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Sesame Street aims to help children cope with incarcerated parents

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The blue-haired, green-nosed muppet named Alex is a new character for Sesame Street, to support kids with incarcerated parents.

The Sesame Workshop created the new muppet for an online-only toolkit. Alex will not be a regular part of Sesame Street.

"We work with a lot of kids who have at least one parent, if not both parents incarcerated," said Julianna Potter of Casa of Travis County. "For kids, especially younger kids, that's a very black and white subject. If you go to jail, you're a bad guy and they don't want to think of their parent as a bad guy. I see a lot of conflict in kids when they're trying to process it."

Reports show one out of every 28 children in the U.S. is growing up with a parent behind bars.

"The real world is not all lollipops and gumdrops you know. Stuff does happen," said Anna Espetia.

Moms, Carmen and Anna say they're fans of the new muppet.

Espetia added, "It's good to explain it to kids so they're not making fun of other kids while they're in school."

"Nobody's alike, so he's probably going to be with somebody who's parent is locked up, but it does not mean the kid is going to be bullied for that," said Carmen Rodriguez.

Mindy's son Kyler says he's too old for Sesame Street now, but Elmo's still his favorite.

"When I was a baby he teached me how to go to the bathroom," Kyler said.

His mom, Mindy Plante, said, "I've worked with a lot of children who are in the same situation and I think there's definitely a need to help children to deal with those kind of issues and help them be able to talk about it."

The campaign is aimed at helping kids between the ages of three and eight.

"A young child, they might not understand it," said dad, Christopher Wiggins.

Aileen Wiggins said, "As they get older I can understand exposing them to that, but at a certain age when they're trying to learn other things, I think they can wait on learning that part of life."

On the Sesame Street website, a message reads; "The incarceration of a loved one can be very overwhelming for both children and caregivers...Here are some tools to help you with the changes your child is going through."

Potter added, "Even for parents and you know, other people that work with these kids, if you haven't been in this situation yourself, it might be good to see what it might look like and what a child might be feeling."

A quote from the Sesame Workshop V.P. of Outreach and Educational practices says, "Coming from a muppet, it's almost another child telling their story to the children."

The number of kids with a parent behind bars is higher than the number of children who have a parent who is deployed. Statistics show the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

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