Eight suspects, including a German couple, are suspected of trafficking and abusing the minors via the German state-funded Projekt Maramures.
Romanian prosecutors allege that the minors have been treated in “humiliating and degrading” methods.
German officials mentioned they were in contact with Romanian authorities.
Projekt Maramures’ website says its purpose is to “rehabilitate” troubled youths.
It says it helps minors affected by behavioral disorders or drug addiction, offering recreational activities and psychological assistance at a farm in northern Romania’s Maramures region.
However, Romanian investigators say the youths – aged between 12 and 18 – were instead treated like slaves, beaten and forced to do “exhausting physical labor.”
They were deprived of food, not allowed to take prescription treatment, had no contact with the outside world and were subjected to “harsh and brutal methods of so-referred to as re-education,” they mentioned in a statement.
Prosecutors accused the German couple and different suspects of creating the program, licensed by Romania’s labor ministry, for human trafficking “below the guise of carrying out legitimate educational services.”
A spokeswoman for Germany’s foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday that German diplomats in Romania had been in contact with the authorities there to offer consular help.
“This can be a project that has existed for almost 20 years, and within the last 20 years no problems resembling those now being reported in the media have become known to us,” the spokeswoman informed reporters, based on the AP news agency.
Judicial sources told AFP news agency that authorities had detained several employees at the center.
The local child protection agency informed AFP that 20 children were at the center when prosecutors searched it this week. Four were placed with the child protection agency, waiting to be picked up by parents or guardians, but it remained unclear where the other 16 were.
Prosecutors haven’t stated exactly how many children are believed to have been affected by the alleged abuse, which is suspected of having begun in 2014.
Projekt Maramures didn’t immediately reply to requests from the news for comment.