White House Champions of Change

On June 12, 2013, the White House honored 12 “Champions of Change” – including Osborne’s Executive Director Elizabeth Gaynes and her daughter Emani Davis – who have dedicated themselves to supporting children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers. These Champions have helped scores of children and their families by minimizing the potential negative impacts of having a parent who is incarcerated, including financial instability, changes in housing, and isolation due to stigma. Osborne staff members and young people from our Youth Advisory Board also attended the ceremony in DC!  The Champions of Change Program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses, and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.


Sesame Street Initiative + Partnership

Alongside the Champions at the White House ceremony on June 12, 2013, Sesame Street launched itsLittle Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiative, which includes multimedia, bilingual (English/Spanish) materials targeting young children of incarcerated parents. Osborne's Executive Director Elizabeth Gaynes and Tanya Krupat, who heads Osborne's NY Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, served as advisors for the Sesame Street initiative. Osborne staff helped Sesame Street create materials and messaging for the program, which will feature a new Muppet with a father who is incarcerated.


Abby and Tanya Krupat, Program Director for Osborne's New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents


CBS This Morning featured the Sesame Street initiative on June 9. Francis Adejei and his siblings, who participate in Osborne's Children and Youth Services program, were profiled for the segment!


These free educational resources also include:

  • A Sesame Street DVD
  • Live action film showcasing families and an animated short segment
  • A children’s story book
  • A guide for parents and caregivers
  • A tip sheet for incarcerated parents

In addition, Sesame has created various digital resources including a Sesame Street: Incarceration app for parents to use on tablets and phones and a toolkit on www.sesamestreet.org/incarceration.

“Sesame Workshop has always been at the forefront of creating resources for families with young children to help address some of life’s most difficult issues,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop. “Little Children, Big Challenge: Incarcerationtackles a very difficult topic, one for which there are scant resources to help young children, and best of all, it approaches these difficult transitions in the way that only Sesame Street and our trusted Muppets can.”


The Need

The number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80 percent 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 coping with this life-changing circumstance. Children need tools to express emotions, while their caregivers need help maintaining routines and establishing age-appropriate communication around incarceration. Providing adults and children with coping strategies and additional emotional resources can help them feel comforted and secure throughout this difficult time.


The Initiative

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is designed to:

  • Support, comfort, and reduce anxiety, sadness, and confusion that young children (ages 3-8) 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 that they can parent from anywhere, and provide them with simple parenting tips highlighting the importance of communication.



Sesame Workshop worked closely with advisors and partners to 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 pilot, in several key states, a deeper implementation of these resources.

Major support for Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration is provided by BAE Systems. Generous support is provided by The Prudential Foundation, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the USO, the Military Child Education Coalition, and The Florence V. Burden Foundation.


About Sesame Workshop

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children’s television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 150 countries, and other acclaimed shows including The Electric Company, to help bridge the literacy gap. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and resilience. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at www.sesameworkshop.org.