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Child abuse alleged at private center in Romney

ROMNEY, W.Va.  -- State police are investigating child abuse allegations at a nonprofit Romney center that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources removed 24 children from the Potomac Center last week after upper management reported the allegations, media outlets reported.

The children, who lived in three residences on the center's campus, were taken to other facilities across the state.

"Children in the department's care were subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by some employees of the Potomac Center Inc. facility,'' DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling said in a news release. "DHHR took immediate action to remove the endangered children from the facility.''

Details of the alleged abuse haven't been released.

"I am outraged and deeply saddened by the exploitation of children and lack of compassion by some employees at this facility,'' Bowling said. "Let me reiterate, in the strongest terms, my condemnation of this behavior.''

The Potomac Center will cooperate with the investigation and support prosecution of any employees who mistreated children entrusted to its care, said Rick Harshbarger, who has served as the center's CEO since it was established in 1980.

"No one cares more for the children we serve than I do,'' Harshbarger said in a statement. "I am appalled and saddened that the actions of a very few have affected so many.''

He said the Potomac Center remains open and will work with the DHHR to reopen the residences where the children lived.

The private center provides residential assistance and support to children and adults with developmental disabilities, along with respite for caregivers. It also manages a foster care program in Romney, Moorefield and Elkins.


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