Day Care Workers Charged For Overdosing Children With Melatonin

Four day care workers have been arrested on charges of child abuse after overdosing young children with melatonin.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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The reality for most working parents is that it often is nearly impossible to stay at home and raise their young children in those vital developmental years before school. More than half of all working parents rely on day care centers for their children, and to make matters worse, plenty of families are struggling to find day care options in an overcrowded sector. Adding this all up, it is no wonder so many parents battle with the need, especially when reports of serious negligence from day care workers continue to fill news headlines, much like the recent case concerning a day care that was shut down after reports of workers overdosing young children with melatonin.

People reports that four Tennessee daycare workers have been charged in a matter for which they were accused of giving young children the sleeping hormone, melatonin, in order to get them to nap longer. Reports from Komo News state that an attorney representing nine of the children believes that the day care workers had given children up to 10 times the legal dose with their lunch. The attorney, Rocky McElhaney, stated that the dosage amount was more than one and a half times the maximum amount recommended for adults.

The whistleblower who alerted these horrific accusations was Candice Short, a mother who started working at the daycare in the weeks leading up to the allegations. Short reported that other members of the day care staff instructed her to give the young kids 10 milligrams of melatonin gummy bears with their lunch. She refused to go through with it, and never returned to work. Her and a group of parents all filed complaints against the day care. Authorities have noted that the children who attended the day care ranged from small infants under a year in age up to six years old, they also believe it has been going on for a number of years.

According to WebMD, melatonin is a hormone produced within the brain. It is produced in greater quantities at night, as it helps make the body feel sleepy and restful in order to fall asleep at night. Melatonin supplements are available in over-the-counter form and help individuals, including children, fall asleep at night. However, it is recommended by many doctors only as a last effort alternative for people who struggle to fall asleep at night,  not to get kids to take naps during the day.

It is always recommended to discuss melatonin supplemental use with a child’s pediatrician before attempting to use it. In general, children need only a small dose, with most recommendations saying to start them off with no more than .5 milligrams an hour before bedtime. The children in the day care were given dosages of 10 milligrams. 

There are very few clinical studies on melatonin supplements’ effects on children. Because of this, melatonin remains unapproved for use in children by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pediatricians might be wary to recommend its usage among kids, but some studies have given experts reassurance that short-term use likely has no effect on kids. For example, the Central Ohio Poison Center has reported that they see over 800 cases of unintentional ingestions of melatonin each year and that the children have never shown any adverse effects in any reported case. 

Despite the possible low-risk melatonin supplements can have on children, the issue is still appalling, especially considering the fact that the day care workers were doing this all without any apparent parental consent. Four employees, including the owner of the day care have been arrested, and are charged with various counts like child abuse and neglect. The day care officially closed on May 2nd.