Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” announced that it is expanding its Sesame Street in Communities initiative to Maricopa County. The program, which aims to help young children build coping skills and foster nurturing connections between them and the caring adults in their lives, will support local families with young children by providing free, easy-to-use resources through a partnership with the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Arizona Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, Arizona Recovers and First Things First. In addition to Maricopa County, the Sesame Street in Communities program is also launching today in Baltimore, MD, and Miami, FL, with the expansion in all three communities made possible by the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
To mark the launch of the three new Sesame Street in Communities locations, Sesame Workshop will air a Digital Family Special featuring the “Sesame Street” Muppets on Facebook Premiere Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 11am MST. The special will feature children’s questions with answers from experts in the three new communities — along with some familiar grown-up and Muppet faces from “Sesame Street.” Families and community providers will learn about building resilience and coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as hear from experts about common stressors that have been intensified by the pandemic, such as parental addiction. A Spanish-language version will premiere later in the month.
Sesame Workshop is partnering with the Arizona Department of Health Services; Arizona Recovers, a grassroots organization dedicated to changing the conversation surrounding addiction, mental health and trauma; and First Things First, a voter-initiated, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to prepare young children to succeed, to help the county’s families and children thrive. Together, these partners will use the Sesame Street in Communities resources and professional development materials to focus on helping children build resilience and overcome traumatic experiences, including parental addiction — a challenge magnified by the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the new expansion, Sesame Workshop is also conducting research to inform how the partners can most effectively use Sesame Street in Communities through early childhood development programs across Maricopa County.
“Maricopa County is a diverse, expansive county that, like many parts of the United States, also grapples with long-standing gaps in opportunity for a healthy life. At Arizona Recovers, we work closely with individuals and their families to change the conversation around addiction, mental health and trauma — and this starts with our youngest residents,” said Angie Geren, executive director. “We’re thrilled to be bringing Sesame Street in Communities’ unique and evidence-based programming to Maricopa County and believe it will help us further our mission to provide quality education and resources to those facing addiction in their lives.”
The Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona Recovers and First Things First will integrate Sesame Street in Communities curriculum, videos, storybooks and activities on topics like traumatic experiences and parental addiction into its programs and trainings in the coming months. Through training staff and integrating resources into therapy, childcare, home visiting and family recovery programs, the partners and Sesame Street in Communities will support young children and the caring adults in their lives, including parents, caregivers, and community providers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges facing many young children and families in Maricopa County, and it’s more important than ever to establish a foundation for building resilience from a young age,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president, US Social Impact, Sesame Workshop. “With the tremendous uncertainty that children and families are facing, we’re proud to partner with these three organizations to equip families with the tools they need to overcome the challenges of today and thrive into the future.”
The Digital Family Special, which will feature Geren from Arizona Recovers, will air on Facebook Premiere Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 11am MST. It will also be accessible on Facebook after it airs.