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August 13, 2013 > Best selling author will visit Hayward to address foster care

Best selling author will visit Hayward to address foster care

Submitted By Sally Thomas and Heidi Ontiveros

The Victorian language of flowers was used to signal romantic intentions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones in the novel "The Language of Flowers," they are more useful to communicate grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh's moving and elegantly written debut novel, creates a vivid portrait of a young woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past as a foster care child.

Welcome Vanessa back to the Bay Area and hear from representatives of organizations that support youth transitioning from foster care, including the Camellia Network, a group that she cofounded. In The Language of Flowers, Camellia means "My Destiny is in Your Hands."

Born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, Vanessa Diffenbaugh studied creative writing and education at Stanford. She went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children, including a former foster child currently attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship.

In conjunction with the World Book Night program, Hayward volunteers distributed 340 free copies of "The Language of Flowers" on April 23 to non-regular readers and readers who pledged to pass along the book to someone who isn't a regular reader or doesn't have access to books. Because "The Language of Flowers" discusses the experience of an 18-year-old girl who has aged out of the foster care system, the Hayward Public Library turned this event into a "Book-to-Action" series to highlight local and national organizations that serve foster youth in the same situation.

On August 17, join Diffenbaugh at Hayward City Hall to learn how to get involved with and support organizations that help foster youth, including:

-The Camellia Network (, co-founded by "The Language of Flowers" author Diffenbaugh, connects youth aging out of foster care to the critical resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood. In the language of flowers, the camellia means "my destiny is in your hands."

-Bay Area Youth Centers (BAYC)/Sunny Hills Services ( is based in Hayward and delivers programs designed to support successful transitions to adulthood by the helping young people identify and develop skills that will enable them to make meaningful contributions to the world.

Beyond Emancipation (B:E) ( supports current and former foster and probation youth in Alameda County to make successful transitions to adulthood. Founded in 1995, B:E now serves over 1,000 youth ages 16 to 24 annually.

First Place for Youth ( provides affordable housing and supportive services to former foster youth, and today is considered a national model for providing permanent housing for high risk youth.

Alameda County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) ( provides one-on-one court advocacy to children who are dependents of the juvenile court, many of whom have been removed from their families due to abuse. Alameda County CASA recruits, trains, and supervises adult volunteers who are appointed by a juvenile court judge to speak for the best interests of the child. They also help the child secure a safe, permanent home.

Soulciety ( enriches and empowers the lives of at-risk and underprivileged youth by promoting physical, mental, and emotional growth and well-being.

Adopt a Special Kid (AASK) ( has promoted permanency for foster youth and placed thousands of children with loving families since 1973.

For more information, call (510) 881-7700 or visit

Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Saturday, Aug 17
2 p.m.
Hayward City Hall
City Council Chambers
777 B St., Hayward
(510) 881-7700

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