Celebrating the life of Robyn Boustead - the ultimate children's advocate

30 Comments | Posted

robynThe world of children's mental health lost a true champion with the passing of Robyn Boustead, who I am pretty sure holds the record for having helped steer more system of care grants than just about any one in the close to 30 years I have been involved with this adventure known as the Child Mental Health Initiative. I first met Robyn in the 1980's. She was an "expert" and I was a freshly scrubbed "new kid" on the scene. Didn't matter one bit to Robyn. "So Scooter (her pet name for me), you're working with the Willie M. lawsuit in North Carolina are ya? How's that workin' out for ya?" As with all of her greetings, there was warmth and an irrepressible and always mischievous twinkle in her eye. She knew so much but never lorded it over you. She had the uncanny ability to take her time with sharing her wisdom, creating a space for you to share yours so that you always felt on equal footing, even though at the drop of a hat she could run rings around you.
Health was a challenge for Robyn these past few years, yet it didn't slow her down one bit. Oxygen tank in tow, she was ever present at conferences, grant site assessments and in correspondence, sharing her experience when asked. She was the epitome of what it means to be an alum of a system of care effort.
For me, there is no better way to pay tribute to Robyn than through the paintings of Edward Hopper in this video put together by Salsamendi. Edward Hopper was a prominent American realist painter. Both in his urban and rural scenes, his spare and finely calculated renderings reflected his personal vision of modern American life. For some reason, his paintings remind me of Robyn and her wonderful middle America sensibilities - full of life, full of comfort with anyone, in any situation, from anywhere. She had a passion for a system of care approach to life - always trying to figure out how to make it better for kids and families. Robyn embodied what it means to be a true believer in this work – a true champion that will be missed and remembered by oh so many.

Happy trails Robyn and much love my friend. Get folks organized up there. I understand it's a pretty strengths-based scene. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, laughter and indomitable spirit with me over so many years.

Enjoy the video folks and be sure to take your time with it, free from distraction. I kinda think Robyn wouldn't want it any other way.


For Network faithful, if you knew Robyn and want to share a few words, please do so at the bottom of this page. We will pass along your joys and remembrances to Robyn's family. To visit her memorial site, click here.


  1. Ellen Kagen's avatar
    Ellen Kagen
    | Permalink
    I'm still trying to process that Robyn's spirit is no longer with us here on earth. I met Robyn in the early 80's when the idea of Systems of Care was just that...an idea. But not for Robyn. No, she saw it with every fiber of her body. She was one of those people who just" got it."...and instead of being arrogant and snub...she just wanted everyone to feel the excitement of the possibility... the strength in the vision...and she just drew you in! I wanted to be around her...to learn from her...to listen to her stories...to be able to live with inspiration like she did. I didn't know much...but I did know that Robyn lived her values....she was truly passionate and truly aligned in everything she did. I followed her career from Ohio, to Missouri to Maine and back to Missouri. I watched how she coached those around her (including me!) and how she delighted in seeing others achieve. She would write a grant (and it would be just so "right on") and then turn over the leadership to others...Amazing. How many people with her gifts do that? How many people believe in others like she believed in all of us?

    My most memorable "last" time with Robyn was sitting on the banks of the Missouri River with Patsy Carter, eating from paper plates some of the most delicious pad thai I've ever had....listening to wonderful guitar music while the bonfire burned brightly and the sun set in the west. That photo is a treasure I will keep in my heart forever.

    Robyn's spirit will live on...its just over the horizon. She is so missed. Love you Robyn, Ellen
  2. Barb Scheidegger's avatar
    Barb Scheidegger
    | Permalink
    On a phone call about 20 years ago I was directed to Robyn when I was reaching out for help and support. That phone call was the beginning of a 20 years journey. She connected me with family organizations and others. Which open the door of opportunities for me to give back to other families. Pay forward what she gave me.

    It was a honor and privilege to know Robyn as a great friend, advocate and teacher. She was a great role model with her abilities to connect families members with professionals working together in partnership. She was a leader in family involvement. Being part of the first Children's Mental Health Week. Always including and insisting on family voice at the table. She did this with a passion to improve the lives of children/youth and their families. In a very humble way of giving without desiring personal gain. Never stopping even when it was physically hard and never complaining.
    I loved the phone calls when she said, "Barb I need a favor and I need it is this week." I could never say no to Robyn, because I felt it was a honor.

    Robyn lives on through those of us she taught and the ones that we teach. Robyn, you will keep on giving and giving.

    Thank you God for bringing Robyn into my life.

    Barb Scheidegger
  3. Richard Donner's avatar
    Richard Donner
    | Permalink
    I met Robyn in the early days of CASSP and have worked with her over the years in Missouri, Ohio, Maine and back to Missouri. She and I together with a number of "fun" advocates always sat around and told stories and laughed. I will always remember her laugh and how she was always up for a new joke.
    She was a true advocate through and through and got the parent involvement principal long before most. She never forgot who and why we were doing this work and was one of the best advocates and teachers I knew.
    No matter what was going on she never wavered from the involvement of families in the movement to change mental health services.
    Kids and families were always in her heart and soul. She helped more families directly and indirectly and the world of children's mental health is better because of her.
    I will miss her as she taught me a lot and was always a delight to spend time with.
    To her children know that she loved you unconditionally- my prayers go out to you with her loss.
    I know her soul will live on and I can only say thanks Robyn for being a special friend.
    Richard Donner
  4. Lenore Behar's avatar
    Lenore Behar
    | Permalink
    Many of us knew Robyn from the early 1980's, when we were all starting out on our mission to improve services for children and their families. We were so dedicated, and she was at the top of the dedication heap, with all her commitment and energy. Periodically, we would question our mission, saying, "What if we are wrong about this system of care stuff?" And Robyn would never waiver and she was right--the mission is right and strong, and it's people like Robyn that got us to where we are today. Robyn, we all owe you more thanks than we could ever express and much love too.
  5. Joan Dodge's avatar
    Joan Dodge
    | Permalink
    It is always a shock that someone like Robyn who has been such a wonderful colleague and advocate for children's mental health is no longer with us. I always loved talking with Robyn at various meetings and catching up on her current work as she continued to work in spite of the health issues. Robyn, you will be very missed by everyone!
  6. Barbara Huff's avatar
    Barbara Huff
    | Permalink
    Robyn and I met in the late 1980's during the Child Adolescent Service System (CASSP) program years. She was working in Missouri's Department of Mental Health while I was the director of the statewide family organization in Kansas. It was obvious from our first meeting that we shared a commitment to children with mental health challenges and their families. After many hours of conversation we realized we were truly "cut from the same mid-western cloth" sharing many of the same values about children, families and systems of care.

    I remember Robyn invited Richard Donner to Missouri to do some case management training and guess what? Robyn had insured two things that were pretty extraordinary at that time. First, she made sure Richard would co-train with a family member who ended up being me. Second, she arranged for a large number of family members to be participants in the training. She was ahead of her time in creating standards for family involvement. She also knew, understood and continued to be interested in family / provider partnerships. She realized the difficulty in those partnerships and lived her professional life being a model partner.

    Robyn supported the family movement from Missouri to Ohio to Maine and back to Missouri, while also supporting the work of the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health. In addition, Robyn supported the development of state and local family organizations wherever she lived.

    One evening while sitting on the floor of Robyn's bungalow in Ohio we were having a conversation about our mothers. They had both attended women's colleges. As the conversation proceeded we realized our mother's had attended the same small women's college, William Woods in Fulton Mo. We called my mother who was still living and asked her if she had known Robyn's mother. My mom said she not only remembered Robyn's mother but indicated that they had been good friends. We loved that story.

    A little over a year ago Robyn and I were scheduled to work together on a Federal site visit in Cincinnati. During the site visit Robyn became very ill and was hospitalized. It seemed as though her health took a downward spiral after that trip. While having dinner during a conference in Orlando last summer Robyn shared with me how difficult the trip had been and she realized it was probably her last national conference. Sadly it was.

    To Robyn's children, your mom was one of the finest advocates I have ever known. She encouraged us all to continue working for systems change and not to get discouraged. She fought her health battles much the same way.

    She loved you both and was so proud of you and yes, about those grandchildren.....hers were the best, smartest and cutest. All you had to do was ask and the pictures came popping up on her phone.

    I will miss her always.
    Barbara Huff
  7. Brigitte Manteuffel's avatar
    Brigitte Manteuffel
    | Permalink
    Scott, what a beautiful tribute. I will miss seeing Robyn at meetings. I will miss her solid, stable presence as someone at the center of so many system of care friends.
  8. Theresa Turgeon's avatar
    Theresa Turgeon
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    I am so sorry to hear of Robyn's passing. While we haven't seen each other in years we did keep in touch, sort of. We met when she was here in Maine and we became friends. Not only was she my friend she also became a friend of my family. And we did meet often after work for a drink or two, which was always fun. Do miss you Robyn.
  9. Kim Williams's avatar
    Kim Williams
    | Permalink
    I had the privilege of meeting Robyn initially at my very first national conference. the National Federation, back in 2002. The thing that initially and continued to captivate me was her spunk, spirit and smile!

    Over the years, as we continued to "bump" into each other, we often joked about Midwestern funnies and enjoyed being Moms. My last real time with her was during a Site Visit two years ago, where she led our team and impressed the heck out of me, as our fearless leader. It was the most time I had ever had with her and I will relish it forever!

    Whether she was ill or not, Robyn had a penchant for making others feel better. She ALWAYS had a kind word and usually a good joke to make anyone laugh or smile.....I will miss her!
  10. Rusty Clark's avatar
    Rusty Clark
    | Permalink
    You’ve been such an amazing advocate for children, youth, and families! You’ve approached the essential issues with strategic collaborative planning and with such passion.
    You were one of the early parent/child advocates to see the critical importance of our research and program development efforts on transition to adulthood issues. We’ve always appreciated your support of the Transition to Independence Process (TIP) model as a way of improving the progress and outcomes of youth and young adults with EBD.
    We miss you my dear friend, colleague, and advocate.
    Peace, Rusty
  11. Sandra Spencer's avatar
    Sandra Spencer
    | Permalink
    Scott and others, what wonderful words you have all shared about our Robyn. I met Robyn many years ago as a new family member trying to understand what systems of care was all about and why I should be so involved.Robyn put it to me plain and simple "Let them ask you what you and families want and need and then give it to them straight." I still hear her words of encouragement and support. Robyn we will miss you and will try to continue on in a way that keeps your legacy alive. Rest in peace my friend.
  12. Sybil Goldman's avatar
    Sybil Goldman
    | Permalink
    I feel so privileged to have known Robyn. She was one of those special people in our field. She truly cared about children, young people, and their families. She wanted life to be better for them, and she worked hard in any way she could to make that happen. She always made friends and colleagues feel so good, happy to see us; she was eager to hang out and connect. She loved to laugh, never complained, was always humble -- she was genuine to the core. Robyn and I both had musician sons - she always wanted to check on Josh and see what he was doing and would share what Seth was doing. She was convinced they would be soul mates around their work and their commitment to new forms of music , and we as their mothers were soul mates. I like many others will miss Robyn enormously. I know her spirit will continue to shine amongst us all.
  13. Liz's avatar
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    I would like to share for a moment about the personal Robyn I am grateful to have known. 9 years ago, when my son TJ died, Robyn was one of the first people to contact me and ask what she could do. Kathy Berg sent frequent flier miles to my youngest daughter's best friend so she could come home to support my daughter through the funeral. Pat Baker got on the first plane and flew to a VERY cold North Dakota to be there with me through the funeral. Robyn drove from Columbia to Ft. Riley, Kansas to be there with me through the memorial service. She held my hand and made sure I had something to wipe my eyes. No drama, no show, just support.

    In July of this year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Robyn called to let me know that my timing could have been better, and that I was suppose to be at the Training Institute. We then share what it was like to think about not seeing out grandchildren grow to be young adults. Brady and Emerson were her pride and joy.

    Last Friday, as Robyn and I talked on the phone for the one hour they let her "out from under the oxygen mask", she was concerned about how I was doing in my recovery from surgery and assured me that, even though it wasn't a race, if she got to Heaven before me, she would give TJ a hug and let him know his Mom still loves him. Then she asked if she could have a two week extension on a report she had due....and we both laughed.

    I can hear Robyn's laugh as she must be saying from Heaven.....the tributes are nice...but "why didn't they say all those nice things while I was still alive?"

    Rest in Peace Robyn, you are loved.
  14. Andy Hunt's avatar
    Andy Hunt
    | Permalink
    What a beautiful tribute to a champion for children's mental health and systems change. I didn't get to know Robyn well, but I do remember seeing her at all the SOC grantee meetings and Training Institutes I've been to over the past 10 years. The respect she was given by everyone was clear, as was the respect and attention she seemed to show to others. Her impact on those around her that she knew, and to those countless children and families she did not personally know will last. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and loved ones. May she be an inspiration for us all to live, learn, love and leave a legacy during the time we have to walk on this earth.
  15. Andrea Aderton's avatar
    Andrea Aderton
    | Permalink
    Robyn was a delightfully entertaining person with a quick wit and metaphors for situations that made us laugh for hours. She provided us much guidance and support through Circle of HOPE system of care as well as Healthy Transistions. She has been a champion in our state to move the trauma informed care efforts forward along with countless other projects. She has made a tremendous impact on the lives of many and will be greatly missed.
  16. Gladys Tiffany's avatar
    Gladys Tiffany
    | Permalink
    Not only the paintings, but the Tom Wait music is so perfect for her. Don't know how many times we sat in a restaurant until way late at night talking just like these folks. So poignantly beautiful. Like her life.
  17. Lacy Kendrick Burk's avatar
    Lacy Kendrick Burk
    | Permalink
    I am sad to hear about the passing of a true advocate. I got to work with Robyn in Missouri, as a young person recently from care there. She and LuAnn Reese took time over Christmas break to meet with me and then took a chance in investing in having young people play a large role in helping to develop an important project for youth in transition in Missouri. She was definitely a true advocate for youth involvement, and the youth in Missouri are better for the work that she accomplished. Although we will miss her here, I know she is in a much better place and maybe we will get to have some continued influence from her new residence :) Cheers Robyn, and we'll be seeing you.
  18. Martha Kaufman's avatar
    Martha Kaufman
    | Permalink
    Beautiful tribute to Robyn, Scott. I met Robyn in one of the many grantee meetings a long time ago. She became a work-sister. We shared many common challenges, working in state goverment, trying to figure out how to make SOC work in complex environments, how to help create structures and forums to let the voices of families be heard, being women, and how to stay sane. We talked about a sense of wonder at the goodness and endless possibilities of SOC, excitement about learning from so many great colleagues, happiness in learning from families, and a sense of giddiness at how huge the work was. I was always so happy to see Robyn. We didn't have to explain much to each other, just picked up where we left off. She was an oasis and became a life-long friend - one who made it her business to make the world a better place. And she did.
  19. Conni Wells's avatar
    Conni Wells
    | Permalink
    Robyn will continue to be etched in my soul as one of those irreversible and positive influences. My life and work is better because she lived. Her ability to listen with compassion and fight with passion made her a center post for systems change. As I watched and learned from her, she taught leniency that was wrapped with undeniable nonnegotiables…tolerant to the point of learning but never crossing the line of an allowance that would hurt the families, children, and youth for which she fought. Systems change occurred BECAUSE of her life! I will carry forward her teachings. I will carry forward her passion. I will carry forward her fight. Robyn lives on through those of us she taught.

    Of interest…Robyn left us as the storm of the century moved in. It is almost like America could not contain so much energy at the same time! God bless Robyn’s family for sharing her with us. Thank you God for allowing me to be one of her students.
  20. THRIVE's avatar
    | Permalink
    We mourn the death of an outstanding colleague and friend. A true trauma-informed champion who was a mentor to so many of us in Maine and championed our work. Robyn, we remember you in gratitude and celebrate your life and your work. You left this place a little brighter and a little better. Thank you....
  21. Sheryl Schrepf's avatar
    Sheryl Schrepf
    | Permalink
    Robyn was a trusted colleague who helped all of us do our work better. She and I had the opportunity to work together with USF on Conflict in SOC's. She was a driving force to make this research happen and we learned much about the successful functioning of system of care. I will miss her wisdom and sense of humor.
  22. Arabella Perez's avatar
    Arabella Perez
    | Permalink
    Mourning the death of an outstandig colleague and trauma-informed champion who was a mentor to so many of us in Maine and Missouri and so many other places. Robyn, I will miss you and I'm grateful to have known you. I'm sure that flights of angels are singing you to your rest..... Peace to your family and friends.
  23. Lu Ann Reese's avatar
    Lu Ann Reese
    | Permalink
    I have lost a wonderful mentor but most importantly a true, one of a kind FRIEND. Robyn was one who could recognize an emerging family leader in an instant and her response was always, Go get um. She had a remarkable gift of knowing that a "Leader" did not have to be out in front getting credit for the work. Robyn recognized the most important part was to get information on the table for a group to consider and have dialogue based on those who have come before them and had valuable "Lessons Learned". Robyn spent hours with me, teaching me a little pinch of what she had in her brain. She would then help me better understand the bigger picture so when the window of opportunity opened I would be ready to add my wisdom (actually many times it was Robyn's wisdom). She didn't need a pat on the back, just had to find ways to identify some messengers. I give her all the credit for helping me better understand the "bigger System" our kids and families are involved in but also helping me to stay grounded to how it really is for individual families, children and youth right now. Rest in Peace my friend.
  24. Sylvia Fisher's avatar
    Sylvia Fisher
    | Permalink
    Robyn was vibrant and extraordinary - she made you feel large and special in her presence, which was amazing given the depth and intensity of her personality. She was always warm, welcoming and inviting and her keen and incisive perception was wrapped around her knowing sense of humor. Robyn was unflinching in her commitment to the work of systems of care and her efforts resulted in truly substantive gains in the well-being of children, youth and families. On a personal note, I will always remember that whenever I spoke with Robyn, even when only in passing her in a busy hallway at numerous system of care events, I always walked away smiling and joyful - a loving recollection of a wonderful person who always "lifted the spirit" of those who knew her.
  25. susan pijut's avatar
    susan pijut
    | Permalink
    I will truly miss Robyn. I have known her for 10-12 yrs, back when I first started in this field. So many times, when others forgot me when the time came for trainings and workshops,Robyn always remembered to invite me and usually even got it funded. I would never have learned as much as I have or come so far without her help. She always remembered to ask about my daughter when clearly she much on her plate. It's been at least a year since I have seen her, but, she has a special place in my heart. We all owe her a huge debt. Systems of Care would not be the success it is without her. Thank you, Robyn. RIP wonderful Lady. Prayers to your family.
  26. Regenia Hicks's avatar
    Regenia Hicks
    | Permalink
    Robyn and I had maintained our tradition on having a shot of tequila every time we saw each other. I always looked forward to these opportunities, not just for the drink but to catch up on family, friends and life. I know we met in the late 80’s during the time of CASSP. So many meetings, Institutes and memories. She was always passionate about the work, great sense of humor and a zest for life. She is another member of the” family” that I will truly miss.
  27. Frank Rider's avatar
    Frank Rider
    | Permalink
    Though well aware of Robyn's health challenges in recent years, I am still shocked, and much saddened, to know that I will have no new opportunities to drink in more of the joy that Robyn has brought to me, and to so many of us.

    I've been so privileged to have developed a special bond with Robyn over the past few several years. Feisty, funny, and fanatical when it comes to helping kids and their families, Robyn's has been a unique and quite substantial presence in the shaping of systems of care from Maine to Missouri and points far beyond -- and for more years than most of us - except maybe you, Scott -- are willing to admit.

    I worked closely with Robyn around several system of care initiatives across Missouri, and we made several trips together across the Midwest when I was a member of site visit teams that Robyn coordinated. We bonded through our work, but also through political commentary and our similarly interrupted digestive systems. (Don't ask.)

    I lit up with elation when Robyn showed up in Orlando this past July, how well she was getting around, and how much energy she had after having survived a "medical hell" this time last year.

    From her bed deep in the rehab facility last fall, Robyn helped to coach me when I reached out for her wisdom, and then actually thanked ME for providing her with a "lifeline" to the world outside of medical facilities from which she had been so closed off for weeks and weeks. Believe me, the debt was all mine, Robyn!

    Of course we were great Facebook friends, too; and I especially enjoyed Robyn’s ironic sense of humor, her great stories (e.g. about having been recruited to be a “handicapped person” in the audience of the Joe Biden/Sarah Palin debate in St. Louis -- we had a lot of fun exchanging ideas about how Robyn might use that unique platform to make some sort of memorable “statement” to the nation).

    In the work that binds many of us together in the field of Children's Mental Health, we receive an amazing gift of "pinch me" friendship with many, many extraordinary people. We are humbled as we recognize just how high the human spirit can soar within the right vessel.

    Robyn's life has been one of those extraordinary vessels. Her dedication to her holy work - no different in good health than amid the great health challenges tat later came - has set standards that might discourage some of us from even pursuing, were it not for their power to inspire us instead.

    But how dare you leave us before sharing your final commentary on the Great Election of 2012?!

    Rest well, Robyn. You deserve the peace that finally awaits you, my friend.

    ~~ Frank ~~
  28. Gary Macbeth's avatar
    Gary Macbeth
    | Permalink
    I am very sad to hear that Robyn has passed. Robyn was always special to me and I relished seeing the twinkle in her eyes when we would meet at a meeting after a long time had passed. She was always glad to see me, as I was to see her. Robyn had an incredible memory and warmth and we would always pick up our conversation where we left it, no matter how many months had gone by.

    Robyn was always a strong advocate for children and changing service delivery systems to better meet their needs. I remember when we were at a meeting together in Ventura, California, the pioneer at that time in building systems of care. I had done a paper with Lenore Behar on sizing systems of care services and Robyn, ever seeing an opportunity to move systems forward in Missouri, asked me to come to Missouri. I said yes, not realizing she meant right now. Robyn had a meeting she wanted the information presented at and with enthusiasm and perseverance she got state government approval, changed our flights, arranged a hotel, and had us leaving immediately. It was dizzying to see her work! We ran through airports barely catching flights and arrived at our destination in Missouri at 3am, only to have to be ready to leave for the meeting at 7am. Exhausted as I was, Robyn knocked at my hotel door at 6am full of energy and with coffee in hand for me.

    I will always think of Robyn as she was during that experience - always energetic, eager, and determined to do whatever it took to improve services for children and families.

    Robyn, I will miss you.

  29. Trina Osher's avatar
    Trina Osher
    | Permalink
    Scott your tribute to Robyn captures her spirit perfectly as does the video's clear uncluttered images honoring ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary and wholesome ways. Hopper is one of my favorite painters. I have a reproduction of "Nighthawks" in my study and will, from now on, be reminded of Robyn whenever I look at it. All I would add to your tribute is that Robyn was unwavering in living by her values no matter what challenges she faced. She sought only a better life for others without personal gain or disfranchisement. I am grateful to have known and worked with her and feel her loss deeply.
  30. Dr. George's avatar
    Dr. George
    | Permalink
    Lots of color in those paintings; lots of color in her beautiful life, no doubt. Didn't know her, but am sure she's talkin' with my son, Andrew, right now, another spirit who wanted to help others, especially children, at all costs. May they rest in Peace as we celebrate their memory and love for mankind.
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