Born into the foster care system and adopted at age 3 by a single mother who later passed away, Dr. Kay Ramsey ’17, PhD in Public Policy and Administration, understands the potentially devastating effects of an unstable youth.
For the foster care population, ages 16 to 24, Ramsey explains, there is a significant increase in high school dropout rates and low matriculation into college. “So I wanted to be able to, for myself, shatter a lot of those stereotypes and say, ‘Yes, I was born into foster care. Yes, these things happened to me, but I will not let that be my destiny. I will not become a statistic,’” she says.
In her early 20s, after the death of her adoptive mother, Ramsey experienced homelessness until the supervisor at her new job paid her first month’s rent. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, joining the mere 2.5% of foster care youth who graduate from a four-year college. This eventually turned into a double master’s degree.
Ramsey attributes her resilience and perseverance to having strong mentors—such as Joe Rouzan, a retired police officer who is now the executive director of a nonprofit. “I saw him from afar, and he really had it together,” she says. “Joe has been a lifetime mentor for me, 15 years plus, and I know I can always call on him for guidance and support.”
Her higher education journey eventually led her to Walden. Graduating with her doctorate in 2017, Ramsey is now executive branch director for Bethany Christian Services of Southern California, which seeks to protect children, empower youth, and strengthen families through quality social services.
Being a multidimensional change agent is about more than offering physical resources; it’s about offering hope, too. Today, through Bethany’s partnerships with various organizations, Ramsey provides support and mentorship to a full scope of marginalized populations. This includes children cycling through foster care, as well as fathers returning home from prison, domestic violence survivors, and, more recently, refugees and immigrants who have endured extraordinary trauma.
For Ramsey, it all boils down to being a role model for others, like her mentors were for her. “We need inspirational people,” she says. “My Walden dissertation was about, ‘How often do we need to be inspired?’ We need it every day, and not just if you’re in foster care. Just as humans, we need to be inspired every single day. That’s what it means to shatter and disqualify stereotypes.”