Children of Incarcerated Parents
The Sunday Morning show had a story about Sesame Street helping the children of the incarcerated. The United States has the largest prison population in the world – 2.3 million inmates. Over fifty percent of the incarcerated have children under the age of eighteen. One of every twenty eight kids in the United States has a parent locked up. When a parent is imprisoned, the effect upon their children is devastating. The loss is far more than economics. The foundation of family life for the children is shattered. The episode told the viewers about one real family in which the single parent, the mother, was imprisoned for embezzlement. The oldest child dropped out of high school to take care of his young siblings. It was now his job to walk his young brother to the school bus, take his little sister on the subway to her school, explain why mom was not there, and worry about having food on the table for the following week.
Television has numerous shows about crimes, criminals, victims of crimes, and law enforcement. We rarely see or hear about the other overlooked innocent victims of crime–the children of the incarcerated. Sesame Street has responded to those forgotten children. The show has produced a documentary that mixes the fictional characters with real life children. The documentary has exposed the hard problems facing children of inmates. In one part of the show, several kid muppets and an adult are sitting outside on the stoop of their apartment building. Alex, a blue-orange muppet is crying about his classmates at school making fun of him because his father is in jail. The classmates have taunted him, “You will end up in jail just like your dad.” Alex is consoled by all on the stoop that it is not his fault that his parent went to prison.
In a poignant animated segment, a little girl is traveling on a train to visit her dad in prison. The little girl remembers that she can see her dad at visitation, but she cannot touch him. The viewer sees from the little girl’s eyes, the overwhelming prison walls with barbed wire, the steel gates, and the prison guards, that have to be navigated before she can see her dad.
I have only one criticism of Sesame Street’s documentary. This thought provoking show will be distributed this week by Sesame Street to therapist’s offices, schools, and prisons. However, this important episode will not air on the regular Sesame Street show. This sad social issue should be exposed to everybody.