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Now on DHR probation, Hoover day care sends mother cease-and-desist letter
The mom says her child was given melatonin by Sugar N Spice staff without her consent
She said she won’t be silenced.
Ava Perkins explained, though, that she wasn’t particularly surprised when she received a cease-and-desist letter from Sugar N Spice, the Hoover day care her 4-year-old daughter had attended until earlier this month. Nothing about the facility’s response to what happened has been forthcoming, the mother told Tread on Tuesday evening.
The first week of May, Perkins said she’d received a call from a worker at the daycare explaining that her child had spit out a partially-dissolved melatonin supplement. The worker had called to ask Perkins if she’d given permission for her daughter to receive the medication. She hadn’t.
Perkins said she raced to the day care, pulled her child to the side, and asked her about the pill.
“I get one every day,” the girl said, according to her mother. “Every day before nap. It’s for sleep.”
Perkins reported the incident to Hoover Police, who responded to the day care located just across the street from Shades Mountain Elementary School.
Tread was the first news outlet to report Perkins’ story and the subsequent investigation.
Soon after Perkins’ report, the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which regulates day care facilities, stepped in to investigate. After conducting an on-site visit, the department concluded the complaint was “substantiated” and listed more than a dozen deficiencies in its accompanying report. As a result, Sugar N Spice is now on probation for a period of six months, according to DHR records.
That hasn’t stopped the day care facility from pushing back against Perkins, however.
Perkins has now received a cease-and-desist letter from the day care’s attorney, LaBella McCallum.
“You falsely accused Sugar N’ Spice of giving Melatonin to your child and other children at the Center without parents’ consent,” the letter said. “These statements have defamed Sugar N’ Spice Day Care’s reputation and are false because no teacher at the Center gave melatonin without parents’ consent.”
The letter claimed that because of Perkins’ statements, the day care “has lost grant money, students, and prospective employee hires.”
“We demand that you immediately cease making false statements,” the letter continued. “Additionally, we demand that you publish a retraction to all published sources… Sugar N’ Spice reserves the right to pursue its losses even if a retraction is made.”
Perkins said she stands behind her statements because they’re true.
“My daughter was drugged, plain and simple,” the mother said.
A report published by Alabama DHR stemming from their site visit the day after Perkins’ allegation listed 13 performance standard deficiencies:
The center is administering medication (melatonin) without written authorization from the physician.
The medication authorization form is incomplete (no date) (initial for staff).
The staff has been giving medication since 2/28/2023, however there are only four signatures from staff where medication has been administered (per staff’s statements).
The director stated that the medication forms where she administered medication (melatonin) had been thrown away.
The pre-admission forms are incomplete (more than one child on form).
The staff gave medication that was not authorized by the parent and/or the physician (per staff’s statements).
One child spit up something that looks like a pill into staff’s hand (per staff’s statements).
On April 6, 2023, the owner and staff stated to department representative that no child had been administered medication, however medication has been administered since 2/28/2023 (per staff’s statement).
There is rusty equipment with peeling paint on the playground (on 4/6/2023).
There are exposed screws coming out of a picnic table (preschool playground) (on 4/6/2023).
The vehicle inspection check list is incomplete (on 4/6/2023).
The staff files are incomplete.
The center is out of compliance/ratio due to one staff with incomplete health & safety training.
Despite DHR’s findings, Kent Marshall, the day care’s owner-operator, has repeatedly denied Perkins’ allegations.
In a letter dated May 10, for example, Marshall notified parents of children at Sugar N Spice of the day care’s probationary status but denied any intentional wrongdoing.
“As I know you all are aware - a parent made a serious allegation, regarding melatonin allegedly being given to her child without consent, against our center on Thursday 04/27/23,” the letter said in part. “That allegation is untrue… (sic) and without factual support and/or evidence - and we unequivocally deny that it happened.”
Marshall went on to address three of the above deficiencies which he said were also listed in a DHR letter notifying the day care of its probationary status.
“Those three violations/deficiencies are in reference to two children that were provided melatonin by their parents - and fully accounted for at our center. Both of these children had the required medical authorization forms signed by their parents… but we did not have a physician’s notes (sic) as backup (even for over-the-counter dietary supplements).
Additionally, because the medication authorization forms weren’t fully filled out, with the previous medical authorization forms on file - we were in violation of DHR’s Rules and Regulations. We accept that, and have amended our operating policies to ensure that nothing like this ever happen again… because the health, safety and welfare of the children in our care has, and always will be, out highest priority.”
—Letter from Kent Marshall to parents, May 10, 2023
According to the police report from the incident earlier this month, the officer on scene compared the pill the child had spit out to those administered to other children. The pill appeared “nearly identical” to those in a bottle of brand-name 5-milligram melatonin supplements administered by staff, the officer determined.
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.
“I’m not going to allow them to silence me.” -Ava Perkins
Perkins’ daughter had 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.
Perkins said the day care doesn’t have parents’ or children's best interests in mind. She said she feels the cease-and-desist letter was simply an effort to shut her up. It won’t work, the mother told Tread. Perkins has retained an attorney and is considering filing suit against the day care.
“I’m not going to allow them to silence me,” Perkins told Tread. “So many kids have been hurt by these people, and they do not deserve to continue to be able to do so.”
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