Camellia Network was founded by brand strategist Isis Dallis Keigwin and best-selling author and foster mother Vanessa Diffenbaugh (I just finished reading her book The Language of Flowers and it was incredible! The best recount of foster care I have ever read in a novel). In late 2010, these long-time friends with very different personal and professional backgrounds decided to combine their expertise and passions for good and set out to revolutionize the way youth transitioning out of foster care in this country were viewed and supported.
With a remarkably generous heart, Vanessa donated the advance earnings of her best-selling novel The Language of Flowers to get them off the ground. With a brave spirit, Isis left a wildly successful career as a Vice President at one of the world’s leading advertising and public relations firms to develop the strategy and lead the organization.
The two believed that if they could bring these young people out of the shadows, celebrate who they are and what they are aspiring to achieve, and then give everyday people and organizations across the country a simple way to lend their support and resources, that they could dramatically improve the outcomes for foster youth transitioning out of care in this country. Thanks to the help of a small but mighty group of early funders and believers, the two were able to prove their theory of change through a successful pilot program in 2011. Encouraged and inspired by their early success, the two, along with their small but mighty team, are now excited to launch Camellia Network.
Camellia Network harnesses the power of new technology to connect youth “aging out” (a term used when at the age of eighteen the state is no longer responsible for these individuals and many of them become homeless) of the foster care system with a community of resources, opportunities, encouragement and support. Youth have profiles on the site, giving them a place to express themselves, share their goals for the future and articulate what they need to be successful. Individuals and companies from across the country are able to collectively provide the support these young people lack by offering up doses of encouragement, career advice, professional connections, and financial support to help them navigate their way into adulthood.
This innovative platform is the first of its kind in the child welfare sector, and highly reputable and respected thought leaders are already singing their praises:
“For young people who have overcome unimaginable circumstances, a kind word, a small gift or help with an unexpected need can mean the difference between staying on the path or giving up. The Camellia Network has created an elegant and powerful way for people from all walks of life to become part of a community of support to youth aging out of foster care, and to reassure them that they are not alone, we see their potential, and they deserve the amazing future they are building for themselves.” –Teri Kook, Director of Child Welfare, Stuart Foundation
“For over twenty years, state and local governments have been trying to help foster youth make a successful transition to independence as adults. Progress has been painfully slow. The Camellia Network is the most exciting new approach to helping foster youth make a successful transition to that I know of. They are approaching the issue from an entirely new angle, harnessing the enormous potential of the Internet. It could revolutionize the field.” –Michael Wald, Researcher and Educator
“I worked for 30 years in the state legislature and have now dedicated myself to advocating for child welfare policy reform. It is exciting for me to see Camellia Network calling on the public to be part of the solution, and making it easy for them to do so. While we are making strides with policy at the institutional level, they are getting at the heart of what these kids really need in real time.” –John Burton, Former CA State Senator, Founder John Burton Foundation
In the Victorian-era Language of Flowers, the camellia means my destiny is in your hands. Camellia Network is named after this flower to emphasize the founders’ belief in the interconnectedness of humanity; a reminder that the success or failure of these young people is directly tied to our own.
Learn more about how you can get involved.