Profiles in Foster Courage: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

“Profiles in Foster Courage” is a series of audio interviews dedicated to extraordinary individuals whose early life was spent in foster care, and to those who experienced first-hand the trauma and determination of those individuals whose early years were fraught with neglect.

Vanessa's familyVanessa Diffenbaugh’s is a story of great talent, compassion and destiny. Not only is she a young, bestselling author, she is also a mom, a foster mom, a wife and the co-founder of a nationwide non-profit organization called the Camellia Network.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born to be a writer.  Her debut novel “The Language of Flowers” was an immediate hit and received international critical acclaim.  The book was on The New York Times best seller list for months, and was translated into more than 40 languages.  It is the story of a troubled young woman who can only connect with the world around her through the language of flowers. The book comes with a companion dictionary of the Victorian language of flowers, which Vanessa revised and updated.

The novel is not autobiographical as many readers may surmise. Vanessa grew up in a loving family and was never a foster child. The power and the pathos of her prose stem from her first-hand dealings with the foster system in Northern California and the foster children it cares for.

During the interview, Vanessa shares with us a wealth of thoughts, examples and experiences she has had while caring for neglected or displaced children. From the level of love and trust one should expect from a child who has been moved from family to family, often separated from his/her siblings, to how the system can be improved by looking at systems in the Netherlands and in other parts of the world. Her intuition, her sensitivity and her extraordinary compassion give her words an invaluable perspective.

“Camellia” in the language of flowers means, “My destiny is in your hands.” Or is it ” Your destiny is in my hands?”

Thank you Vanessa for allowing me to share your story!

Lin Weaver is a media journalist and a radio and TV Producer. She is a Trustee of the UC Davis Foundation and a Member of the College of Biological Sciences Advisory Council.

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