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'Sesame Street' Doesn't Shy Away From The Topic Of Addiction

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

"Sesame Street" is taking on some very grown-up problems. This is Elmo asking about a friend's mom.

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KEVIN CLASH: (As Elmo) Daddy, how come Karli's mommy had to go away?

GREENE: Elmo first met Karli back in May. Karli is 6 1/2 years old with bright green fur. She lives in something that grown-ups call foster care.

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CLASH: (As Elmo) Why is Karli so sad?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Clem) She's having a hard time, Elmo. But we're here for her. We're her for-now parents.

CLASH: (As Elmo) What does for-now parents mean?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Dalia) Well, Elmo, Karli's mommy's been having a hard time, so we're her foster parents or her for-now parents. We will keep her safe until her mommy can take care of her again.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week, Elmo learned why Karli's mom went away, and he learned a new word - addiction.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As Louie) Addiction makes people feel like they need a grown-up drink called alcohol or another kind of drug to feel OK. That can make a person act strange, in ways they can't control.

SHERRY WESTON: The opioid crisis today, people don't stop and think, what does that mean to the young children?

MARTIN: That second voice there, that's Sherry Weston of Sesame Workshop. Karli's story is appearing on the website Sesame Street in Communities.

WESTON: With everything we do - we do research, we start with advisories and we began hearing from our partners who work directly with vulnerable children and family about certain prevalent issues that were having a negative impact on young children.

MARTIN: "Sesame Street" has not shied away from tough issues. It's dealt with homelessness, autism and incarceration. Weston says the timing was right to talk to kids about addiction.

WESTON: To see that Karli has a similar experience can be very powerful and very comforting and help them feel less alone.

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CLASH: (As Elmo) Will Karli's mommy get better?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As Louie) Well, she's working hard on it. She's taking good care of her body and mind so she can stay healthy and make good choices.

CLASH: (As Elmo) Oh, good. Elmo's really happy for her.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As Louie) Oh, me, too, son.

GREENE: Sherry Weston says the story of Karli and her mom is going to keep developing and growing.

WESTON: Well, Karli is still in foster care, and her mother is in treatment, but she's also in recovery. So we're always creating storylines where there is optimism and hope and there are sunny days ahead.

GREENE: And you can follow Karli's story and her mom's story if you go to the website sesamestreetincommunities.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.