As a long-standing icon for children's home education and entertainment, Sesame Street has made important strides for inclusion and destigmatizing difficult topics.
From wheelchair-bound to autistic, Sesame Street's writers have carefully crafted a series of characters that celebrate diversity, and their latest addition to the family is no exception.
Meet Karli, who lives in a foster care home with her "for-now parents," Clem and Dalia.
In an episode showing Elmo and Karli playing together and coloring, they discuss the difficult subject of Karli living in foster care.
Karli explains to Elmo that she is separated from her parents, who still love her but can't can't take care of her.
When Elmo expresses concern, she explains how she is living with her "for-now parents," who are teaching her how her heart can grow as more loved ones come into her life.
A Heart Can Grow www.youtube.com
In this truly touching video, Karli walks us through the wide array of things and people that can help the heart to grow.
The distinction offered in this short video is so beautiful and layered. There are multiple messages parents could use to start a conversation with their children, to teach them about foster and adoptive families, or to support foster or adoptive children of their own.
In the first heart, Karli explains, is a picture of her with her mom. Her mother is at her heart's core, and we are lead to think that she at one time filled Karli's entire heart, before she knew she could make room for more.
In the second heart, which is larger and surrounds the first, Karli depicts herself sharing a hug with her foster "for-now" parents, who embraced her, took her into their home, and began to teach her about accepting love from other places.
Then, in the next several hearts, we see Karli's confidence and excitement grow as she talks about making new friends, doing new activities with them and having pizza nights, and creating new, irreplaceable memories.
We can see her figuring out how each of the new people in her life, and each of her new likes, from the playground to pizza, are helping her heart to grow, and helping her grow into the person her future self will be.
This is such an important episode, because whether we're talking about foster care, or grieving the loss of a family member, or moving to a new place, there will always be new people, activities, and joys that will fill those empty spaces and help the heart to grow.
Much of what Karli points out relates to personal preference, self-fulfillment, and security, which are often just as important in creating happy, healthy selves as the people who are there to witness it.
Already viewers are taking notice and embracing Sesame Street's newest member of the family, and what this could mean for understanding foster care.
No matter the family's situation, it's always important to introduce these various models of family units to every child, whether they are of a biological home or otherwise.
These conversations will grow children who are empathetic and socially aware.
It's great to see Sesame Street embracing another character on the diversity spectrum, and we can't wait to see who they invite to the family next.