Cumberland Times-News


January 21, 2014

Abuse case

Probe must also lead to changes at care facility

Few details are known about the allegation of abuse of children at the Potomac Center in Romney, W.Va. What is certain, though, is the need for a thorough investigation and full prosecution if the allegations turn out to be fact.

Twenty-four children who were residing in three of the eight-bed homes on the campus were removed by authorities last week. Rick Harshbarger, chief executive officer of the facility, described treatment of the children as demeaning, disrespectful, degrading and intolerable. Apparently some of the incidents involved what is believed to be minor sexual abuse.

The incidents are being investigated by Hampshire County Prosecuting Attorney Dan James and West Virginia State Police. Harshbarger, along with state Sen. Donald Cookman, Del. Ruth Rowan and Kim Helmstetter, chief operating officer of the Potomac Center, will go to Charleston to meet with officials of the state Department of Health & Human Resources, which licenses the facility.

Harshbarger has expressed outrage over the incidents and wants those involved prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

That full prosecution is necessary goes without saying. But the Potomac Center and its volunteer board of directors need to do a complete review of operations to make sure there is never a repeat of abuse of the children and adults with developmental disabilities who are served by the center.

The integrity of the Romney facility, as well as the foster care programs the organization operates in Moorefield and Elkins, is on the line. The community needs to expect nothing less than a top-to-bottom investigation and sweeping changes in the way the Potomac Center operates in the future.


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