Tap Into a Social Network that Can Save the Life of a Foster Child

You can use your iPhone to look up recipe ideas for tonight’s dinner, your tablet to purchase movie tickets, your BlackBerry to schedule a meeting, your notebook to update your Facebook status. But did you know you can also use your favorite digital device to substantially improve – and maybe even save – the life of a young person who has aged out of the foster system? Well, you can, courtesy of a new social network called the Camellia Network.

According to the network’s site, in most states, foster youth are forced out of the foster system when they turn 18 (or 21 in some states), even if they have nowhere to go, and:

  • 25% of those youths will become homeless within the first two months of their release
  • 25% will become incarcerated
  • 60% will have children within 4 years of their release – and those children are twice as likely to also be placed in foster care
  • Less than 3% will earn a college degree

In order to create the network, a former marketing executive, Isis Keigwin, joined forced with her friend Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a former foster care mother and author of the novel The Language of Flowers, which is based upon her true experiences mothering foster children. It was Keigwin’s reading of her friend’s touching book that impelled her to make a difference in the lives of those children pushed out the system – and thus, the two women created Camellia Network.

Camellia provides tons of resources for youths in need including:

  • Transitional Living Program for homeless families and youths who have aged out of foster care, allowing the, the time and resources to become financially and emotionally stable to eventually become independent.
  • Informational Interviews about the financial industry for assisting the young people to search for jobs in this field including schooling them on what college coursework is needed in order to land these types of jobs.
  • Informational Interviews about the legal field and how to search and interview for jobs in this industry.
  • Personal Care Assistance: Camellia is always collecting new personal care items to help young take care of themselves, and feel their very best. From grooming tools to kitchen utensils to food, the Network is open to distributing any type of item it can to help out a former foster youth in need.

The resources that the Camellia Network provide stretch across the country, so kids all over the place can find the help they need.

Says Keigwin:

“We wanted to find a way to solve the biggest problem, which is that foster children are completely disconnected when they reach a certain age. There are thousands of people who would be willing to help them out. So we thought: what if we use [technology] to connect these youth with all of these resources that we know exist?”

In addition to the aforementioned resources, foster care alumnus can use the network as a platform for sharing their experiences having gone through the system, connect with others who are going through the same issues, and even creating fundraising campaigns to gather funds for school, shelter, or other things they may need in order to move forward with their new lives outside of the system.

How can you help?

Visitors of the Camellia Network seeking to join the effort can purchase a gift on the site – from clothes to bed linens to computers to books to money, all donations are accepted. Many of young adults on the site have even created registries of items they need from which a donor can choose from. Those who choose not to give monetary gifts are encouraged to donate gifts in the form of hope: words of encouragement, interview tips, prayers, and so on.

So far, the Camellia Network has proven a success. Last year, the effort met in full the wishlists of 33 young people through the donations of 212 people, each who gifted an average amount of about $50.

Word of the Camellia Network is spreading and has already received accolades from some celebrities such as Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah Winfrey.