UW study finds children benefited from Sesame Workshop incarceration resources

Pat Dillon and her grandson Damien browse materials developed by UW–Madison experts...
Pat Dillon and her grandson Damien browse materials developed by UW–Madison experts and Sesame Street Workshop. The materials are designed to support children and families who have incarcerated family members (Photo by David Nevala for the Center for Healthy Minds(NBC15)
Published: Jun. 13, 2020 at 4:49 PM CDT
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A new UW-Madison study found children benefited from resources from Sesame Workshop on why their parents were in jail.

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. It designed initiatives and content to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families.

“There aren’t very many interventions for children with incarcerated parents, even though millions of children in the United States experience a parent leaving to go to jail or prison,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, the Dorothy A. O’Brien Professor in Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Currently, there are more than five million children in the U.S. who have experienced having a parent in jail, with documented negative consequences, according to the study.

It observed children ages 3 to 8 during jail visits and interviewed their caregivers two and four weeks later.

Children in the Sesame Workshop intervention were told honest, developmentally appropriate explanations of their parents' incarceration. The study found it resulted in less sadness and anger when parents were incarcerated and less negative effects during their visits.

The study found children who were told nothing or distortions showed negative effects initially and that negative effect remained the same during their jail visits.

The resources available for the Sesame Workshop Incarceration initiative can be found free online by clicking