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April 8, 2009

UPDATE: Sesame Street Workshop's Jeanette Betancourt to speak at Smith Monday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m., Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College researchers anticipate that a recent primetime special of Sesame Street may yield valuable information about how children respond to issues around their enlisted parents returning home after combat.

Featuring celebrities John Mayer and Queen Latifah, the half-hour special, “Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change,” told the stories of service members who return home with injuries—visible and invisible—and explored the struggles their families face as a result.

The Smith College School for Social Work, which was founded in 1918 to address the needs of American veterans, partnered with Sesame Street Workshop, a nonprofit educational organization, to assess the responses of children and parents to the program, which aired on PBS on the first day of April, the “Month of the Military Child.”

“The goal of the research is to reach out to families and help families think about how they pull together and cope with visible and non-visible war wounds,” said Marsha Kline Pruett, Maconda Brown O'Connor Chaired Professor, who is directing the project. "The School for Social Work, with its commitment to the treatment of veterans, seemed the perfect institution to do this research."

As part of the collaboration, Sesame Street Workshop’s Vice President of Outreach and Education Jeanette Betancourt, will visit Smith July 27 to discuss the development of the program, "Coming Home," as well as Sesame Workshop’s military families initiative, "Talk, Listen, Connect."

An estimated 350 participants within military and civilian families, with children between the ages of 2 and 8, were included in the research. Following the show, they were asked to respond to written surveys and join focus group sessions facilitated by Smith faculty members. The military families included at least one parent who served on a tour of duty in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

The research was conducted in conjunction with community-based screenings of "Coming Home" which occurred across the country.

“Sesame Workshop is ensuring that a variety of resources are available to help military families with young children cope with the effects of deployment, multiple deployments or when a parent returns home changed due to a combat related injury,” said Betancourt.

Alumnae who wish to organize a screening and focus group for civilian parents with children, and who did not yet see the Sesame Street episode, should contact Pruett.

The School for Social Work currently offers a full scholarship to a member of the military who wants to treat veterans. The school hosted a national conference, “Combat Stress: Understanding the Challenges, Preparing for the Return,” last June.


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