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Continued: ‘Sesame Street’ helps kids of imprisoned parents cope

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 15, 2013 - 4:15 PM

The “Sesame Street” campaign appealed to Roger Heinen, assistant administrator of the Washington County Jail, whose own children watch “Sesame Street.” The colorful characters probably make it easier for children to receive information on such complicated topics.

“It does make a lot of sense,” he said. “They are using ‘Sesame Street’ for a lot of different things like divorce — a lot of social issues that are very difficult to talk to kids about.”

While his jail will make early use of the “Sesame Street” video and materials, other detention facilities in Minnesota will add them gradually.

Just entering the jail for the first time can be intimidating for children — who have to leave belongings in a locker, then walk through a metal detector and several heavy security doors, and then can only see their parents through bulletproof glass and talk to them through a telephone receiver.

“It’s a harsh reality when they first go there,” Heinen said. “It’s all the same whether it’s a child or a 17-year-old or an 85-year-old adult.”

Lambert remembers the first visit from her children — her youngest daughter was allowed to sit on her lap but her older children were frustrated that they weren’t allowed to reach out and touch her.

She later entered a parenting program at the prison by which her kids can visit her for four hours on Saturdays and she hopes to enter a diversion program that expedites her release.

She knows it won’t be the same back home, either. The father of her children is in a new relationship, and she knows she’ll likely have to live on her own with only visits from the children.

Until that time, Lambert tries to keep her relationship with the children meaningful.

“I mail little postcards, I mail letters. I really try to stay connected in their lives,” she said. “Sometimes it hurts when I call and don’t get an answer, but at least they know that I called.”


Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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