CINCINNATI - Two former Ohio day-care workers accused of slipping an over-the-counter dietary supplement into candy and giving it to their charges to help them sleep at nap time were charged with misdemeanors yesterday.
Pamela Hartley, 56, of Cleves, and Donna Scott, 41, of Cincinnati, have been charged with three counts each of child endangering and three counts each of misrepresentation by childcare provider, Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters said.
The two women could be sentenced to as long as 18 months in jail if convicted.
Parents had told investigators their children often seemed groggy after leaving the day care.
The charges are the most serious that can be applied, Mr. Deters said.
Ms. Hartley was the director and Ms. Scott was the lead infant teacher at Covenant Apostolic Church Day Care in the Cincinnati suburb of Springfield Township, the prosecutor said.
They were fired from the day-care center after the allegations surfaced in December.
Court records in Hamilton County had no attorneys listed for Ms. Hartley and Ms. Scott, and there were no phone listings for the women in Cincinnati or Cleves.
The church's pastor, Shelly Hendricks, would say only that the church and day care have cooperated with authorities.
Pastor Hendricks said the day care was still operating but declined to say how many children are enrolled.
A co-worker notified police in December that Ms. Hartley and Ms. Scott gave the children melatonin in candy.
"I understand how upset the parents of these children must be," Prosecutor Deters said in his statement.
"Day-care workers are responsible for a very valuable commodity and must be held to a high standard," Mr. Deters said.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps control sleeping and waking cycles.
Possible side effects of the supplement form include dizziness, abdominal discomfort, headaches, confusion, sleepwalking, and nightmares, according to information on a Mayo Clinic Web site.
The site also says that long-term effects are not known and that it may not be safe for anyone younger than age 20.
The University of Maryland Medical Center Web site suggests that doctors be consulted before giving melatonin to a child.