Portrait of Kym Watso

Kimberly Watson

Kimberly (Kym) Hardy Watson, is the Chief Operating Officer at Graham Windham Services for Children and Families, in New York City.  Kym has been named Graham’s next President and CEO, a role she will fully assume over the course of 2021 in a well-planned transition with our current President & CEO, Jess Dannhauser.  Founded in 1806, Graham Windham is the oldest non-sectarian child caring organization in the United States. Kym joined the Graham Windham team in 2010 having worked at various organizations from direct practice to the executive leadership in foster care, preventive, adolescent residential care and juvenile justice programs for over three decades. With extensive professional experience in in the nonprofit sector of the NYC child welfare system, Kym is directly responsible for leading and supervising the respective leaders of Graham’s Human Resources, Information Technology, Administrative Services, Facilities Management and Purchasing Departments.  In conjunction with the other executive leaders, she formulates strategies and interventions that directly advance the organization’s mission and vision, and cross-organizational planning and resource deployment. Additionally, Kym’s work focuses on assuring a healthy organizational culture, involving workforce priorities, diversity, equity and inclusion, trauma & toxic stress, and equipping of Graham’s emerging and developing leadership.

A true daughter of Brooklyn, New York, Kym was brought-up in Brownsville-East New York. Her parents found a way for her to attend East Flatbush elementary and middle schools out of their commitment to her education.  In middle school, she earned a scholarship to attend a public high school in Edina Minnesota through the “A Better Chance” program.  Upon graduating from Edina-East Secondary School, Kym returned to New York to attend Fordham University, where Kym obtained a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Spanish Language and Culture.  Kym aspired to be a bi-lingual broadcast journalist. However, a summer job with St. Christopher’s Home (now, SCO Family of Services) changed the trajectory of her life, launching her into a life-long career in children and family services. “I absolutely fell in love with my kids and families and when the time came for me to leave for graduate school, I delayed the entry because I thought it was unfair of me to leave after I had gained their trust. It has been 37 summers since that time and I am still in love!”

Kym’s connection to Graham’s work and the injustice facing the kids and families impacted by systems comes from a personal perspective. At eight years old, Kym and her 3 siblings entered the foster care system. The family, affected by alcoholism and family violence, was further impacted by the events of the day (men in the family and community were drafted to fight in Viet Nam; labor strikes in the construction industry to promote fair wage and racial equity led to unemployment). Fortunately, their stay in care was brief but the memory and lessons learned from that time are long lived. While Kym’s experience was favorable, other siblings who had been in a separate foster home did not have the same experience. “I have always held both realities in my head when working with families. It is a very difficult thing for families to open themselves to help. When they do, the help they receive should address their needs and concerns in a compassionate, non-judgmental and humane way.”

As an ordained minister and pastor of a developing Christian fellowship, Kym has over twenty years of volunteerism experience in the community, working primarily with people in the recovery, incarcerated and re-entering community. In collaboration with Deputy Warden Sandra Langston, Kym created and implemented Project Reconciliation for mothers and daughters incarcerated together at Rikers Island (Rose M. Singer Center).  Later, components of that model were used in work that Kym and her team did working with women incarcerated at correctional centers in Vermont.

Kym holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Baruch College, CUNY, and an undergraduate degree from Fordham University. She participated in the inaugural class of the Strell Executive Leadership Fellows program at the Silberman School of Social Work (Hunter College).  In 2018, Kym received citations from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NY State Assemblymembers Erik Martin-Dilan and Latrice Walker, and New York City Councilmember Robert Cornegy for the work she has led in the community. In 2017, Kym was interviewed and appears in the Netflix production of the Kalief Browder Story, describing the injustices facing families affected by the crack epidemic and the child welfare system during the 1980s. 1n 2019, Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York, recognized Kym in their “Women in Human Services Hall of Fame.”

Kym is a member of the Black Agency Executives, Council of Family & Child Caring Agencies’ Steering Committee and United for Brownsville.

She and her husband Gary have proudly parented six children and are the doting grandparents of six grandchildren.