone apps, and illustrated books. In addition to the online resources, information packs about this education initiative will be distributed to schools, community centers and jails.

The program outlines a number of  ways that adult caregivers can help a young child cope, as well as tips specifically directed to the parents or caregivers of the children dealing with this situation. The incarcerated parent is offered suggestions about how they can help their kids cope as well.

CBS News said:

Sesame Street, in its simple, familiar way, is trying to break [incarceration] down, using imaginary characters to explore—and explain—what was once unimaginable, but now more and more common.

Overall, the response has been a positive one. Eve Vawter, who blogs for wrote:

I think it’s important that little kids are given ways to cope with their feelings, because they shouldn’t be punished for a crime the adult they love has committed. Once again, I love you Sesame Street!

However, there are other ways to look at this as well. Mike Riggs, a blogger with Reason Magazine, wrote, “Congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail.” While Mr. Riggs may be addressing the bigger issue of incarceration rates in America, the point he seems to be missing is that the children of those people who have gone to prison have no control over their circumstances. We believe that by ignoring the issue of parents who are incarcerated, we are essentially shaming the children who are truly the innocent victims in these cases.

What do you think?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Riggs has since clarified his position in a post, here.  

sesame street

About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.


  1. Precisely. There are larger political and social issues in our world and we need to protect OUR children from our adult messes. That’s our responsibility as adults, whether we have kids or not.
    Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts were dragged through the media and political system about LGBT, Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood teamed up on teen pregnancy and abortion, Sesame Street exposes kids to incarceration, school teachers are threatening kids with suspension or ADHD drugs if they don’t behave. These are adult social and political problems, period. Kids need hope and adults need to get our act together.

  2. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    Mike Riggs didn’t “clarify” his position so much as correct your misreading of his original position which did not imply what you claimed it did.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      Specifically, he says:

      “Emphasis theirs. I didn’t criticize Sesame Street at all, actually. I criticized America for having so many prisoners. Or, as Dehoyo actually acknowledges, “Mr. Riggs may be addressing the bigger issue of incarceration rates in America.”

      Why Dehoyo then implies in the very next clause that I think the children of incarcerated parents have some control over their circumstances is absolutely beyond me. I didn’t write that and I don’t believe it.”

  3. It would be nice if the actual humans speaking about their familial incarceration experiences weren’t both people of color. Nice way to promote a racial stereotype guys.

  4. Time to turn off Sesame Street and hold the producers accountable. These are adult issues. This is just as absurb as talking about porn or rape on Sesame Street. Simply because it exists doesn’t mean every kid needs to hear this stuff. Adults need to handle these issues not the media.

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