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'Sesame Street' creates a new Muppet with a parent in jail

Sofia, Abby and Rosita comfort Alex by giving

Sofia, Abby and Rosita comfort Alex by giving him a hug and listening to his feelings as part of "Sesame Street's Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration" initiative. Photo Credit: Sesame Workshop / Gil Vaknin

Step aside Elmo and Abby Cadabby, there's a new Muppet on "Sesame Street." Alex, the first Muppet to have a dad in jail, was created by Sesame Workshop to help children ages 3-8 to cope when a parent is incarcerated.

The new "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration" campaign was launched due to the increasing need for resources and support for children dealing with a parent's incarceration. According to a special report from the "Bureau of Justice Statistics," 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.

Through an online tool kit on sesameworkshop.com, adults will find support, tips and age-appropriate language to help communicate with children about incarceration. There's also a "Sesame Street" DVD featuring a Muppet story, live-action films showcasing real children and families, guidebooks, children's storybooks, downloadable apps, printable fact sheets and more.

"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 Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop in a news release. "This initiative tackles 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."

While many support this type of campaign, others disagree. On Reason.com, blogger Mike Riggs wrote, "Congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail."

What's more, some websites are calling attention to "Little Children, Big Challenges" main sponsor: BAE Systems. According to TheAtlanticWire.com, "BAE Systems, a British contractor, whose U.S. subsidiary is one of the largest suppliers to the Department of Defense which depends on the low-overhead labor of prisoners incarcerated at for-profic facilities."

What do you think of the new Muppet on Sesame Street? Take our poll below.

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