One of the longest-running children’s programs in the history of television, “Sesame Street” has been introducing characters with real issues for years. The characters are intended to help other children in similar situations cope with a difficult reality. The newest character to do this is Alex.
Alex’s father has no time to play with him because he is in jail. The episode is part of a new initiative developed by Sesame Street called “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration.”
“The incarceration of a loved one can be very overwhelming for both children and caregivers. It can bring about big changes and transitions,” the show’s website reads. “In simple everyday ways, you can comfort your child and guide her through these tough moments.”
The site goes on to introduce a tool kit that assists parents in dealing with children who have at least one incarcerated parent. According to a recent Pew study, one in 28 children have at least one parent incarcerated. That’s more than the number of children who have at least one parent that has been deployed in the military— an episode also covered by Sesame Street. In the past, Sesame characters have also talked about issues like hunger, poverty, and divorce.
The most recent episode goes over how Alex, who is orange with blue hair and a green nose, is embarrassed and sad about having a father in prison.
“I just miss him so much,” he tells a friend during the half hour segment. “I usually don’t want people to know about my Dad.”
Alex will not be a regular character on the show, but will be a continued presence online for those children who may need someone to identify with.
“There are several million children impacted by incarceration in this country,” Carol Burton, executive director of Centerforce, a non-profit dedicated to supporting families impacted by incarceration, told NBC. “No one is paying attention to them.”