An in-home day care facility in California was issued a citation after authorities learned one of the workers administered Melatonin to the children "to help them sleep," officials said.
The Brenda Saucedo Family Child Care, located in Bonita, was issued a type A citation, Adam Weintraub, spokesman for the California Department of Social Services, told ABC News on Tuesday.
That citation is considered the "most serious" because it involves an immediate threat to the health, safety, or personal rights of children in care, Weintraub said.
The day care worker in question, who was not identified, allegedly admitted to administering the hormone to help children sleep and Melatonin was found on the premises, according to Weintraub
Melatonin is naturally found in the body and is most commonly used to treat insomnia and sleeping conditions. It is listed as "possibly safe" for children when taken by mouth for a short period of time, but "should be reserved for children with a medical need."
A criminal investigation is underway, according to ABC San Diego affiliate KGTV. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Weintraub said he could not comment on an existing investigation, but noted that "in general, when you have a serious allegation like this, that directly infringes on the rights of children in care, it would not be unusual for us to increase our inspections and enforcement oversight."
The day care center declined to comment and referred ABC News to Weintraub.
A mother whose 6-year-old son was one of the children allegedly given Melatonin said she felt "angry" and "betrayed" after learning of the incident in early August.
"How dare you give my kid something without telling me without my acknowledgement ... you don't have the right," Vanessa Cherry told KGTV.
Her son, Julius, told the station that he had been handed a red drink with white flakes in it before nap time.
"I thought it was Gatorade but it didn't taste like Gatorade," Julius said. "They told me to lie down, and I fell right asleep."
He told his family about the drink when he got home.
Social Services and the Bonita facility will soon hold a follow-up conference and make sure there are not patterns of violations. The day care worker agreed that she would no longer administer Melatonin, would view training materials and complete a report on that training, according to Weintraub.
The facility has also previously been issued two other citations, both classified as B, meaning there was a potential for threat but not an immediate one, but social services did not give any details of those citations.