Sesame Street aims to help children with parents in prison - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Sesame Street aims to help children with parents in prison

Posted: Updated:

Incarceration is a tough topic for anyone to talk about with children. Despite what they've done, many inmates in Arkansas are also parents who care deeply about their children that struggle to understand why mom or dad can't come home. However, a new project is aimed at making that tough conversation a little easier and maybe changing a child's life with the help of Sesame Street.

Anna Riggs is a mom of six. For the last two years, she's had to parent from prison.

"I know they miss me a lot, and they're kind of confused about the whole situation," said Riggs who is incarcerated in Wrightsville on a battery charge.

Her teenagers can understand the situation a little better, but haven't asked a lot of questions. The hardest part has been deciding what to tell the four youngest.     

"In the beginning, my husband told my daughters that I had gone to school, a school to learn how to make better decisions and how to be a better mommy," said Riggs.

For some parents, explaining the truth to a child can seem more foreboding than even prison gates. That's where a little orange muppet named Alex comes in to help.

"We are among 10 correctional institutions across the country participating in this program which is very exciting for us," said Shea Wilson of the Department of Corrections.

The program, sponsored by Sesame Street Workshop, gives children of inmates a DVD. The 30 minute show deals with major issues of incarceration. They are issues Jihad Muhammad understands all too well. He was incarcerated from 1994 to 2006 on a murder charge. Now, he works to help and counsel young people in juvenile detention.

"There's a great deal of shame and guilt and once that shame and guilt is internalized, and they begin to think that they're a bad person as a result of them not having a mother or father in their life, then that can lead to all types of destructive behavior," explained Muhammad.

"My six-year-old Elizabeth, she has the toughest time out of all of my children. She often says, 'Are you talking to me like that because my mommy is in prison (to her teacher)," said Riggs.

Anna worries about how friends and teachers view at her children because of her actions.

"I feel horrible that I've put my children in this position."

Feelings of shame, anger, confusion, they're all addressed by these muppets. The hope is to make kids comfortable talking to an adult about these complex feelings.

"If this provides them with the tools they need to discuss their incarceration and maybe provide the tools the children need to maybe keep them from coming and repeating that cycle - I think we've done our job," said Wilson

This Sunday, Anna's kids are coming to visit and will get their DVD. She's anticipating the conversations that show will inspire.

"Maybe they'll be more educated on what to ask and how to ask it because of the DVD" said Riggs.

The new program has already received a lot of positive feedback. At just one facility last week, 39 packets we're given out to children. The DVD also contains advice for the child's caregivers - including advice about counseling and encouragement.

 

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Police arrest suspect in death of LRSD employee

    Police arrest suspect in death of LRSD employee

    Friday, April 18 2014 10:37 PM EDT2014-04-19 02:37:54 GMT
    Little Rock (KATV) - Little Rock police have arrested the man they believe killed a Little Rock School District Employee. 40-year-old Joe Wicker was arrested Friday. Police say he is responsible forMore >>
    Little Rock (KATV) - Little Rock police have arrested the man they believe killed a Little Rock School District Employee. 40-year-old Joe Wicker was arrested Friday. Police say he is responsible forMore >>
  • Student claims LRSD teacher hits him with her high heel shoe

    Student claims LRSD teacher hits him with her high heel shoe

    Friday, April 18 2014 7:15 PM EDT2014-04-18 23:15:01 GMT
    LITTLE ROCK (KATV)--Disappointed with the Little Rock School District is how one mother feels tonight. This after she says her son's biology teacher hit him with her high heel shoe on Monday. SantriseMore >>
    LITTLE ROCK (KATV)--Disappointed with the Little Rock School District is how one mother feels tonight. This after she says her son's biology teacher hit him with her high heel shoe on Monday.More >>
  • Teen Killed in Pedestrian Accident in Pine Bluff

    Teen Killed in Pedestrian Accident in Pine Bluff

    Saturday, April 19 2014 12:37 PM EDT2014-04-19 16:37:37 GMT
    PINE BLUFF, AR --At approximately10:00 P.M. Friday night, a fatality pedestrian collision occurred at U.S.79 and Union Street in Pine Bluff. 14-year-old Charles E. Jones died in the collision. Witnesses report thatthe suspect vehicle struck Joneswhile traveling south on U.S. 79 as he and another group of children were trying to cross U.S. 79 at Union Street. The Driver then fled the scene.A witness at the collision gave a description of the vehicle and driver. Pine Bluff Police units located ...More >>
    PINE BLUFF, AR --At approximately10:00 P.M. Friday night, a fatality pedestrian collision occurred at U.S.79 and Union Street in Pine Bluff. 14-year-old Charles E. Jones died in the collision. Witnesses report thatthe suspect vehicle struck Joneswhile traveling south on U.S. 79 as he and another group of children were trying to cross U.S. 79 at Union Street. The Driver then fled the scene.A witness at the collision gave a description of the vehicle and driver. Pine Bluff Police units located ...More >>