Police probe sleep aid allegation against day care

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2009 6:20 PM

Allegations that workers at a church day care put an over-the-counter dietary supplement in candy to help children sleep at nap time are under investigation, police said Tuesday, and the church's pastor said two workers have been fired.

Springfield Township police Lt. Dave Schaefer confirmed that police are looking into allegations that some workers at Covenant Apostolic Church Daycare in suburban Cincinnati gave melatonin to some children there. He did not give the ages of the children.

Police have sent a letter to parents and guardians of children who attend the day care, informing them of the investigation.

The letter dated Monday says the investigation had just begun and police did not know which staff members allegedly gave the supplement to children or how many of the 40 or so children who attend the day care allegedly received the supplement.

Laura Satterfield told WCPO-TV that police said employees acknowledged giving her 9-month-old grandson melatonin in his formula to help him sleep better. She said he is at the center only one day a week but has had trouble sleeping on visits to her home, including once being awake from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"He would not sleep," she told the station. "He would sleep for about five minutes and then he's up."

She said she wants the workers punished.

"I want these women to be humiliated. I want people to look at these women and say, 'You gave drugs to kids.'"

The letter sent to parents said the information was being provided to parents and guardians so that they could "take whatever actions you deem necessary to protect your child or children in the event that they were given melatonin on one or more occasions." It suggested parents or guardians contact their family physician or the Poison Control Center if they have questions about the effects of melatonin.

The letter also said the Hamilton County prosecutor's office had been notified and the day care is cooperating in the investigation.

Pastor Shelly Hendricks said he discovered on Sunday that some children had been given melatonin by staff members, but he declined to explain how he found out. Since then, two staff members have been fired, he said.

"This should not have occurred," Hendricks said. "We immediately began to investigate this matter."

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Hendricks said all parents had been notified about what happened. He would not say how many children were involved or how many times they were given melatonin.

The day care center has remained open the entire time, he said.

"The police are satisfied that our day care is being run properly and safely," he said.

Schaefer referred calls seeking any additional information to the prosecutor's office in Cincinnati. Prosecutor spokeswoman Julie Wilson said she only could confirm that there was an ongoing investigation into the day care.

Melatonin is a hormone made by a small gland in the brain. It helps control sleep and wake cycles and is not FDA-approved or regulated, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site. Possible side effects include dizziness, abdominal discomfort, headaches, confusion, sleepwalking and nightmares.

The site also says that long-term effects of melatonin are not known and it may not be safe for anyone who is pregnant, breast-feeding or younger than age 20.

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Associated Press Writer Meghan Barr in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.