The Barry Robinson Center

Our History

Norfolk businessman Frederick J. Robinson passes away. His will stipulates that money be used to create a Catholic Charitable Trust to start a “Home and School of the Arts and Trades for Orphan Boys.”


By the time a suitable piece of land is purchased and buildings erected, the need for orphanages had diminished. Instead, the James Barry Robinson Home for Boys becomes a Catholic middle school.

Operated by Catholic priests living on site, the school is open to boys of all faiths facing various challenges. Some are orphans and others come from families with financial difficulties or struggle in traditional schools. The school is also a farm, and even during the depression, students and staff enjoyed plenty of fresh food.

The 11th and 12th grades are added, with the first graduation held in 1962. While small, the school boasts strong football and basketball teams that, for a time, compete successfully against much bigger local schools.

1933- 1977
1977- 1986

The school is renamed The James Barry-Robinson Institute and serves boys aged 12-18 experiencing emotional, behavioral, educational and social problems and who need special services not provided by their schools or communities.

The Catholic Charitable Trust partners with a local children’s hospital to expand The James Barry-Robinson Institute. Renamed The Barry Robinson Center, the redesigned residential treatment centers retains and renovates the historic colonial-style buildings and adds five new buildings, including three dormitories, a multi-use activities building with a regulation-size gym and a new cafeteria and infirmary. The Center serves boys and girls ages 6-18.


The Barry-Robinson Center reverts back to the Catholic Charitable Trust. The behavioral health system for youth includes a 72-bed psychiatric residential treatment facility, in-home counseling services, treatment foster care, independent living and prevention services.

The Most Reverend Francis X. DiLorenzo, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, recognizes The Barry Robinson Center as an independent Catholic institution. The Center returns to its faith-based roots while continuing to welcome residents of all faiths and backgrounds.


Rob McCartney joins the organization as CEO. The Barry Robinson Center becomes a TRICARE approved provider.

The Barry Robinson Center creates a new position, Spiritual Life Coordinator. The Spiritual Life Coordinator works with children of any faith or no faith. This person is available to the students on an ongoing basis. The students at The Center have the opportunity to attend weekly prayer services, led by students, and religious-based activities, which are all on a voluntary basis.


The Barry Robinson Center becomes the nation’s first residential treatment center to only treat military-connected youth.

The organization earns its initial three-year accreditation from CARF International for its residential treatment, counseling/outpatient, intensive outpatient treatment, and treatment foster care programs. The Treatment Foster Care program celebrates 25 years of service.

2020- 2022

Beginning early in 2020, the organization successfully responded to multiple and changing challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic, taking action to prioritize the safety of employees, residents, foster families and other stakeholders.

Please contact us to learn more about our services or to refer a youth in need