Little Children Big Challenges: Incarceration

Welcome to Sesame Street’s press room for our newest resiliency initiative Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration. This bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia outreach initiative provides much-needed resources to support and comfort young children (ages 3–8) throughout their parents’ incarceration.

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project overview

The Need

The number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80% in the past 20 years.1 Nearly 2.7 million children have a parent in state or federal prison, yet few resources exist to support young children and families coping
with this life-changing circumstance.2 Children need tools to express emotions, while their caregivers need help maintaining routines and establishing age-appropriate communication around incarceration. Providing adults and children with coping strategies and additional emotional resources can help them feel comforted and secure throughout this difficult time.

The Initiative

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is designed to:

  • support, comfort, and reduce anxiety, sadness, and confusion that young children (ages 3-8) may experience during the incarceration of a parent.
  • provide at-home caregivers with strategies, tips, and age-appropriate language they can use to help communicate with their children about incarceration.
  • inform incarcerated parents that they can parent from anywhere, and provide them with simple parenting tips highlighting the importance of communication.

Initiative Components

  • Multimedia resource kits
    • Sesame Street DVD featuring a Muppet story, live-action films showcasing real children and families, and an animated segment
    • Guide for parents and caregivers
    • Children’s storybook
  • Sesame Street: Incarceration appfor adults to use on tablets and phones, available on Google Play™, the App StoreSM, and the Amazon Appstore for Android on Kindle Fire
  • Sesamestreet.org/incarceration
    • Online toolkit with downloadable versions of all materials and links to training webinars
    • Tip sheet for incarcerated parents
    • Training webinars to educate service providers on how to use the resources with children and families
  • Youtube.com/SesameStreetInCommunities featuring playlists of videos related to the initiative
  • Facebook.com/SesameStreetInCommunities for sharing Sesame Street’s free educational resources with adults
  • Sesameworkshop.org/incarceration/partners for press and partners

Formative and Impact Evaluation

Resources are based on formative evaluation conducted with parents and caregivers, service providers, and incarcerated parents. An assessment of the initiative will be conducted with caregivers to evaluate changes in young children’s abilities to cope with the incarceration of a parent.

Distribution Plan

Sesame Workshop worked closely with advisors and partners to integrate Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration
resources into correctional facilities and organizations that specialize in early childhood education, mental health and counseling, parenting programs, foster care, and that have missions specific to helping families cope with the incarceration of a loved one. Sesame Workshop will also pilot, in several key states, a deeper implementation of these resources.

Initiative Supporters

Major support for Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is provided by BAE Systems. Generous support is provided by The Prudential Foundation, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the USO, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the Florence V. Burden Foundation.

1 Glaze, L., & Maruschak, L. (2008). Parents in prison and their minor children. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (NCJ 22984), pp. 1–25. Retrieved from: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=823
2 Glaze, L., & Maruschak, L. (2008).

Project Overview

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press release

SESAME STREET LAUNCHES NEW RESOURCES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN WITH AN INCARCERATED PARENT

“Little Children, Big Challenges” continues to build resilient skills in kids…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. New York, New York, June 12, 2013.  The number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80% in the past 20 years.1 Nearly 2.7 million children have a parent in state or federal prison, yet few resources exist to support young children and families with this life-changing circumstance.2In response, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, unveils its newest, bilingual (English/Spanish) initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, for families with young children (ages 3–8) who have an incarcerated parent and continue to develop skills for resilience. This resource will only be distributed through targeted outlets in communities by organizations, partners and individuals who reach these families.

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is designed to:

  • support, comfort, and reduce anxiety, sadness, and confusion that young children may experience during the incarceration of a parent
  • provide at-home caregivers with strategies, tips, and age-appropriate language they can use to help communicate with their children about incarceration
  • inform incarcerated parents themselves that they can parent from anywhere, and provide them with simple parenting tips highlighting the importance of communication

Sesame Workshop is working closely with advisors and partners to distribute and integrate Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration resources into correctional facilities and organizations that specialize in early childhood education, mental health and counseling, parenting programs, foster care, and that have missions specific to helping families cope with the incarceration of a loved one.  Sesame Workshop will also begin to pilot, in several key states (Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin), a deeper implementation of these resources.

“Sesame Workshop has always been at the forefront of creating resources for families with young children to help address some of life’s most difficult issues,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop. “Little Children, Big Challenge: Incarceration tackles a very difficult topic, one for which there are scant resources to help young children, and best of all, it approaches these difficult transitions in the way that only Sesame Street and our trusted Muppets can.”

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiative components include:

  • Multimedia resource kits
  • Sesame Street DVD featuring a Muppet story, live-action films by filmmaker Jenifer McShane (Mothers of Bedford) showcasing real children and their families, and an animated short film by XYZStudios.
  • Guide for parents and caregivers
  • Children’s storybook
    • Sesame Street: Incarceration app for adults to use on tablets and phones, available on Google PlayTM , the App StoreSM, and the Amazon Appstore for Android on Kindle Fire
    • SesameStreet.org/Incarceration
    • Online toolkit with downloadable versions of all materials
    • Tip sheet for incarcerated parents.
    • Training webinars to educate service providers on how to use the resources with children and families.

As with all content produced by Sesame Workshop, this outreach initiative began with formative evaluation, which included consulting with an advisory board of key experts in child development, early childhood, and mental health fields, in addition to experts working with incarcerated families to guide and shape key content messages and initiative goals. Continuing the process, Sesame Workshop conducted discussion groups with at-home caregivers, incarcerated parents, and service providers to ensure that all of the resources effectively meet the needs of children and families.

Major support for Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is provided by BAE Systems.  Generous support is provided by The Prudential Foundation, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the USO, the Military Child Education Coalition, and The Florence V. Burden Foundation

About Sesame Workshop: Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children’s television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 150 countries, and other acclaimed shows including The Electric Company, to help bridge the literacy gap. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and resilience. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at www.sesameworkshop.org.

Visit Sesame Street at:

www.sesamestreet.org/toolkits
www.facebook.com/SesameStreetInCommunities
Sesame Street on Facebook
Sesame Street on Twitter
The Sesame Street YouTube Channel

Contacts: 

Pam Hacker
Sesame Workshop
212.875.6225
pam.hacker@sesameworkshop.org
http://www.sesameworkshop.org/news/pressroom/incarceration

1. Glaze, L., & Maruschak, L. (2008). Parents in prison and their minor children. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (NCJ 22984), pp. 1–25. Retrieved from: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=823
2. Glaze, L., & Maruschak, L. (2008).

Press Release

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experts

ANN ADALIST-ESTRIN, M.S., is Director of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated in Philadelphia. She is also a child and family therapist in Jenkintown, PA, a trainer for Boston University Medical School/Healthy Steps for Young Children Pediatric Training Program. Ann is an author, speaker and consultant who has held adjunct faculty positions at Rutgers University Camden, Temple University and Community College of Philadelphia.

 

CAROL F. BURTON, L.M.S.W., is the Executive Director of Centerforce, a nonprofit organization in Northern and Central California whose mission is to support, educate, and advocate for individuals, families, and communities impacted by incarceration.  Before joining Centerforce, Carol served for six years as Associate Executive Director of the Osborne Association in NYC where she developed, strengthened, and oversaw all of Osborne’s in-prison and community-based family and reentry services programs. In February 2003, Carol became a Certified Master Trainer in facilitating A Framework for Breaking Barriers, a cognitive behavioral approach developed by Gordon Graham & Company, and in August 2004, she piloted the first marriage-education program for couples at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY. Carol implemented the country’s first comprehensive program and longitudinal study on children of incarcerated parents.  Carol is the Co-Chair and Coordinator of Alameda County’s Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership and the immediate past Chair of Family & Corrections Network (FCN), the home of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated.  She is certified to lead the foremost curriculum for training mentors of children of prisoners developed by the Child Welfare League. Carol has authored numerous articles on children of the incarcerated, produced four video training curriculums, as well as a replication manual for Project S.E.E.K. and a Parent Training Manual for Incarcerated Adults.

 

ELIZABETH GAYNES, J.D., is Executive Director of the Osborne Association. Under her leadership over the last 29 years, Osborne has grown from a 2-person staff to one of the largest multi-service criminal justice organizations in the country. Osborne currently offers services in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Dutchess County, New York, as well as 20 state prisons and four city jails on Rikers Island. In 1985, utilizing the lessons learned from the incarceration of her children’s father, Liz spearheaded the creation of FamilyWorks, the longest-running comprehensive parenting program in a men’s state prison. Liz has a leadership role in the New York Initiative on Children of Incarcerated Parents, a collaborative system reform project committed to meeting the needs and protecting the rights of children of incarcerated parents.  In 2004, together with her daughter, Emani Davis, Liz was the first American ever nominated for the prestigious international World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child, for their work defending the rights of children with parents in prison.  She is the author of Reentry: Helping Former Prisoners Return to Communities, a guide published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (2006). Liz is a lawyer and has a BA and JD from Syracuse University.

 

Dr. Kirk E. Harris is a faculty member in the Department of Urban Planning, School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Dr. Harris has been working on issues related to families and communities for 20 years, as a Legal Services lawyer, a non-profit executive, a community advocate, and as a national keynote speaker. During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, Dr. Harris served on then Sen. Obama’s Metropolitan and Urban Policy Committee, charged with managing the campaign’s public policy platform. For four years, Dr. Harris served as the national facilitator for the National Fatherhood Leaders Group, a consortium of the country’s leading fatherhood organizations. In addition to that role, Dr. Harris has worked closely with White House staff of the Obama administration and other national leaders on issues related to fathers and families. Dr. Harris is considered a national expert in the areas of public policy related to responsible fatherhood, family support practice, community building and development, parent-engagement and leadership and anti-poverty strategies. In his capacity as a national expert, Dr. Harris has testified before Congress on issues related to fatherhood, family strengthening and community building. Dr. Harris is presently co-leading Father, Families and Healthy Communities, a citywide initiative in Chicago, that seeks to strengthen the engagement of low-income non-custodial African-American fathers with their children, families and communities.

Amongst his most recent publications, Dr. Harris is a contributor to a book on the Hope VI project, published by the Urban Institute, entitled, “Public Housing and the Legacy of Segregation.” Dr. Harris’ chapter entitled, Fathers from the Family to the Fringe: Practice, Policy, and Public Housing examines how service delivery practices and public policy limit father engagement and involvement within their families in the context of public housing. Also, Dr. Harris has recently published an article in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Education entitled, Project SAVE (Stop All Violence with Education): Creating a Global Non-violence Youth Movement through Education and Technology.

Also an advocate for youth development, Dr. Harris is the Founder of the School for Urban Planning and Architecture (SUPAR), a project-based charter high school that is linked to the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. SUPAR served urban youth by connecting them to a project-based learning environment that sought to engage students in new ways, with the objective of enhancing student retention and high school completion rates, thus enabling students to pursue post-secondary educational and training opportunities that would allow them to secure their future. The Wisconsin Daily Reporter named Dr. Harris Architectural Leader and Newsmaker of the Year for his work related to the charter school.

Dr. Harris possesses a master of public administration degree from the Martin School of Public Policy and Public Administration, University of Kentucky, a law degree from Thomas Jefferson Law School and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. Dr Harris is a member of the Georgia, Washington, DC and US Supreme Court Bars.

 

JULIE POEHLMANN, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, an investigator at the Waisman Center, and an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty. Through numerous publications, she has brought the attention of the child-development and family-studies communities to the issue of parental incarceration. Her research with children of incarcerated parents has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Poehlmann recently co-edited a book, Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Handbook for Researchers and Practitioners, and a special issue of the journal Attachment and Human Development focusing on children of incarcerated parents. Locally, Dr. Poehlmann helped Wisconsin Public Television develop its caregiver guide for children affected by parental methamphetamine addiction, taught a child-development course that was broadcast on public television for several years, and developed an award-winning outreach Web-based publication series for grandparents raising their grandchildren in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin–Extension.

Experts

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tip sheet

Sesame Street presents Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, an educational outreach initiative for families with children (ages 3 – 8) who are coping with a parent’s incarceration. Our resources provide talking points and tools to help families manage the changes resulting from this situation and to find comfort in one another.

Help your child to feel secure and express feelings

Reassure your child by surrounding her with reliable people and daily activities. Encourage her to share her feelings.

  • Let your child know what to expect during everyday activities. Tell her who will take her to school and who will pick her up.
  • Provide your child with a comfort item to keep during the day, such as a paper heart or family photo.
  •  Ask your child questions to help her open up. You might notice a negative behavior and say, “Did something happen today that made you feel sad?”

Talk honestly with your child

It’s important to tell your child the truth about his parent’s incarceration. It’s the best way to help him feel loved and cared for.

  • If you do not provide information about the incarceration, your child may come up with his own mistaken reason for his parent’s absence. Let your child know that the incarceration is not his fault.
  • Be patient as your child works to understand what has happened. You may need to explain the situation several times. Let him know he’s not alone.

Stay connected

When you involve the incarcerated parent in your child’s life, you show your child that she will always be cared for.

  • Visits can be positive for children, but jails can seem scary. Break the ice with games. List favorite colors, music, or sports teams. Describe something and ask your child to guess it.
  • Phone calls are a great way to keep in touch. Help your child think of things to tell her parent. Give her a picture of the parent to hold during the call.
  • Use pen and paper to write letters. If your child can’t yet write, ask her to tell you what to write; she can draw pictures to go with the words.
  • Televisiting can be helpful for some children. Sharing an everyday routine such as storytime during your televisit is a great way to be together.

Tip Sheet

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artwork
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videos
  • Highlight video from Sesame Street’s Visit to Rikers Island

    A highlight video from Sesame Street’s visit to Rikers Island on June 15, 2013 as part of our outreach initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration. This bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia initiative provides much-needed resources to support and comfort young children throughout their parents’ incarceration.

    Watch on YouTube
    download
  • Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration Sizzle Reel

    A highlight video from Sesame Street’s outreach initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration. This bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia initiative provides much-needed resources to support and comfort young children throughout their parents’ incarceration.

    Watch on YouTube
    download
  • BTS Little Children, Big Challenges Incarceration

    A behind-the-scenes video from Sesame Street’s outreach initiative, Little Children, Big Challenge: Incarceration. This bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia initiative provides much-needed resources to support and comfort young children throughout their parents’ incarceration.

    Watch on YouTube
    download
  • What We Are

    New anthem, What We Are, as part of Sesame Street’s newest resiliency initiative Little Children, Big Challenges. This bilingual, multimedia outreach initiative is for military, veteran, and general public families with young children, to help increase self-awareness, boost self-esteem, and help children persevere through changes.

    Watch on YouTube
    download
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partners

Bae Systems, Inc.

BAE Systems, Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems plc, a global defense, security and aerospace company which delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. Visit the company at www.baesystems.com.

More About Bae Systems

Prudential

Each year, The Prudential Foundation invests approximately $25 million in grants in efforts that support the revitalization of communities and support Prudential employees' community engagement efforts.

More About Prudential

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Lifelong learning starts with the education of our youngest citizens. Years of research show that early childhood development heavily influences health, economic and social outcomes for individuals over a lifetime. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation has been investing in early education since 1993. To date, the Foundation has invested more than $100 million in a broad range of activities to help build a system of quality early care and education in Illinois for all children ages birth through eight. The Foundation focuses on three funding priority areas: public policy, public awareness and quality infrastructure. These programs help to give more children access to high-quality early learning opportunities that will prepare them to be active and engaged members of our society.

More About The Robert R. McCormick Foundation

USO

The USO (United Service Organizations) lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families millions of times each year at hundreds of places worldwide. We provide a touch of home through centers at airports and military bases in the U.S. and abroad, top quality entertainment and innovative programs and services. We also provide critical support to those who need us most, including forward-deployed troops, military families, wounded warriors and their families and the families of the fallen. The USO is a private, nonprofit organization, not a government agency. We rely on the generosity of our volunteers and donors.

More About the USO

Military Child Education Coalition

When the Military Child Education Coalition was first established in 1998, the founding members set out to help military-connected children meet the challenges that frequent transitions pose during their educational years. As the years have passed, the Military Child Education Coalition has grown in its mission to ensure quality educational opportunities for all military-connected children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.

More About the Military Child Education Coalition

Florence V. Burden Foundation

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partner resources

NEWSLETTER & E-BLAST LANGUAGE

Nearly 2.7 million children have an incarcerated parent, yet few resources exist to help the youngest of these children. To meet this need, Sesame Street is launching its “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” Initiative, which will include multimedia, bilingual (English/Spanish) materials targeting young children (ages 3-8) of incarcerated parents, their families and caregivers, and the range of other professionals who touch these children.
These FREE materials include:

For more information, contact Sesame at incarceration@sesame.org.

PROJECT SUMMARY

Sesame Workshop’s newest initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration provides much-needed bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia tools for families with young children (ages 3–8) who have an incarcerated parent. These FREE resources include a resource kit with A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, a Children’s Storybook, and a new Sesame Street video; an Incarcerated Parent Tip Sheet; and the Sesame Street: Incarceration mobile app for smart phones and tablets, all of which can be accessed at SesameStreet.org/Incarceration.

For more information, contact Sesame at incarceration@sesame.org.

PROJECT & SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

SesameStreet.org/Incarceration
SesameStreet.org/Incarceration/Spanish
SesaneWorkshop.org/Incarceration/Partners
Facebook.com/SesameStreetInCommunities
YouTube.com/user/SesameInCommunities
Twitter.com/SesameStreet
#SesameIncarceration

Project Language and Social Media Links

Kit Distribution Poster

Distribution partners – Download, customize, print, and hang this poster to let families know how to obtain kits at your facilities.  Use the text box to the right of the kit image to customize with your own text, or you can print out the poster and write-in your own text.

Incarceration Poster

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contact and connect

Pam Hacker
Sesame Workshop
212.875.6225
pam.hacker@sesame.org

Farrin Jay
Sesame Workshop
212.875.6503
farrin.jay@sesame.org

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