State removes 24 children from Potomac CenterFront Page News Friday, January 17th, 2014 Would you like to receive e-mail alerts when we have breaking news? Click here!
ROMNEY — Treatment that a state official described as “inhumane and degrading” has led to 24 children ages 5 to 18 being removed from Potomac Center on Blue Street in the last 2 days.
The program — the largest of 3 run by the facility — apparently will remain closed. Group homes on Birch Lane and Washington Street were not affected.
West Virginia State Police are conducting an investigation. The Department of Health and Human Resources said in a statement Friday that it will continue to monitor the facility on a 24-hour basis and will work with the state police.
“Children in the department’s care were subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by some employees of the Potomac Center Inc. facility,” said Karen Bowling, DHHR cabinet secretary, in the press release. “DHHR took immediate action to remove the endangered children from the facility.”
She said the situation was revealed late Wednesday.
“DHHR took immediate action to remove the endangered children from the facility,” she said. “Through multifaceted, collective and coordinated efforts, within 24 hours, every child in DHHR custody was placed in a safe alternative environment.”
Potomac Center CEO Rick Harshbarger released a statement, saying, “No one cares more for the children we serve than I do. I am appalled and saddened that the actions of a very few have affected so many. We will cooperate fully with all investigators and support the prosecution of any of our employees who mistreated any child entrusted in our care. We are not closing and are working to re-open the program in question.”
Sgt. R.W. Mason of the Romney Detachment of the State Police offered no details beyond confirming the investigation.
Bowling characterized the acts described to her by DHHR investigators as criminal and unjustifiable.
“I am outraged and deeply saddened by the exploitation of children and lack of compassion by some employees at this facility,” she said in the prepared statement. “Let me reiterate, in the strongest terms, my condemnation of this behavior.”
She said her agency is committed to the well-being and protection of children, and expressed appreciation to the county judges, prosecutors and behavioral health providers who assisted in moving the children quickly.
DHHR Director of Communication Allison Adler said not all the children removed from the home were placed there by DHHR, but could not specify the numbers.
HampshireReview.com will update the story as more information becomes available.