CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - State investigators have cited an in-home daycare in Bonita for feeding melatonin to children.
10News learned a criminal investigation is underway into Brenda Saucedo Family Child Care. The daycare has had a license since 2007, according to the California Department of Social Services.
6-year-old Julius had been at his new daycare for two weeks when he was put down for his first nap time in early August. Julius says he was handed a red drink with white flakes in it.
"I thought it was Gatorade but it didn't taste like Gatorade," said Julius.
Julius drank it all.
"They told me to lie down, and I fell right asleep," said Julius.
When he awoke, he still felt sleepy. After he told his family, his mother Vanessa Cherry says a complaint was filed with the state's Child Care Licensing Program, sparking a surprise inspection. Weeks later, she received their report.
"I felt angry. I felt like I let my son down. You feel betrayed," said Cherry.
Based on interviews and documentation like text messages, state investigators cited the daycare for "providing Melatonin to the daycare children to alter their behavior and/or help them sleep."
A spokesperson with the California Department of Social Services says "the licensee told CSDD staff that she administered melatonin to school-age children and melatonin was found on the premises."
"How dare you give my kid something without telling me without my acknowledgement ... you don't have the right," said Cherry.
Cherry filed a report with deputies, who started an investigation.
Melatonin is a natural supplement used as a sleep aid. Possible side effects include dizziness and nausea.
There have been a handful of recent criminal cases across the country involving daycare providers and melatonin. Three daycare providers in the Chicago area were charged with giving children melatonin gummy bears before nap time. In Oregon, a woman sentenced to 21 years for feeding melatonin to kids while she went to a tanning salon and the gym. Some of those kids now complain of problems with their sleep cycles.
When 10News knocked on the door of the daycare, a woman identifying herself as the owner told us the only child she fed melatonin to is her own child because he has autism. As for Julius, she told 10News she didn't put anything in his drink. When pressed on the specifics of the licensing division report, she said, "I don't want to comment on that any more."
"They should be shut down. Your child should be safe in a place you entrust with their safety. This is a parent's worst fear. Someone is giving something to your child without you knowing," said Cherry.
Anyone with information on the case is asked the call the San Diego Sheriff's Department Imperial Beach station at 619-498-2400.
Cherry says she is planning on filing a lawsuit against the daycare provider.
The California Department of Social Services issued the following statements in response to our questions:
"The licensee told CDSS staff that she administered melatonin to school-age children, and melatonin was found on the premises. The licensee was informed that this was a violation of state licensing regulations and must cease. She agreed to end the practice, and stated that she understands the danger of administering melatonin and that she will not do so again ... The licensee must post a copy of the complaint investigation report on site, provide a copy to the parents/guardians of children in care at the facility, and provide a copy to parents/guardians of all newly enrolled children in the next 12 months. She also agreed to review educational materials on children’s personal rights in child care, as set forth in state regulations, and provide a summary of the material to the analyst assigned to the case. If this corrective action is not completed, the facility may be subject to civil penalties. In addition, because of the seriousness of the incident, the licensee will be required to attend a follow-up meeting with CDSS staff to discuss the incident and any other concerns about the facility’s compliance with regulations. Such meetings may lead to additional licensing action.
The inquiry conducted by CDSS found no evidence of injuries or complications to the children.
CDSS takes the allegations in this case seriously. The Department cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. In general, when a facility has experienced a serious 'Type A' violation – an incident creating an immediate risk to the health, safety or personal rights of those in care – it may be subjected to additional scrutiny, including more frequent, unannounced inspections."
See how to check the state's report on your child's daycare here.