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Robert E. McCartney, MSW, “Rob,” is the Chief Executive Officer for The James Barry-Robinson Institute, historically known as The Barry Robinson Center, a behavioral health system in Norfolk, Virginia. Rob has led the growth of The James Barry-Robinson Institute to be recognized internationally for the work that they provide military youth and their families. Under Mr. McCartney’s leadership, the “Institute” has also experienced significant growth in their foster care program and has become a leader in Hampton Roads in the treatment of substance abuse for youth and young adults. Rob has also been instrumental in the development and opening of Next Step To Success, a high-priority initiative to address chronic poverty in Norfolk.

The Barry Robinson Center has transitioned from a typical residential treatment center to a premier program whose primary mission is to help military-connected children and their families heal. Since 2013, The Barry Robinson Center has provided care to over 500 military children, adolescents, and their families from over 35 states and four countries. Rob will tell you, “We don’t get it right all the time, but we do get it right most of the time. Go look at the smiles.”

As the son of a CPA and a Professor of Nursing, Rob says he was destined to become a social worker. He started his journey of helping young people while in college, working at a juvenile detention facility. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, Rob took time off to see the United States, but after several years of what his mother called “wanderlust,” he returned to Michigan State to earn his Master’s in Social Work.

The first half of his career was clinically focused, working in a variety of settings, including foster care, residential, hospitals, and outpatient, serving clients from ages 5 to 85. Those who know Rob will tell you he has never truly grown up, and that is why he always migrates back to working with children. In the second half of his career, Rob has focused on clinical and operational leadership. He has served as a Clinical Supervisor, Executive Director, Regional Director of Operations, Chief Operations Officer, and Chief Executive Officer. Rob has experienced success in starting up new programs and turning around struggling ones. He credits this success to the teams he has been able to develop. “I hire good people and try to stay out of their way.”

Rob’s professional life has been strongly influenced by his personal life: father of two boys, divorced, remarried, stepfather to two girls the same age as his sons, “The Brady Bunch without Alice,” and now “Papa.” Knowing he and Shirley (his wife) would have four kids in college at the same time, Rob moved to administration. The influence of family followed Rob to Hampton Roads, as he was closer to his grandchildren, two of whom are military-connected, their father being a Marine. When Rob assumed leadership at The Barry Robinson Center, one of his goals was to have a program good enough for his grandkids. He believes he has succeeded. He tells parents, “Kid tested. Grandparent approved.”

In summary, one of Rob’s colleagues says it best: “Rob is a compassionate leader who puts the clinical needs of children and families first. He has strong operational skills and can become laser-focused when needed. We have been successful because of his leadership.”

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