Foster children have a new support system to turn to when they turn 18 (21 in some states) and age out of the foster care system.
Social website Camellia Network offers a support group made up of experienced foster care parents and former foster children. The site allows users to update their statuses with stories, make comments, and even donate or ask for funds.
Launched by friends and co-founders Isis Keigwin and Vanessa Diffenbaugh in the summer of 2012, the Camellia Network aims to provide newly stranded foster teens with a community that cares about them.
“There are thousands of people who would be willing to help them out,” Keigwin, a former marketing executive, told Mashable. “So we thought, what if we use tech to connect these youth with all of these resources we know exist?”
When a foster child ages out, they lose their system-provided housing and are left to start their lives with little or no resources. This happens to about 30,000 teens a year, according to the Camellia Network.
Out of those 30,000 a year, only 3 percent will graduate college, and some 60 percent will have children within four years of exiting the system – children who will become even more susceptible to end up in foster care, according to Keigwin.
There are several ways to get involved with the Camellia Network:
- Posting job and/or school information or other resourceful information on the site.
- Purchasing gifts – ranging anywhere from resume paper to a new laptop – from a young adult’s registry
- Sharing stories and encouragement through status updates and comments on the site
After co-founder Diffenbaugh, a former foster care mother, found success from her New York Times best selling novel, “The Language of Flowers,” she chose to use the opportunity to reach out to the many teens dealing with the transition of aging out.
So far, the site has directly helped 62 young people and is looking to expand to the private sector for help in providing participants with benefits like school supplies and job support, Keigwin said.
Check out Keigwin and Diffenbaug's video where they talk about starting the organization and some of the young people its already succeeding in helping.