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Alabama DHR taking 'next steps' after Hoover daycare reportedly gave 4-year-old melatonin without parent's consent
The girl's mother spoke to Tread about what happened at Sugar N Spice daycare
The four-year-old girl didn’t like how it tasted.
That’s why she’d gotten the attention of a daycare worker who was passing nearby, according to her mother.
The worker told the child if she didn’t like what was in her mouth, she could spit it out, her mother explained. The child spit out a partially dissolved pill later identified as adult-dose melatonin by local police who responded to Sugar N Spice, a Hoover, Alabama daycare.
A week later, a representative of the Alabama Department of Human Resources has told Tread it is taking “next steps” after being made aware of the incident. The agency, which is charged with regulating daycares in the state, now lists two “substantiated” complaints related to the administration of medication at the daycare last week.
When Ava Perkins got the call, she dropped what she was doing.
A daycare worker the mother knew at Sugar N Spice Daycare and Kindergarten had called her about her four-year-old spitting out the pill. The worker asked if Perkins had given permission for her daughter to receive melatonin. She hadn’t.
“I get one every day. Every day before nap. It’s for sleep.”
Perkins raced to the daycare, she explained, and when she arrived, she pulled her daughter aside to ask about what had happened. The girl identified the worker who’d given her the pill by name.
“I get one every day,” the girl said, according to her mother. “Every day before nap. It’s for sleep.”
Asked why she didn’t like the taste of the pill that particular day, the girl said that she’d been given gummies previously, not pills.
“So she’d never complained before because she’d liked the way it tasted,” Perkins said.
The mother asked whether she was the only child to receive the pill. Her daughter said no, and started naming other children in her class.
Perkins reported the incident to Hoover Police, who responded to the daycare, which is located just across the street from Shades Mountain Elementary School.
The worker who the child said gave her the pill is a member of the kitchen staff who sometimes serves as a “floater” that temporarily supervises kids. The worker denied having given the child the medication, the police report said, but daycare staff confirmed that two other children at the facility receive melatonin with parental consent.
The investigating officer compared the pill the child had spit out to those administered to other children, according to the report. The pill appeared “nearly identical” to those in a bottle of brand-name 5-milligram melatonin supplements administered by staff.
The labeling of the product identified in the police report states that the supplement is for use only in those over 16 years old. While melatonin can be safe to use for some children, according to Children’s Hospital of Houston, it should be used in dosages of between one and three milligrams for preschool-aged kids. The side effects of melatonin use, the hospital noted, can include headaches, nausea, and increased bedwetting.
Police noted in their report that they’d also spoken with Kent Marshall, who they identified as the daycare’s owner.
“Kent stated that there are strict guidelines for the administration of medication for the children as they are run by DHR,” the report said. “Kent stated that they have been in business since the 70s and they have never had an incident like this.”
Records from Alabama DHR show the agency has investigated at least five “deficiencies” at the facility in the last two years not including last week’s incident.
DHR records also list five “substantiated” complaints against the facility in just the last year — two stemming from last week and three involving supervision and staff-parent communication problems.
A representative of Alabama DHR would not comment on any potential investigation into child abuse or neglect but said the department is aware of what happened at Sugar N Spice and is taking “next steps.”
“With regard to child care licensing, DHR’s Child Care Services Division is aware of the allegations, and our next steps are underway,” an agency representative said.
Perkins’ daughter has attended Sugar N Spice since August, but the mother said her child will never go back. She said her daughter has been dealing with night terrors and bedwetting since at least February. She believes the symptoms could stem from staff administering melatonin to her child month after month.
Sugar N Spice Daycare did not respond to repeated requests for comment before publication time.
In the end, Perkins said she believes the facility should be shut down. At a minimum, she said, the worker involved should be fired.
“I’m floored and appalled and horrified,” she said. “And I’m trying to do what I can to protect not just my kids but all these kids that don’t have voices.”
UPDATE: While Kent Marshall, who operates Sugar N Spice, has not responded to Tread’s repeated requests for comment, he sent the following message, obtained by Tread, to parents of children at the facility. Despite Marshall’s claim, complaints from last week have been listed as “substantiated” by Alabama DHR.
“You may have seen and/or heard a story regarding an incident which occurred last week. There are many unfounded allegations circulating regarding our school. I am actively working to address all of these allegations and fabrications through the proper channels, which unfortunately takes time. We strive to provide the highest level of care for your children each and every day, and I can assure you that I will not rest until the truth is brought to light…”
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