'Sesame Street' characters to help children of defendants in Cook County drug court

All Rise, 'Sesame Street' in Communities working together on program

Leah Hope Image
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
'Sesame Street' to help children of defendants in Cook Co. drug court
Elmo made an appearance in a Cook County courtroom Wednesday - sort of.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Elmo made an appearance in a Cook County courtroom Wednesday - sort of.

Elmo was seen in a "Sesame Street" video, titled "How to Talk to Kids about Tough Topics."

Wednesday was training for drug treatment court and drug treatment personnel from All Rise, with the help of videos from "Sesame Street" in Communities.

It's a pilot program with three courts in the country, offering resources to help the children of defendants dealing with addiction and the criminal justice system.

"It's a groundbreaking piece of the puzzle that addressing the issues family face, not just the individual," Cook County Drug Court Judge Charles Burns said.

Burns oversees the drug treatment court in which defendants can have their charges dropped if they successfully complete drug treatment.

He said the majority of the defendants are parents, and some have young children.

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"We have to address the next generation because they are the ones who are suffering, too," Burns said. "Children can, in fact, understand this, if they are intelligently told what it's all about and what mom or dad are going through."

"One of the things we talk about in the training is ensure the child that it's not your fault. I remember internalizing things and thinking, 'what did I do to make this happen?'" said Daryl Jackson, with All Rise.

Jackson is project director for All Rise, and knows first-hand how developmentally appropriate information can help children because he said he did not have that.

He hopes it will be different for a new generation.

"Building stronger, healthier kids who are stronger, healthier adults, who are productive citizens, which turns in hopefully a better world," Jackson said.

In addition to addiction issues, "Sesame Street" in Communities offers resources for kids dealing with divorce and military deployment.

The Cook County drug court plans to implement the new resources later this year.