Families Stand Together

Project Overview

Corporation for Public Broadcasting


This initiative is made possible by the generous support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In today’s economic climate, approximately two out of three middle class families are at high risk of sustaining or losing their economic security.1 Moreover, increases in job loss and income cuts have made families struggle with basic costs like housing, medical care, transportation, food, clothing,

Photo of the Balli family, Jean Chatzky, and Josh Coleman
The Balli Family, Financial Expert Jean Chatzky, Dr. Joshua Coleman, and Elmo.
photo by Gil Vaknin
and child care. Too often, parents are being forced to make difficult decisions that affect their children’s well-being. In this kind of environment, even basic family activities like talking, playing, and spending time together can easily be overlooked.


To help families cope with these challenging economic times, Sesame Street, with the generous support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, presents Families Stand Together,a bilingual (English and Spanish) outreach initiative with useful strategies and information to help families talk, come together, and reach out for support.


As part of this initiative, Sesame Street has produced a new primetime special in association with David Letterman’s production company Worldwide Pants Incorporated and Lookalike Productions. Designed for families with children ages 2-8, the special is hosted by Elmo, weatherman Al Roker, journalist Deborah Roberts, financial expert Jean Chatzky, and parenting and relationship expert Dr. Joshua Coleman. In the story, Elmo’s mommy has lost her job and gently communicates the situation to Elmo. His family finds ways to save money by, for example, eating in at home more often or borrowing movies from the library instead of going to the theater. And while they won’t be able to buy everything they “want,” they’ll still work together to get what they “need”.

Al Roker, Deborah Roberts, and Elmo
Al Roker and Deborah Roberts with Elmo.
photo by Gil Vaknin


The special also includes documentary footage of families and their children who are living through difficult economic challenges. Through the family stories, viewers can learn that even when times are tough, there are ways families can feel grounded and keep having fun with limited resources - simply by sharing quality time together.


According to Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Vice President of Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop, “Families Stand Together provides positive strategies and models behavior for parents and care providers to support the entire family during insecure times. The strategies are also designed so that they can be easily integrated into families’ everyday routines.”

Jean Chatzky also explains the need for such a program. “In these difficult financial times, we find that parents often lack the words to explain what is going on to their children, and that prevents them from having the necessary conversations. Through Families Stand Together, we’re able to give the families profiled in the special — and the many others watching from home — the tools they need.”


Beyond the primetime special, Sesame Workshop extends the initiative by providing additional resources online, in print, and into local communities to help guide families during these tough times. Sesame Workshop is working with PBS stations and community organizations in 32 key markets to promote local screenings and to deliver 200,000 bi-lingual educational outreach kits nationwide. The materials will consist of a bilingual (English/Spanish) a DVD featuring video clips from the primetime special, a printed children’s story, and a parent/caregiver guide providing positive strategies to help families cope with the feelings and stresses during economic insecurity.

1Demos & the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, Brandeis University. (2007). By a Thread. Retrieved March 11, 2009 from