2018 marks the 50th year since Sesame Street first came on the air. When it launched, it was a remarkable departure from typical children’s fare. It was educational, it was fun, it addressed real-life issues. Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Elmo and the rest of the crew became A-list celebrities for children across the world.
Sesame Street however is much more than a children’s TV show. It has started several initiatives, including Sesame Street in Communities, that serve as invaluable resources for educators, parents, and others who interact with young children. Its latest venture will focus on family homelessness.
Last month, Sesame Street convened seven national leaders on the issue of family homelessness to discuss how the premier provider of content for young children could address the current crisis of housing instability. A four-hour, in-depth panel discussion took place among advocates, experts and Sesame Street staff. In addition to Family Promise CEO Claas Ehlers, who brought a national perspective from the organization’s work in more than 200 communities, the panelists included experts on homelessness, early childhood, and housing.
The goal was to provide the underpinnings in Sesame Street in Communities that will address family homelessness. These materials will direct service providers, parents, other professionals such as those in education or healthcare, and the broader public on ways to engage with families at risk and raise awareness of both the issue of family homelessness and the sensitivities around those affected.
This first step laid out many foundational elements. The panel discussed the need for educating teachers to recognize how homelessness affects students’ behavior. It explored the regional and demographic differences and the impact of trauma on homeless children.
Next steps will include engaging with Family Promise’s Guest Advisory Council and Affiliate leaders, along with outreach to other service providers. The result will be a critical resource to raise public understanding of the issue and inform all of those who interact with young children without stable housing.
Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President, Community and Family Engagement for Sesame Workshop noted, that the “incredible discussion” had left Sesame Workshop “with deep considerations on the need and more importantly, what is possible.” Family Promise CEO Claas Ehlers echoes this: “Putting the resources of the leader in children’s education into family homelessness is an important step to raising awareness and engaging communities. We are thrilled to be a part of this effort.”
The final content, expected to be released by early 2019, is an extremely important step in recognizing the holistic impact of family homelessness and the importance of creating broader awareness of the issue. Giving children the opportunity to thrive is foundational to Family Promise’s mission and Sesame Street in Communities will play an important part in helping to achieve that goal.