Florida Department of Corrections
POLK CITY, Fla. – Florida Department of Corrections’ Secretary Michael Crews and Sesame Street met at Polk Correctional Institution today and announced a partnership with the longtime children’s program based on their new resource Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration that helps children, inmates, families and caregivers cope with the reality of incarceration.
In Florida, there are 64,475 children under 18 who have an incarcerated parent. Nationwide the number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80% in the past 20 years.
Nearly 2.7 million children have a parent in state or federal prison, yet few resources exist to support young children and families with this life-changing circumstance.
In response to these statistics, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, created Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, a bilingual (English/Spanish) initiative for families with young children (ages 3–8) who have an incarcerated parent. Florida is one of 10 pilot states launching the resource(s).
“We are really excited about this partnership with such a recognized and trusted organization like Sesame Street,” said Secretary Crews. “Sesame Street understands how to communicate with children in ways they best understand, and having a loved one who is incarcerated is a sensitive and difficult circumstance for a child.
This tool not only helps children, it helps their loved one who is incarcerated by providing tips on parenting and reminding them that they can still be a good parent while incarcerated,” added Secretary Crews.
Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is designed to:
support, comfort, and reduce anxiety, sadness, and confusion that young children may experience during the incarceration of a parent;
provide at-home caregivers with strategies, tips, and age-appropriate language they can use to help communicate with their children about incarceration; inform incarcerated parents themselves that they can parent from anywhere, and provide them with simple parenting tips highlighting the importance of communication.
Sesame Workshop is working closely with advisors and partners to distribute and integrate Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration resources into correctional facilities and organizations that specialize in early childhood education, mental health and counseling, parenting programs, foster care, and that have missions specific to helping families cope with the incarceration of a loved one.
Sesame Workshop will also begin to pilot, in several key states (Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin), a deeper implementation of these resources.
Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is part of the Department’s Family Reunification effort which is based in the Office of Re-Entry. The Department has created a web page with all the Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration resources and information located at http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/children/. Multimedia resource kits will be distributed to each facility across Florida and includes a Sesame Street DVD, children’s storybook and a guide for parents and caregivers. Smartphone apps are available along with numerous other tools and resources.
The Florida Department of Corrections is the third largest corrections’ system in the United States with over 100,000 inmates and over 120,000 offenders who are serving either probation or parole. Those with family support are less likely to re-offend and re-enter the corrections’ system.
Programs and partnerships like the one with Sesame Street are important for all Floridians because they help reduce recidivism, which reduces crimes and crime victims. In addition, children with positive parental involvement become better students and establish a strong educational foundation, creating a strong workforce in Florida which strengthens the economy and our communities.
For more information, visit the Department of Corrections’ web page for Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration at http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/children/. Media may also wish to view the Sesame Street Resource Room for Press and Partners at http://www.sesameworkshop.org/press-room/incarceration/.