Creating a Family: Talk about Infertility, Adoption & Foster Care

A Talk with Sesame Street about the New Foster Care Muppet

June 27, 2019
Creating a Family: Talk about Infertility, Adoption & Foster Care
A Talk with Sesame Street about the New Foster Care Muppet
Chapters
Creating a Family: Talk about Infertility, Adoption & Foster Care
A Talk with Sesame Street about the New Foster Care Muppet
Jun 27, 2019
Creating a Family
We talk with one of the creators of Karli, the new Sesame Street Muppet who is in foster care.
Show Notes Transcript

We talk with Kama Einhorn, one of the creators of Karli, the new Sesame Street Muppet who is in foster care, about how they decided on this storyline, how they created the muppet, cast the puppeteer, and what other resources are available on Sesame Street for foster children and foster parents.

Speaker 1:
0:09
[inaudible]
Speaker 2:
0:09
welcome everyone to creating a family talk about adoption and foster care. All right, everybody start humming. I'm not going to, I'm actually, I was going to sing it but I'm not going to sing it but be thinking like I am singing it sunny days sweeping the clouds away. You know the sesame street's on everybody be humming that good cause to date. We're taking a deep dive into, from my standpoint, one of the most exciting things that's happened at sesame street in a long time and that is the introduction of a new storyline and muppet that is in foster care. Today we're talking with Kemah Einhorn. She is senior content manager for sesame workshop's us social impact group where that's quite a quite a handful. She is one of the creators of the new muppet whose name is Carly, who lives with her foster parents and and Kemah develops multimedia outreach material for children, parents and providers.
Speaker 2:
1:04
Welcome camera to creating a family. I am so excited. Thanks so much for having me. A pleasure to be here. You know, I was trying to debate whether I also love Elmo song and I was kind of thinking, and my kids were saying, mom, don't, don't sing any of them. So I decided that I was, I was kind of working last night in the shower on sunny days and then I was alternating between Elmo Song. So, well I think the decision was probably a good one. It was all I could do, not to at least start off singing it. Um, uh, like I said, for our community, uh, the introduction of Carly who is in foster care, living with her foster parents is such a big deal because we have so many people who are foster parents or have been in foster care of themselves, uh, or have adopted from foster care. So it's just, it's an important, it's an important topic for us. But I mean, if you look at the numbers of, of children in the United States, in foster care, just, even now, not to, not to stay, how many have been in the last, you know, five, 10, 15, 20 years or in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years. It's a big deal. So what was the decision like? What goes into the decision of creating a new storyline, especially one that calls for a new muppet?
Speaker 3:
2:17
Yeah, um, it's a great question. So, um, sesame street has had a long history of serving vulnerable children and tackling tough topics and sesame street in communities is the hub of all of that work that we do around social impact and reaching the most vulnerable kids and families and communities. Um, a few years ago we launched a topic called traumatic experiences, which was a deep dive into with full of kids facing and provider in parent facing resources, a deep dive into the world of adverse childhood experiences, um, through the lens of the aces study over the last several decades, which correlated so much longterm mental and health, mental, physical health issues, too early trauma. Um, through that sort of umbrella initiative, what came out from advisers, expert advisers and um, local and national park partners such as yourselves and community partners, um, was the need for very specific for us to focus specifically on certain traumas among them, homelessness, which we launched in December.
Speaker 3:
3:21
And [inaudible]. And here we see a need in the foster care community. Um, we also knew that the numbers of children in foster care were growing and the system was so fragmented and children, there was a real, um, there was a real need for resources for kids and for parents and families coping with issues around, um, being in, in care. So part of the part of our task is to determine, um, what topics we cover here. It came to us, um, from a, you know, from a previous initiative and from advisors and partners, the requests and sort of flagging for us the need for such a topic. Um, and once we do figure out a topic, um, well first of all, we need to depend on the generosity of our supporters, our philanthropic supporters. Um, we need to figure out do we, which muppet can really be this topics ambassador.
Speaker 3:
4:19
Um, we've seen before, you know, Elmo, when we did our outreach for military families, the challenges in the military, military families face, we had him be the military kid and we had his dad go overseas to do his job with his team. Is, is the kid appropriate way that we described it? So in that one, Elmo was the ambassador when it's not an existing muppet that we all know and love the core characters from the show, like Oscar and Grover. Um, we, we can create one. So for this initiative, we created Carly who is a six and a half year old method and who can represent the experience, of course not, not individual experiences, but um, who can represent the experience and the perspective of a child in foster care. So she was developed specifically for the initiatives. Um, and we consider everything from, from her age too, what her voice sounds like, to the expression on her face, um, to, you know, her body language.
Speaker 3:
5:16
Um, and we want to, we want to present her in a child friendly way that is, you know, has the lighthearted, playful touch of muppets while still addressing this serious issue, which we, um, she's a piece of, of the whole initiative. So she doesn't appear in every single piece on sesame street in communities.org. But, um, but we see her a lot and to overall she serves as the, um, as the ambassador and the representative for the topic. So how do you make the decision whether it's going to be and existing method that we all know and love or a
Speaker 2:
5:58
new muppet?
Speaker 3:
5:59
Right? Yeah, it's a, it's a fascinating question really. Um, it depends on the topic. It depends on the topics. Sometimes it's very easy to give an existing character. I'm a backstory with Elmo and military. That was a pretty big decision with big bird who represented the trauma initiative. Um, that was a little more general because we never said the sort of trauma he'd experienced. And we simply said to children, we said big bird was having a very hard time. He's having really big feelings and here's his trusted adult friend to, you know, teach him this breathing activity. So, um, when it's an existing method, we choose a method that is, that will lend themselves well to the topic. Um, for traumatic experiences. Big Bird has an innocence and a vulnerability, yet also a sort of protective quality that we knew kids would really respond to because we've seen that in focus testing.
Speaker 3:
6:54
Um, and we knew he could, um, he could work in a different materials that we were creating around traumatic experiences without having to name, you know, this particular trauma happened to big bird with foster care. It was a really different story because to create, um, to create a backstory for an existing character with this heavy a piece, you know, this heavy, a plot point, um, wouldn't really be appropriate for, you know, for a wider audience. So then it's up to us to create the perfect method to do so. Um, and that process is, is pretty intriguing, um, and often a lot of fun.
Speaker 2:
7:29
Yeah, I want to, I want to hear about that process, but let me stop and make sure that we're clear. So Carly, in the storyline is on sesame street in communities.org. It is not on, am I correct on this? It's not on the regular sesame street show.
Speaker 3:
7:47
Exactly. Um, most people know sesame street from this show. Of course. Um, many of us listening I'm sure grew up on it. Um, but what people don't know is that we're a nonprofit and then our mission has always been to serve vulnerable kids and families and to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder. So that's what the social impact group, my group, that's what we're all about. And all of our materials live on sesame street in communities.org, which is completely free and bilingual. Um, and once in awhile, the characters that we've developed for, for these initiatives on the site, um, make their way onto the, onto the actual broadcast show, which you know, if you will turn on Hbo, you see, um, an example of that is Julia from the autism initiative.
Speaker 2:
8:32
Yeah, that was, that's new too, isn't it? Yeah, yeah,
Speaker 3:
8:34
yeah. Pretty new a couple of years. Um, is the response to her, the public response to her was, so it, it was so far reaching, um, that there was, there was a lot of interest in having her on the show. So we'll never know. And advanced, you know, which characters will make it onto broadcast, obviously be what we want these lovable muppets to make their into as many homes and hearts as possible. Um, but we get them, we get them going and we get them out there into the, you know, on the site and out there into communities. Um, and we find that, that kids realize that they, they have sort of a direct line to the hearts of, of kids and of course many adults and they're able to often do what humans can't do, right. They can tackle these heavy topics with this light touch and do it, um, using, you know, through a child's perspective. And there's not that many materials out there to do that. And so we're in this unique position of being able to use our media to, um, to leverage that power to really get kids where they live, where they need it the most. So that's enough to power.
Speaker 2:
9:41
Yeah. About the power. Yeah. I'm a t shirt to shirt idea. Um, the, um, we got a question from Angela. She says, she's curious if the creators had personal experience with the foster care system.
Speaker 3:
9:55
That's a very good question. Um, of a, of the small group of inhouse content developers. I do not believe so. I can't speak for everyone else. Um, however, we work very closely with advisers. Um, we have a panel of eight expert advisers. Um, several of them are foster caregivers themselves. Um, and I believe at least one has had personal experience as a child. Um, the other important piece of this is that we, um, research is sort of the lifeblood of sesame workshop and all of our materials, our focus tested, um, several times with several different groups. So we, we bring this material to, um, to the adults, to the foster caregivers and to the, um, the providers who are serving them. And we have them critique and, you know, provide feedback and recommend changes on every piece. Now, these are adults who have worked very closely with many children in the system, um, and they're, you know, they're expert and paths.
Speaker 3:
10:54
So we look to them, um, to give us feedback on how accurately, um, and sensitively we are. Um, are, you know, our, how our messaging is for kids. Um, how we're presenting the child's perspective. Um, I will say that in there are certain initiatives that we have such as military families, um, grief, you know, childhood grief, divorce, um, where many more of us have had personal experiences with that particular trauma. And, um, our hearts are really in what we do. Um, and when it's, when it's a very direct personal connection, um, you know, it's even more charged and I think it makes the work, I think it always makes the work better. Um, so we're in general, we, um, while we haven't necessarily had experience, um, directly with this topic, um, we're looking to the people who do and write them and always trying to sort of channel the heart of the hearts of the children that we, that we hear so much about and that way that we aim to serve.
Speaker 2:
11:55
All right, so a year or so ago when you were working on the trauma, um, informed, um, storyline, you came up with a, certainly a, one of the major forms of trauma that children experience in the United States is foster care. So you came up with the kind of the seed, the kernel of the idea then. So then what happens, you start thinking, first of all, but there are so many other types of trauma and types of so many other deep heavy issues affecting children. So how do you select amongst all of those, which one bubbles to the surface and how does, how does that process work?
Speaker 3:
12:30
Yeah, that's a great question. Um, we always, our emphasis is always going to where the need is, um, becoming more and more obvious. Um, and where we, we keep hearing from the field a call, a request for certain materials. Um, so we'll hear from, from advisors in the field, we'll hear at conferences when we go present at conferences, we'll find g 10 people just came up to me and asked me to, you know, asked us to address this topic. Um, so it's like that kind of anecdotal feedback that really matters. Um, it's also, um, what we see on social media. Um, you know, we put something out there and people will comment, oh, that's, that's really great. So glad sesame is doing this, but I really wish they would address, you know, x that combined with statistics that come out, especially ones that are very public. Um, because as we do rely on, on philanthropic funding, you know, that's a factor in what we do. Um, so we always have, you know, in our hearts, we always have a list of what we want to tackle and unfortunately, you know, the list remains and we'll keep, we'll keep going. We'll keep busy. Um, you know, for our entire careers. Um, and, um, and we, you know, we're, we're grateful that we've been able to do the stuff we have and have that inform, um, any new topic that we'll roll out.
Speaker 2:
13:50
Well we for not that I represent the an entire world of communities associated with, uh, foster care, but from the very bottom of our heart, we are thankful that you chose this topic and that you chose Carly because she is just perfect. Uh, and, and, and Elmo is just the perfect ambassador. I guess ambassador is not the right word. Means the perfect.
Speaker 3:
14:11
Certainly. Yeah. No, and thank you. Thank you so much. I mean, you know, I just, I want to say like the honor is ours. We are not the ones in the front lines. Um, we are not foster caregivers. Um, we are not serving foster children and their families. Um, and we just, we have deep respect for the work y'all are doing. Um, and really it's a privilege to be able to serve you.
Speaker 2:
14:35
Okay. So now the, the, the, now we know how that topic kind of bubbled up to the surface. So you know that this is involving trauma is the next step to kind of dig deeper and figure out which specific points you want to talk about that might be relevant, foster care and relevant to foster children. Quite frankly, that's of course the real focus. Um, and is that the next step? And is that part of your discussing with foster parents? What are the biggest pain points for children? What is the biggest misunderstanding? Is that the process that you next go?
Speaker 3:
15:08
Yeah, pretty much. We have lots of, we have lots of steps in. We generally follow the same process for each, um, difficult topic or really any topic. Um, so first, first the decision is made to, to, to, um, to create it and that, you know, the funding is a piece of that. And then we convene an advisory board and that's essentially, we do a national search for the best and the brightest in the field. Um, and they can be it from any sector and we usually have a balance. So we have people working on policy, on advocacy. We have academic researchers, we have the practitioners who are right there on the ground every day in the field. Um, we will have, um, uh, a variety of a variety of those providers. Um, we have even journalists, um, who you know, who have covered the issue extensively and have kind of made it their thing.
Speaker 3:
15:56
And the goal of these advisories is to give us, I mean, it's a, it's a wonderful perk of the job too, to learn so much in a few days about something that you know nothing about because none of us were experts in this topic. Um, it's essentially like a, like a college course. Um, and we get to learn from the best and the brightest in the field and they give us a snapshot of what, what the issue is today. Um, you know, the prevalence, the challenges, um, the, the causes, the impact, and we also really need to get from them what works. So what are, what our research proven strategies to help serve kids and families and providers. Um, what are some experimental strategies that are promising? What, what models are promising that we should look to? And the ultimate goal is to boil all of this amazing content that they've handed us down into, um, into messages.
Speaker 3:
16:52
So once we land on a message, that's when we begin developing a wide range of content. And by message, I mean, yeah, we'll do, yeah. How does, how do all of these huge ideas and all of these statistics and um, you know, all the, just, we have so much content from, from the advisors, we have transcripts that are really long. Eventually we develop and an advisory report. Um, and then from that we developed, um, a curriculum outline and it content outline. But our job really coming out of that advisory is to figure out what we are saying to our audience, right? And how we are saying it because we're getting some high level information from advisors and our, our assessment job is to, um, is to try to assess Amatiz Matteis it, right? So the, a good example is the autism initiative, right? We had a lot to learn about autism.
Speaker 3:
17:44
There were many different organizations with many different approaches, right? And many different goals. We thought as sesame, what can we take from, from all this information from the experts, what we came down to, they kept telling us, you know, neurodiversity, um, there's, um, you know, something that kids need to hear is that every child is unique and that's what makes the world special. Well, that's a really sesame idea. We've been doing that in the beginning, but we basically, that is the essence of systematized. Right? Right. And, um, yeah, and, and what, you know, what all adults who work with children truly feel right. Um, so the, the message, the overall message that sort of held the whole initiative together, it was, we'll see amazing in all children. And that really got to the heart of what we were trying to say. And it's about inclusion, right?
Speaker 3:
18:34
And it's about building bridges of awareness, um, you know, teaching neurotypical kids how to understand a child with autism and how to make friends with that child. So Julia did that really well and you know, modeling Julie and Big Bird, actually, her first friend, um, modeled those strategies really well. So the messaging, um, that we wound up boiling down from foster care is, um, you know, there were, there were a few small sort of sub messages and you keep in the material that you keep seeing certain themes repeated in different ways by different characters in different, um, different media. You're not alone was a big one. Um, it's not your fault was another big one. Um, and we, we slowly unfold those important messages over, over the, you know, over a variety of materials. And once we determine the message and we, um, we have an idea of what we want to actually create, then we take it to focus testing and we ask the, um, the people that the users, the audience themselves, um, they're response to, um, to what they're seeing and what they're hearing.
Speaker 3:
19:46
And, um, we get a lot of course, positive responses because everybody wants materials to, you know, to support children into, um, and to enrich their own, their own lives and practices. Um, but we also get really important feedback. Um, a lot of times it's about specific language, like a specific term that we're using or not using that we're, you know, we're simply not getting it right. So in foster care, the, the example is, um, we were, we were saying foster parents throughout the whole, they're all our materials, all of our descriptions of what we wanted to do and are we were saying foster caregivers perhaps, and an adviser said, um, yes, that's accurate and adults would certainly recognize that term. Right? Um, but, but it's not, it's not kid friendly and there's a real stigma as all the listeners know, there's a stigma around the label, right?
Speaker 3:
20:38
And it, and it stinks to stigma. That stings. And the kid friendly word that this advisor suggested was you are for now parents or, um, or there was another, there was an alternative, but we wound up using your for now parents. Um, which was an easy way to explain to a child that this is what's happening right now. Um, and the advisors helped us with this language of explaining to kids, um, this, this is piece of your story, right? And this is where you are right now because mom or dad is having a hard time and, um, it's not able to, to take good care of you right now. So these caring adults, other adults who care about you are going to, are going to do that for now because we also heard from advisors and from everyone in the field that we spoke with that the, you know, that there was, that there was no predicting the trajectory of a child's story that, um, you know, multiple placements, the, um, whether or not a reunion with the birth parent happens.
Speaker 3:
21:44
And it was very difficult to be straightforward and honest with children when they ask these heartbreaking questions. Um, because we don't, you know, the adults, the adults who care don't really have the answers. Right. Um, so we knew that we had distressed the concept of four now, um, and we, we have, uh, many other goals in, within the initiative. We have some strategies like expressing one's feelings and the story book focuses on that. Um, I would say we've got about five strategies that we, we sort of hit again and again in terms of what we model.
Speaker 4:
22:20
Let me pause now to remind everyone that you are listening to creating a family. And today we're talking about how the new sesame street character, Carla, who was in foster care, how that came to be. Um, I want to let you know that this show is underwritten by jockey being family foundation. Since 2005, they had been a leader in providing post adoption support to strengthen adoptive families for successful futures jockey being family connects with adoptive parents and children with education and resources to help prevent failed adoptions.
Speaker 2:
22:56
All right, now you've talked about the storyline. Let's talk about creating the muppet. You said earlier that everything goes into, I mean obviously the voice, but also you were saying the age, I'm sure the gender of the facial expressions, the body language. So how does that, I guess the easier parts of that would be age and gender. Yep. Uh, so let's start with that, but then I want to go, I want to go further. I want to know more about how Carly came to be Carly.
Speaker 3:
23:22
Yeah. She's a lovely little, looked them up and she's a very special little girl and she has, she has a lightness, you know, that sort of belies her chaotic and traumatic tasks, which we don't, we don't go too far into. Um, age is a really important piece of it because obviously most sesame street watchers are on the younger side, right? They're, they're not. Um, they're not yet six. Um, because viewers tend to be younger. Um, there's a lot more, you know, as, as kids get older, there's a lot more, uh, there's a little more competition for their attention. Um, we need though we need a month that, that can articulate herself, um, around these issues and that can teach the younger kids so often are our methods for these special topics are, um, are around five, six or seven. Um, because they have a level of articulation that can really help.
Speaker 3:
24:13
Um, and yet they're still child. Like, um, in terms of gender, you know, we knew that was 50, 50. Um, it just so happened that, um, that the muppet that was being developed sort of lended itself to a feminine look. Um, her face is, we talked a lot about how we wanted her face to, to be open. Um, we wanted her to be able to have a kind of of confidence, um, in her, in her facial expression and her body language. There's not always a lot of expression that you can add to them up at space. You can control the, um, you can control the features, you can control the, the eyes and the mouth. Um, sometimes the nose I believe, um, but really control, they have that much control over the, the actual facial expressions. If there's eyelids you can control the eyes. Um, Mo Mel's always of course, because they're speaking right, but often it's the tier who brings in this the spirit of the character and you know, gives the character and body language.
Speaker 3:
25:12
So in autism you saw that Juliette, um, had a certain stiffness and um, and a certain awkwardness that you might see in a child with autism. Her, her gaze, her eyes didn't look directly at the viewer. She often, she usually averted, um, her gaze. And that was feedback that we got from the advisers. You know, she, she, she does, she is unique, right? And she does, she does stand out a bit and you could see that, um, fairly subtly in her character, um, with Carly. We wanted her to, to be able to, to be the vulnerable person that she is. Right? Because this is what she's going through right now and it, and this is just what's real, but we also wanted her to have, um, enough playfulness that may, you know, because she was a real kid, right. Whose, whose job really was to be a kid and to play with the others.
Speaker 3:
26:03
In an ideal world, she would get to do that. Um, so all of those things went in. We also showed her she has these sort of feathery pigtails. I'm not sure you've seen their sort of toward the top of her head and they flow really, there's a very sweet way that they flow. We thought that the pigtails conveyed, um, that she was cared for. Um, it's something that we heard from the field, um, that a lot of times children, um, in homes that are in crisis, children who are experiencing trauma will, you know, there'll be physical signs of neglect. Um, and that one of those things was their hair and the clothes of course. So we wrote this into her backstory. Um, that was a neglect situation going on. We don't, we don't ever hear this and the kid facing materials, um, so you don't really see that on the site.
Speaker 3:
26:52
Um, but we, we wanted her to look now and the president, we wanted her to look really well groomed and really cared for in a, in a really kid appropriate way. Right? So she has like this, the colors in her hair and I think there's a little bit of sparkle woven in. Somebody really took time and showed up for this child and nurtured her in a way that that would mean something to her. And then the viewers in turn, we'll see something, you know, really sweet and positive, reflected back at them. Somebody having the same experience as them, you know, who is now in a healthier and happier position. And that shows in what she looks like.
Speaker 2:
27:29
Did you make up more than one muppet to represent Carly and then focus tested to see which one was more, uh, more, more, took more attention to the audience audience, paid more attention to,
Speaker 3:
27:42
um, mothers are often focused, tested, yes. Um, but Carly was not, um, because she, she tends, she seemed to develop really, really beautifully on our own. We did, we did show advisors. Um, and she does evolve. She did evolve during her whole creation. She was, um, she was a different color actually, and it has to do with which, um, which materials are available, which sort of raw materials for the, for the different, we call them, builds the muppet bills. Um, and there are different, there's range of choices. Um, you could see, you know, you could see islands or you could not see as you could see, eyelashes or not. So we wanted to go for the subtlety of expression in her eyes. Um, didn't want her to look goofy. So if we saw a version that was all about, you know, all about humor, certain methods, muppets just the goofy or than others, like, like for over coming to have a really goofy phase, so can Elmo.
Speaker 3:
28:40
And it's a lot about the sort of bouncy joy of that character. Um, we wanted Carly to have the joy of a child, but also also to do the heavier lifting right around this, around this heavy topic. So yeah, we go through a lot of iterations. This one we did not focus test, um, although we shared her with the advisors who were very pleased and excited to see how she was evolving, you know, because she was sort of a twinkle in all of our eyes until, uh, until the muffet builders started bringing her to life. And then when we see the muppet tiers on the set, when we see them first put them up, it's on their hands and breathe life into them and they, they become real characters, right? And you forget about the puppet, the human puppeteer under, they're doing all the work. That's really when the thing becomes magic. And when we start to see, oh, there's Carly.
Speaker 2:
29:34
Oh, I bet. I bet that's exciting. Do the, is the puppeteer also the voice?
Speaker 3:
29:40
Yes. Always. Yep.
Speaker 2:
29:42
All right. So did that go, and how do you choose the puppeteer? I would assume choosing the voice would be so, because that is how we recognize.
Speaker 3:
29:51
Totally. Totally. Um, yeah, we, we do audition for that and there's usually, um, you know, maybe there's maybe there's four puppeteers who audition and they do a performance with the muppets on them. So we, we hear the voice and we see that the body language and the spirit that they're bringing to the, to the muppet. Um, and that's, uh, it's a lot of discussion about the approach to the character and you know, just like you would when you were casting a human for, um, for, for a live action human movie or TV show. Um, so yeah, there's a, there's a rigorous casting process and their experience up a tier as many of them have worked with other muppets. Um, but it's really exciting when I'm up a tier gets there first, um, their first character of their own. Right. Because there are muppets that are, that are sort of extras, uh, that you know, that don't have names, um, that are sort of, um, you know, might just be there in a, in a group of muppets, but haven't exactly, they don't have their own puppets here. They don't have names. They don't have their own personalities. Um, so to see a puppet, uh, you know, an experience puppeteer who's um, you know, worked with them up, it's for a long time come into their, to their own character is really something magical.
Speaker 2:
31:02
Well, I would, I would think that, I mean, where would people get experience outside of sesame street in being a puppeteer? I mean, I'm sure there are places, but they can't be very many. So when you do a casting call, is it more an internal casting call?
Speaker 3:
31:16
I believe, I believe it's both. Although, um, the Henson Company, um, does have, you know, a large and precious bank of experience puppeteers who have, who have sort of come up within, within that culture, um, within, within the, the world of Jim Henson and his legacy. And, um, many start very, very young. And are groomed, um, and you know, learn everything that they know from the, from the senior Mutha tiers. Um, and then you see, you see those people, um, you know, grow and grow into, into masters.
Speaker 2:
31:51
Oh, I bet the empathy. That would be exciting. And so this, uh, the puppeteer that is, uh, that is Karlie, um, that is this person's full time Gig or do they then do, are they still doing other puppets because Carly is not a full time
Speaker 3:
32:07
job? That's correct. That's correct. Yeah. It's not full time. Um, in fact it was I believe two days of shooting for all of the Carly video that we did. So yes, this probably miles puppeteer, um, whose name is Haley and she's wonderful. Um, she, yeah, she has, she has other work and um, you know, hopefully a lot more of Carly and her future.
Speaker 2:
32:29
Yeah, we certainly hope so. We're rooting for you Hailey. Full time employment for Haley. Yay. Um, I also absolutely love the song. You are safe. Uh, again, I'm going to spare everyone and not sing it, but you are safe. You are strong. There is a place for you here who wrote that are by probably putting you on the spot. Yeah. Pull. No, no, not at all. It's so beautiful.
Speaker 3:
32:51
I, no. Um, I've worked very closely with this writer, um, for many years and she, um, she's done a lot for sesame. Um, her name is Samantha Burger. She wrote, she wrote the script and she also wrote the song and it just came to her and she sang it into the producers voicemail. And the song is almost unchanged from the original, um, from, you know, that original voicemail and it's in, it's in harmony and you hear the four characters. And when we first heard that on the set, it was like the air just changed. Like it just became this, this hallowed space. And every, I mean, people were just speechless. And I, and they had never, I believe they had never sung together before. Um, the, in this four part harmony. So it was this kind of magic to me. It seemed perfect on the very first take.
Speaker 3:
33:46
Of course, we, we do, we do everything a million times. Um, and everybody weighs in. Um, because everybody's really thinking about every note. But that song has become, you know, the most, I think evocative and, um, it's been a real standout piece for the whole initiative. Um, a lot of times I have it in my head, um, and just maybe two, we're mirror, right? The message is so it's so tender and it's so simple. Um, it's just, you, you know, there's a place where you belong. And I think, I think everybody, regardless of whether they've coped with, with the foster care system, you know, it's, it's this human drive is a human need, is basic human, very primal need to, um, to belong. And I think it really resonates, um, with, with viewers. Um, you know, you usually see people tear up when they, when they watch it. And I still do sometimes, even though I've, I've heard it many, many times.
Speaker 2:
34:47
Yeah. And now I'm sure the puppeteer is not the one singing voice AI, the proper terror. Yes. Oh my gosh. Topically this and, uh, uh, I'm blanking on the, uh, the foster mom's name, but oh, her voice is gorgeous. Wow.
Speaker 3:
35:03
That's Dalia. Yeah. The, um, the value of [inaudible] club. Yeah. And we named them for, um, we named them. We wanted to give them symbolic names. So Dalia I believe is something along the lines. One of the meanings, and it might be, um, there might be sort of a twist on it, is um, uh, a strong branch, um, and Clem is about, um, kindness, the derivation of that name and Carly is, um, is strong. Carly means strong.
Speaker 2:
35:34
Oh, that's interesting. [inaudible] tears are the ones who are singing as well. Yeah. Yeah. And it doesn't almost sing on that song as well.
Speaker 3:
35:43
He does. Yep. Yeah. Beautiful. Four part harmony. And we have a, um, with a music supervisor who down on the floor conducting them as if one would conduct a choir or an orchestra. So to hear them with that four part harmony and the, you know, it's got a sort of around, um, feel to it. It just was, it just, the way it came together was just really magical. And we knew it was, we knew it was exactly what it needed to be for this initiative.
Speaker 2:
36:09
So when you're, when you're casting, you're casting not only for the ability to be a puppeteer, which having never done it, but I'm assuming that's not easy. And your past, it's so much harder than Hawaii. I'm not very coordinated, so it will be definitely harder for me. It looks hard for me. Yes. Um, yeah. Yeah, no, that looks very hard to me. And then, but it's also acting, I mean, so you're, you're, they have to act, they actually have to be coordinated enough to do the muppets and they have to sing. Yup. Yup. There can't be a lot of people that could do all of them
Speaker 3:
36:41
also. So much more physically demanding than, than I had imagined, you know, before I first stepped foot on this set because they're there on the ground, they're often rolling around like on dollies and they're often smushed together. So they sort of humans, so they have to sort of move as one organism. And that's really something to see. But they're also holding their hands up and for a long, long time. Oh man, that would be right. And big bird is like the perfect example of how physically demanding it was because he's eight and a half feet tall. So the puppeteer, I'm has to have his hand up in the head of Big Bird and plus the big heavy suit. So it's, it's really demanding. Um, and when you, you know, you just, you look at how, um, how physically taxing it is at the end of the day and you see 'em, you know, you see the puppeteers and what they've, what they've been doing at the end of the day. And it's, it's really, it's a, it's a workout.
Speaker 2:
37:32
Oh, I didn't know. I can really imagine. I mean, if anybody has done much yoga and there's parts of Yoga where you're, we're keeping your hand raised for awhile and you know, they say one minute and you're thinking, oh my gosh, this has been forever. I can't even imagine. I really can't. We have a question from one of a new race. You talked about this topic before and this is from Darren. He says, I love sesame street in the muppets. And I think it is amazing if this character has been introduced. So thank you. I appreciate that every child's story is different. But Carly seemed to be about returning to the birth family. Carly's meaning that her story seems to be about returning to the birth family one day. This is obviously not every child's story. Where were you concerned about? We're concerns ever race at this may give children hope of returning to their birth families where there may not be a person that may not be their personal situation.
Speaker 3:
38:25
It's such an important question. And one we did talk about for a long, long time, um, with our trusted advisers with these difficult topics. And this comes in every difficult topic, um, because they're muppets and because we want to present information in a, in a child sensitive way, but we also want to model the best case scenarios. So a lot of this is, is first of all modeling to adults, right? The adults are seeing this and they might be taking away some strategies that, um, that the, the muppet foster parents are using. Um, and if they just do one, if they just take away one thing that they can use to make it a child's experience more positive than, than we've succeeded. Right? Um, there's a strange balance between like presenting a too rosy version, um, you know, a to Rosie presentation of what's really an incredibly traumatic, you know, over long periods of time trauma, um, that kind of topic and showing how, how things could be right, how they, um, how to bring the most positive possibilities to bear in what you're, what you're sharing to kids and giving them, I'm giving them hope, giving them the optimism, you know, the, um, the thought for a better future.
Speaker 3:
39:49
Um, we learned from advisors that the goal when it's possible and when things work out and we all know the sad truth, um, that it does not, um, that the goal psychologically for the child if it's safe. Um, his reunion with the birth parent, that the biggest trauma that most children have experienced, most children in care have experienced is the removal of the child from the home. And that no matter what that parent has done, the, the usual scenario is the child does not want to be removed. Right. And would like to protect that parent. So we, we had to strike a really, it was a very difficult balance. We didn't share very much of Carly's backstory except that her mom was having a hard time and couldn't care for her. Well, so she was getting some grownup help, right. That it wasn't Carly's followed.
Speaker 3:
40:42
She was getting grown up health and that for now these adults, um, we're going to take care of her because we all know that the most basic need of a child, right, is to feel, to feel physical and emotional safety, to feel cared for, to feel seen and heard. So regardless of what happens in her future, um, we wanted to show that the presence of her life and how she was, um, she was lucky enough, right? Of course, in many ways, very unlucky. Um, but that right now, in this moment that we're seeing her, she's, um, she's safe. She's loved, she's cared for. And these adults are going to, to see her, to hear her, to help her express her biggest feelings. And we know that no matter how a child's, how have, you know, a viewer child's life plays out, that those, that, that, um, that moment of being cared for. And also having some, you know, learning some self care strategies that that will serve all children regardless of, um, of their experiences
Speaker 2:
41:45
at this point in time. She is safe. She is strong and there's a place. Yeah. Yeah. And, and I, there was a really interesting discussion on one of our online communities about this topic. Uh, Darren had raised it about the [inaudible] and I thought Kim had a good point issue. And this is from Kim. She said we've had 21 foster kids and 20 have been returned to family members. I am so thankful that this story that they appeared, I am so thankful that this is the story they appear to be showing. There are lots of films with characters being raised by non biological parents, but they rarely show reunification. So I think that Kimra is, is, uh, which is a supportive point of what, uh, what you, uh, will there be a reunification storyline, uh, with Carly?
Speaker 3:
42:33
Funny you should ask. Um, I'm happy to be able to run this every moment to be able to share. And Don, I'm not sure if you knew this yet either, but it was announced in some of the, um, some of the articles in the stories that came out in response to the foster care initiative. In the fall, we're going to be launching an initiative, a similar initiative. I'm on sesame street in communities.org around, um, addiction. And it's for, for children with parents who are struggling with addiction and helping with the effects of that, um, that that ambassador is going to be Carly.
Speaker 2:
43:08
Oh, that's good. It's funny because when I was talking with some of the, uh, some of your folks, I mentioned to them that, you know what, you said, a lot of people do this. I didn't realize it was so common. I was playing to the, uh, to the, uh, to the standard there. But I mentioned that, uh, another really important topic that ties in his addiction, but I did, they, they, they were mom that, uh, sad
Speaker 3:
43:33
overlap. We know. So we know that we knew that Carly of course could have this, this long coherent narrative and we created a backstory for her. Um, and so once you see the addiction materials, you learn that, um, we actually, strangely we keep them separate, right? Because like they're separate topics on the site and we don't mention one in the other. Um, and that's because we want them to stand alone because everybody using them will, you know, will not necessarily have, have this overlap, but a lot of them will. And if, if they're using both topics, it's going to be very clear to them, you know, how it's, how it's going to help. So Carly's story is that her, um, her mom, her birth mom, um, was struggling with addiction and the, and Carly was, um, was living with neglect, um, and she wasn't being cared for well, um, because mom was really having a hard time with the grownup problem.
Speaker 3:
44:30
So Carly is identified by a teacher, um, because she wasn't wearing the appropriate clothes. And again, this is only in the back story. It doesn't really show up anywhere, um, yet. Um, she, um, she, she was clearly being neglected. She was identified by a teacher who, you know, brought it to the school social worker and, um, and she's placed in foster care. So she's in foster care for several months and, um, Dalia and Clem, her for now parents have, um, have cared for, um, a number of foster children and, um, they, they knew. And, um, Carl, he knew that the ultimate goal was to reunite with her birth mom who was in treatment for three months. Um, and, and then when we, when we get to the addiction topic, um, she's about to return home from treatment and she's in recovery. So Carly is coping with the anxiety of, um, of having mom return.
Speaker 3:
45:32
Um, she's of course very excited to see her mom. She's also having lots of big feelings, right? Sadness, anger, anxiety, worry. Um, she's struggling with, um, with her previous role of feeling like she had to take care of her mom and hide what was going on and you know, live with the shame. Um, and just the, the responsibility that we know so many children in this situation feel. Um, and um, we made the choice to not show the birth mom, um, because we actually do show a tiny, tiny glimpse, um, but we did not create a muppet around, around her, um, because we felt that that was another, that was another story that deserved telling really well. Um, and that we wanted to focus on Carly's experience, um, sort of transitioning into this, um, into this new chapter in her life and in her family's life.
Speaker 3:
46:29
So we'll see her preparing for her mom's return. Um, and we also are going to see her in conversation with, um, with, with human children who, um, who have lived through this, um, and are now on the other side. So Carly is, um, she's still in a vulnerable position, but her, her narrative arc is sort of clearly beginning to wind down to leave her and her mom in a much healthier and happier place. So this will be a whole nother story line that will be introduced in the fall. Yeah, totally. We don't know. We have no idea where they're currently will ever appear again or do we be, well, we, we always hope, um, and you know, we, we do rely, right Rhea, yes. It, we, we rely on, on the generosity of our funders. Um, so there's always more on our wishlist. We always, um, we have ideas at the ready for what, what, what else we would want to do with and, um, and with other, with other characters that really embody the resilience, um, that were, that we're trying to build in kids and families on the site.
Speaker 4:
47:40
You are listening to creating a family. Today we're talking with the creator of Carly are one of the creators of Carly the foster care, the foster child, muppets, the muppet who happens to be in foster care, um, and on sesame street, sesame street in communities.org. This show could not and would not happen without the generous support of our partner partner agencies and and when we call them partners, they really are, they are choosing, most of them are nonprofit as well and they are choosing to take their dollars and support us and support our mission which is providing unbiased education and support to pre adoptive families, pre foster families and post adoptive and foster families. Two of our partners, our Vista del Mar, they are a licensed nonprofit adoption agency. Yeah.
Speaker 2:
48:33
With over 65 years of experience helping to create families. They offer study only services as well as full service, infant adoption international and adoption and foster to adopt programs. You can find them online@thistodelmar.org. We also have spent shape and they are an adoption agency in New York City and they are, they have a really wonderful mentorship program where they take adult adoptees and, and, and assign them to a minty in their mentorship program, uh, to help the, the team worked through and think through some of the issues of adoption. It is a, it's a, it's a program that's been going on for a while. It is such a good program. So they're looking right now they're recruiting for the fall for adults. I need adults age 21 and older. It's a volunteer position. Uh, the mentors will serve as role models to encourage mentees to ask questions, feel comfortable with their identities and develop healthy self esteem if you are interested in, it really lends itself to people living in the New York, New Jersey or Connecticut area.
Speaker 2:
49:37
Uh, if you are interested, please contact them. It is such a strong program and I honestly think it probably would help them mentors as much as it would help the mentees. But anyway, you can get more information at their website. Spence Hyphen [inaudible] dot org, um, at [inaudible] who is your audience? I, when my children were younger and watching sesame street, I swear sometimes I thought, you know, they're really talking to me and sometimes I squirmed when I thought that and when I watched this one and I out, I thought or which we watched the first one, uh, with Carly, I thought, I think foster parents could be getting a lot out of watching a Dalia and Clem as well. So who is your audience?
Speaker 3:
50:23
It's, it's a really great, great question, especially to ask about sesame in communities.org because the providers are often the gatekeepers of all of this material. Um, and that's how the, that's how parents and ultimately how children, you know, receive it and how they benefit from it. So it's, it's a, it's an interesting hybrid. Um, the site has a lot of professional development for, um, a variety of providers. So in that way, you know, it's very adult facing. Anybody serving kids in a professional capacity? Um, the materials themselves, like the video, most of the videos, most of the muppet videos, um, a lot of the activity pages and certainly the digital interactives, like, you know, the Games essentially. Um, those, those are our kid facing. Um, but we also know that when parents, it's all about engagement. It's all about the relationship of the caring adult to the child and the power of that relationship, um, to really help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.
Speaker 3:
51:22
So when adults are watching with the kids and we call that co viewing, um, when they're really engaged, um, you know, there's, there's media, there's a screen, but there's something really important happening in the adult can set it up with some questions and some little extension activities. Um, when that, when that co viewing is happening, we know that the adult is watching what's going on. And if it's a foster parent watching Clem and Dalia and the way they speak with Carly, um, you know, the strategies they are modeling, then that's something that they're taking away as well. Even though it's, it's completely child appropriate, you know, and the child is getting everything that we intended them to from, from the whole video. Um, the parents, the parents are watching themselves as well and relating to their experience. And, you know, we've found, I'm sure many of many of us here today have a favorite muppet and one, you know, assess me street memory that, um, that sticks with them and just, you know, a certain character that has a place in their heart.
Speaker 3:
52:24
Um, we know that, that the muffets have this special power to reach not just kids, but, but adults. And that, um, that we were, you know, we're all, every age we've ever been, I like to say. Um, and we all have that childlike place in us that really, that connects with that character and that, that just stays with us our whole life. So when we're, when we're watching it, um, I mean certainly I think all of my colleagues would, would show the sentiment. Um, we're really, we're in it, you know, in a way that we're not, we're not viewers out. We're not, we're not outside of it looking, you know, the way we're not trying to imagine how a viewer would see it, although we certainly are, we ourselves are right there with those characters in that community and that still resonates with us. It's still really real. So, um, so yeah, it's the, it's the dual parent child audience and you know, everything that is sort of the basis of that which makes 'em sesame street in communities that really the special resource.
Speaker 2:
53:27
Well, when you focus tests, did you have a group of children watching it as well or was it mainly just
Speaker 3:
53:31
apparently didn't for this one? Um, they do that for the show. They have, um, they, they do children focus testing, um, and they measure, for instance, engagement. Um, you know, how kids are reacting, um, physically and verbally and you know, with their, with their gaze on the screen. Um, and they test their understanding of the concepts. Um, we often do that mostly in, in our impact study. So our, we call our summit of research basically did it work. Um, and we'll, um, it's different for every initiative. Um, but we, yeah, we do, we do look at, look at children, how they're responding. Um, but mostly it's about the feedback we get from the adults in their lives. Um, you know, that that is simply reported by them. You know, my, my child, um, you know, started having fewer, fewer meltdowns, you know, start, I noticed that he's less overwhelmed by big feelings, you know, after watching this video several times and having conversations about it, it's that kind of, um, anecdote about the impact that we get. So of course the children are always, um, first, you know, front front of front of mind.
Speaker 2:
54:42
So, so what is the, I'm curious, what is the impact you're hearing? It's not been, it's, you know, you haven't had a lot of time. Um, but what is the impact? It's all new.
Speaker 3:
54:51
So, um, a lot of adults have shared their stories on our social media and you can, um, you can join, I'm assessing on, on Facebook, you can join sesame street in communities or one just for providers. Is Sesame Street in communities providers, um, and, and share your stories. Um, as many foster parents have, they've, they've put up photos and they've, they've told their stories, their history as foster parents and usually something about the children in their care or children who have been in their care. Um, most have, have been expressing gratitude and wishing that they had resources like this, you know, for, in the past for other jacket. Um, we did, we did hear at one really touching anecdote, um, where, where a child, um, you know, looked at, looked at Carly, um, and made a comment like, she's, she's like me. You know, she's, she's in my, not using this word, but she's in my position. Right. I'm just like Carly. And that's exactly, that's exactly the goal. We want kids to see themselves reflected in her.
Speaker 2:
55:56
Yeah. I, I think you will see that I have certainly heard from foster parents. Um, I think the overwhelming, uh, thing we're hearing is gratitude. They are so grateful that this is a storyline that at this is a subject that's being talked about in quite frankly, are thankful that there are child facing materials because although there are some and we have a list of books, uh, available on website, um, there needs to be a lot more. And so I think that's, that's the overwhelming thing we're hearing is, uh, is, is gratitude. Um, so what's in the future? What are some of the other big topics that you, uh, if you can tell us a addiction. Okay.
Speaker 3:
56:41
I mean, I think I have to hold 20, 20 close to the chest for now. Um, the, um, the addiction initiative we'll be launching in October. So I hope, um, I don't hope because it's really unfortunate, but, um, I hope that many of the listeners will find that to be a useful resource as well. And every, every month or so we roll out with new topics, but they're not all the difficult topics. They're not, they're not all tough times and you know, difficult conversations is this sort of general term we use for them. Um, we do a lot on early learning basics, you know, abcs and one, two threes and we do a lot around health and wellness, um, and a lot about different kinds of families. Um, we have about 27 topics up on the site right now and about a third of them, possibly a little more, um, are about the difficult topics.
Speaker 2:
57:28
And the site you were referring to is sesame street in communities.org. Is that where you would send people out?
Speaker 3:
57:36
That's where you should go. It's um, it's all completely free and it's all bilingual. It's available in Spanish and you'll just find, um, you'll find a ton of resources for kids, families and providers. And again, the professional development piece is really powerful and you'll find that I'll link at the top. You can register as a provider and you'll get information about webinars, um, online courses, many you can get continuing education credits for those. Um, as well as, um, it's, it's also searchable. So you can, um, if you only want to see videos, you search that way. If you want to search by a certain age group, I'll search that way. Um, search by topic and so on.
Speaker 2:
58:15
And you can also pull up a specific video for your child right there on that side.
Speaker 3:
58:20
Can bookmark that. Muffy. Um, if you register, you can bookmark your favorites.
Speaker 2:
58:25
And you mentioned that there were games. Can you just briefly, what are the games? I mean there are they the type that kids can play when you're trying, you're on, you're on when you're on the phone and you hand them your tablet so that they will stop bothering you. My cds, you can certainly do that. That I've never done.
Speaker 3:
58:43
Um, you know, they all, um, they're really all designed for parent child engagement. But what we know, that reality of life. So there's one in foster care and everybody should play it because it's really excellent. And all the adults here love to do it. It's um, it's called slow it down and it's, um, you have six different choices and it's meant as a calming activity. Um, as if, imagine a child in full meltdown mode needing, needing a shift, um, often like a sensory activity can absorb them and kind of, um, you know, get them away from that hijacked feeling. So for instance, on, um, the, the, the piece, um, they can choose from six different activities. One is like drawing and in sand and stamping it and using a rake, um, and just a very, you know, one of those like sand, zen garden type things.
Speaker 3:
59:35
Um, and then there's slime, which is awesome, um, where they can sort of paint in slime, like move it around so it looks like they're actually playing. And Simon, they can decorate it with certain things and make stamps and they can write in it and they write their name. Um, there is, um, there's some music making it, there's a Marimba, so they're playing certain tones and there's a video option where you have six videos to choose from and there's slow motion videos. So, you know, you can get really mesmerized by watching some of those like time lapse videos of like a seed, um, you know, in soil. And you could watch the whole thing grow into a flower and it's like you could watch it again and again, and it, um, it, it, it shows you, I mean, that's a speeded up version. Um, but you can also see slow motion things like, um, like a drop of water dropping into, you know, onto a surface of water and how it bounces off and how it, if you watched it in very slow motion, it's really amazing and really mesmerizing.
Speaker 3:
60:32
And a child can, um, can control those videos, can make them faster or slower and, and really just soothe themselves, um, without words. So, you know, we're not suggesting to the adult, um, you know, a certain strategy for helping a kid. I'm in full tantrum mode. We're just saying you might hand this over and, and ask children to pick an activity, you know, and, and it can often provide, um, some, some soothing, um, uh, sort of change of stimuli is just one, just one tool. And that's it. It's an example of a, of an interactive, um, so not really a game because it's not, you know, gamified. Um, but it's an interactive activity that's, um, that's made like with the needs of these kids in mind.
Speaker 2:
61:18
And maybe it needs for the parents. And I'm thinking, yeah, this, this would be a, this would be good for me as well. Well, thank you so much, Kim Einhorn for [inaudible], who is the senior content manager for sesame workshop's USA Social Impact Group, otherwise known as sesame street and families. Um, thank you so much for being with us today to get more information.
Speaker 4:
61:41
How about all the stuff that has been developed by Sesame Street for this initiative? Go to their website, sesame street in communities.org. I hope that we crash your site to not to, and Don, thank you so much for having me. It's been such a pleasure and to all the listeners, thank you so much for all the work you do.