CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials with State Police, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and several child advocacy groups are involved in the ongoing investigation focused of allegations of physical and sexual abuse against children housed at the Potomac Center in Hampshire County.

Two dozen children who were part of the the Potomac Center’s Intensive Training Program were moved from the Romney facility to other locations in January.  The program is a six-month to 24-month residential program for kids between the ages of five and 17 with developmental disabilities and behavioral issues.

Lt. Michael Baylous, State Police spokesperson, said there are as many ten suspects in the alleged abuse.

“We’ve got a lot of people to interview and it’s going to take some time to do this and do it right,” Baylous said.  As for the possibility of criminal charges, “That just depends on what the final conclusion of the investigation is,” he said.

Managers of the Potomac Center, a DHHR contractor, reported the abuse to state officials in January and the executives who oversee the non-profit Potomac Center have been cooperating with investigators since then.

There are reports an unspecified number of employees have already been fired or suspended because of the allegations.

DHHR officials have said some Potomac Center employees subjected the children, who stayed in three family-type houses at the Potomac Center, to “inhumane and degrading treatment.”

“I am outraged and deeply saddened by the exploitation of children and lack of compassion by some employees at this facility,” said Karen Bowling, DHHR secretary, in a statement.  “Let me reiterate, in the strongest terms, my condemnation of this behavior.”

Potomac Center CEO Rich Harshbarger also addressed the matter in a statement.  “I am appalled and saddened that the actions of a very few have affected so many,” he said.

In total, 180 people work at the Potomac Center.  Because of the ongoing investigation, Medicaid has cut off payments to the site and, as a result of that, 50 Potomac Center workers were temporarily laid off last week, while work hours and pay were cut for the remaining staff members.

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Comments

  • Just the Facts

    Let’s just look at the facts. The CEO holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting, doesn’t have a clue to what is going on. He waits for the COO and Human Resource officer to instruct him on what to do. He doesn’t have a clue of what kids are at the center and he keeps a three ring binder in his office with pictures of the kids with their names just to identify the kids but he loves them so much. His work hours consist of 11-5 and that is stretching it which he stays in his office and never comes around to the houses unless he can get his picture in the newspaper. He is NOT qualified to hold the position he is in. The COO holds a Bachelor’s degree and depended on the Program Manager which she terminated out of jealousy for the knowledge she needed to run the Intensive Training Program. She replaced her with a Program Manager and two Assistant Program Managers that don’t have a clue what is going on but will lie and do whatever to have a little bit of power. The Human Resource Officer comes with a background history from Burlington Children’s Home where the same bad Human Resource practices were taking place and they got rid of her. Yet the Potomac Center hires her and imagine the problems reoccur yet again. The CEO, COO, and Human Resource Officer have blamed the lower level employees for the problems in attempt to keep their hands clean. They are the management team and are just as much if not more at fault as anyone. They have failed to perform their job duties and most of all they have failed the kids and that is what matters most. So I do feel there is a need for an Intensive Training Program in Romney, WV. I think the Potomac Center needs a cleaning from the Top Down with competent Upper Management that are not afraid to be around the kids and lower level employees, that are educated and experienced enough to train and lead the lower level employees, and most of all people who have a heart, compassion, and not only give lip service but do what they say. The CEO has been there for 34 years it is time to retire and admit to your failures, the COO needs to realize she attempted but also failed, and the Human Resource Officer has tried twice and failed at both attempts. Hint Social Security is past due in your case.
    One final thought, this isn’t the first time recently the Potomac center had been in trouble. The Center was on a bed hold around 4-5 years ago for the same practices at that time the same Upper Management was in place and yet it repeats itself again.

    • annomous

      Amen

    • past employee

      I could not agree more. After being employed at that place I know there was a lot of twisted work with the administration. That is where all the problems start. If the administration would be more involved with the kids and staff they would know more about what goes on. Its just amazing how the CEO and COO and all the others act like they care so much about the individuals yet they never show it. To fix the center and get it back in order the administration needs replaced with people who are qualified and more attention needs put into employees when hired.

    • Filthy Belongings

      Very well stated, if you had seen some of the equipment we received upon accepting one of these Children You wouldn't have believed the filth, sounds like no one was doing their job to me I wouldn't put a stray dog in the wheelchair. it went straight to the garage and Human Service did come to see the garbage they sent along with our child.

    • Filthy Belongings

      Very well stated, if you had seen some of the equipment we received upon accepting one of these Children You wouldn't have believed the filth, sounds like no one was doing their job to me I wouldn't put a stray dog in the wheelchair. it went straight to the garage and Human Service did come to see the garbage they sent along with our child. And if People knew these things were happening to these Children they are just a guilty for not reporting incidents to the authorities.

    • fixento

      Thank for the report it was very informative. When children are abused it's not about firing it's more about criminal negligence. If this country continues to have people in charge think they don't have any responsibility for the actions of their employees this abuse will continue. This is not a rouge employee this is a group of adults abusing or ignoring children being abused. Charging the CEO & COO with criminal charges would be a good start on sending a message to the inept and inert that have children in their care.

  • it is everywhere

    Not just the potomac center but everywhere this is happening. It is very sad.

  • rumors

    It is sad the finger is being pointed at the wrong people. If the CEO truly cared like he says then he would know who his residents and staff were. Rumor is he didn't. How can you not know who lives there or works there? You are the CEO you are responsible for what goes on. You can't put all the blame on your lower staff when you don't have a clue what's going on.

  • mee

    I hope this investigation uncovers it ALL there have been rumors and allegations for years I attempted to expose and was discredited as were many others either Fired or made miserable...this story is just scratching the surface..plz do not stop.talk to past even discredited employees...there is no way...no way no one knew!!!!!

    • Elise Sheppard

      Look what has happened at that old Reform school in Mariana, Florida. Bodies are being found of kids that were most likely abused to death. We Americans warehouse difficult or needy kids and forget to observe strict oversight. And like the water problems in WV, I blame those who SHOULD be inspecting, questioning, as much as those who allowed the abuse to go on. Most to blame, of course, are the pedophiles and hateful people who are drawn to these jobs because they can get to vulnerable kids. God will judge them, and as the Bible said, 'to one who harms one of My little ones, it would be better if he'd had a millstone tied around his neck and that he be thrown into the depths of the sea.'

  • Concerned

    The Potomac Center's care and treatment has declined since the CEO and One General COO took over their positions. The care and concern became personal gain and I for me and the heck with anyone else. The new management of IT is also to blame. Those positions were filled with non experienced individuals whom believed they knew everything about the program. I dare to say that a person does not know all the in's and out's of a program with 2-3 years experience. The entire facility in the year has been cut throat, back stabbing for personal gain. Kids treatment plans were not individualized but cut and pasted. The CPI instructor and those in "upper management" agreed on floor restraints in which that was the only method used. What happened to least to most? I can guarantee that the documentation states least to most but the actual occurrence was immediate floor. Another issue is the use of excessive grounding. you can not ground a child with Intellectual disabilities for days upon days or months upon months. When these practices were reported and told to stop, it was ignored by the COO who would say, they are the trained CPI instructor.......... bullS......t What happened to dignity and respect????? It's the upper management and the new Residential Management who need training or terminated for allowing this practice to continue.

  • R Chrisman

    So DHHR is already over burdened with cases. How many of those children's previous cases were given proper time with a worker? I know there's only so much time in a day. If these children had true advocates devoted to their individual best interest, perhaps one small voice could have been heard sooner. I've seen over loaded court pd advocates read reports just as the hearings are to begin. They couldn't pick the child/children they are speaking about out of a picture.
    Hampshire County did have a CASA program that had to close due to lac of funding. Trust me it wasn't big funds. Just rent and a few office expenses. When a child entered into foster by DHHR each family was assigned an individual CASA worker by the court. Unpaid trained court advocates. Volunteers that met govt. security clearance. It wasn't about adding more $ by adding more clients. It was about helping protect, investigate and be a voice in court for kids. To assist in being the eyes and ears for the court.
    These children are just going to go back into the circle of the system. Such a shame!

    • Concerned

      first of all each individual at this facility had an advocate through Legal aid. Their office was on the campus of this facility. Perhaps that needed to be looked into to see if that person was actually doing their job. Plus there was a DHHR Liaison who also was assigned to this facility and participated in every meeting. There was enough advocates, just too many idiots filling positions that they were not qualified to hold

  • Teufel

    A public hanging for the guilty would be appropriate, followed by a proper burial at the landfill

  • seriously

    In all programs you're gonna find issues . But unfortunately when children complain about things like this it's ignored. So you should be asking how many years and how many victims there really is. How many times has someone complained and it's been swept under the rug. And in how many different programs.

  • steve

    send them to prison with life without parole..........................

  • rumors

    A lot of rumors are flowing with this incident. People are innocent until proven guilty. There has been abuse at this facility before and the employees have been retrained. So from the top down need to feel the consequences.

  • Right is right

    I believe all those involved should have been caught a long time ago....if the people in charge of this facility cared more about the ones in it....taking care of the needs of others..and checking on these children all the time. ..in other words...those in charge need to show control over the care givers.....those in charge are just as guilty....

  • Brian

    In total, 180 people work at the Potomac Center. Because of the ongoing investigation, Medicaid has cut off payments to the site and, as a result of that, 50 Potomac Center workers were temporarily laid off last week, while work hours and pay were cut for the remaining staff members.

    So the State's answer to this is to cut off funding/eliminate personnel. Wow!! Why are we tolerating this? the State supervised contractor allowed these atrocities to occur. Once these offenses/CRIMES have occurred, the State response is to cut worktime for technicians and administrators. Am I the only one offended by this? Where are those people in need taken into consideration in this scenario?

    • Taxpayer

      Medicaid is administered by the Federal government, not the State.

      • the truth

        You are wroing, it is a joint state federal funding. One dollar state and three dollar federal that is administered at a state level.

  • jay ziehm

    if the allegations are true and those involved are convicted of sexual abuse or any other type of abuse at this facility they should be shot at sunrise. once again this is why WEST VIRGINA needs the death penalty for cases such as this. I hope justice is served above and beyond the law dictates. anybody that abuses children or anybody else for that matter (especially children) deserves to rot in prison because the law as it stands now doesn't provide for them to be executed at this time. the hell with rehabilitation for actions.

    • 2XLPatriot

      +1

    • blackwater boy

      I agree with you 200% "jay ziehm". Anyone who would abuse children with special needs or not should get no mercy from the court or otherwise.

  • Bill

    You can bet since the State Police are involved there will be arrests made and heads will roll.

  • the truth

    I want people to remember this when politicians talk about privatizing programs such as this or lets say the state hospitals that were in the news last week.

    • Joe

      Explain your logic please. Are you suggesting this would not occur if the state was in control?

      • The truth

        My logic is that I have never seen contract work paid for by DHHR worth it. For what the state pays they should get better. For example, child care used to be state administered and was considered nationally a model program. Now the contract it out to agencies for millions of dollars and I see very few providers I would leave my children with and the financial corruption is horrible.

        • PAST

          These people who worked at the P.C. most of whom were paid less than $8 an hour. What kind of quality employee do you think they got? Most of these people were not involved but still are not working.