Hazelden Betty Ford's collaboration with Sesame Workshop reaches out to millions of children affected by parental addiction When Elmo talks, children listen and learn. And when Elmo talks with his adorable new Sesame Street Muppet pal, Karli, children everywhere who are dealing with a parent's addiction are listening and learning—and hopefully feeling a little less alone. Sesame Workshop introduced Karli last year as a softspoken, bright-eyed six-year-old in foster care. Program creators soon expanded Karli's storyline to include the reason she was placed in foster care: her mother needed to go away for addiction treatment. Karli's story is all too familiar to millions of children today who are growing up with parental addiction, says Jerry Moe, national director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program. An estimated 5.7 million children under age 11 live in households with a parent who has a substance use disorder. Addiction separates millions more children from their parents, whether through incarceration, divorce, abandonment, foster care or death. Sesame Workshop turned to Moe and the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA), foremost authorities on the effects of addiction on children, to help shape and script Karli's storyline. "Children are often the first hurt and the last helped when a parent has addiction," Moe explains, "so kids like Karli are typically confused about what's happening." The stress of having a parent in active addiction is a very isolating experience for a child who—without words or context to understand why Mom forgot to make dinner again or Dad isn't allowed to drive the car anymore—often even blame themselves for the difficulties at home. "Kids can be resilient, but they need to know they're not alone and that they will be taken care of," says Moe. Children also need to understand that addiction is an illness and that people can get better when they get help. Most important, says Moe, kids need to know they're not to blame for the troubles and problems. Karli's storyline covers all of these important messages, in the huggably innocent way only Sesame Street Muppets can convey. In a video titled "It's Not Your Fault," a toy tower Karli and Elmo are building together tumbles down when Karli's toy elephant bumps the blocks. Karli shares that "sometimes things happen that little monsters can't control or fix." She tells Elmo: "I used to feel like a lot of things were my fault, especially my mom's problem. But she told me, no, it was a grown-up problem, and it wasn't because of anything I did. And that she loves me no matter what." Karli's story is part of the Sesame Street in Communities initiative, a vast online resource of multimedia tools parents and caregivers can use to help children grow "smarter, stronger and kinder." Resources on parental addiction, available in both English and Spanish, include videos featuring Karli and her Sesame Street pals, a corresponding storybook, an interactive and printable coloring activity, and articles written by Moe about rebuilding trust and supporting children. "Sesame Street has a long history of tackling issues that are difficult for children and families to talk about—and doing so with tremendous sensitivity," says Moe. In recent years, Sesame Street in Communities has taken on family homelessness, incarceration, grief and, now, parental addiction—issues with a paucity of resources for young children and families. Moe is especially grateful that the Sesame Street in Communities initiative goes beyond the problem of addiction to focus on the solution of recovery—both for the parent and their children. "We know that recovery from the disease of addiction takes courage, strength and commitment. We also know that recovery is the greatest gift a parent can give their child—the gift of being a kid again." Sesame Street's Karli, Elmo and Chris welcomed Jerry Moe (back right) and Sis Wegner (back center), president and CEO of the National Association for Children of Addiction, to Hooper's Store. As pioneering advocates for children affected by family addiction, Moe and Wegner served as subject matter experts in developing Karli's storyline and related resources.