New Social Network Aims to Fill Void Left by Foster Care System
The Camellia Network, a social network launched over the summer, wants to provide young people who age out of the foster care system with the support and resources of a family.
When foster children turn 18 (or 21 in a few states), the system stops providing them housing if they have not been permanently adopted by a family. This adds up to roughly 30,000 teens and young adults being kicked out of their homes each year, with slim or no resources to get on their feet and begin adulthood.
According to Camellia Network co-founder Isis Keigwin, the prospects are grim for the system’s alums: One-quarter will end up homeless, one-quarter will be incarcerated, just 3% will earn college degrees, and 60% will have children within four years, who will be twice as likely as their parents to end up in the foster care system.
Keigwin, a former marketing exec, started the network with her friend Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a veteran foster care mother. After Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers, based on her experiences as a foster care parent, hit the New York Times’ Best Sellers list she wanted to use the opportunity to create lasting change for the community of kids who age out.
“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,” Keigwin told Mashable. “There are thousands of people who would be willing to help them out. So we thought, what if we use tech to connect these youth with all of these resources that we know exist?”
The Camellia Network is part crowdsourcing platform, part support network. Foster care alums share their stories in status updates to receive words of encouragement, or solicit funds for school tuition or supplies.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Camellia Network, you can purchase a gift — ranging from dorm sheets to an interview outfit to a laptop — from a young adult’s registry. If you don’t have money to give, you can leave words of encouragement on status updates about upcoming job interviews or tests.
“Part of our goal is to offer the larger community a way to help these really ambitious, inspiring 18- and 19-year-olds who are products of a flawed system that wasn’t their faults,” Keigwin says.
During a pilot program the network ran last year, the wishlists of all 33 participants were met through the contributions of 212 donors, who gave an average of $47.
Keigwin says the team is now looking toward the private sector to offer informational job interviews for members of the network or to offer perks such as branded school supplies.
Do you think this social network can offer resources for youngsters abandoned by the foster care system? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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