Mind the Meds
In 2004 the Alabama Legislature passed a new law addressing the safe medication of children in child care facilities, popularly known as the Baby Douglas Law. The law focuses on giving children only medications that are prescribed by a doctor or that are appropriate for the age of the child, and requires caregivers to follow dosage instructions precisely. Instructions from parents are not sufficient unless accompanied by the doctor’s written prescription or precise over-the-counter instructions. Failure to comply with the law could result in fines and imprisonment.
As a result, there has been much confusion among child care providers and parents alike, with some providers fearing to administer medications under any circumstances. Sophia Bracy Harris, Executive Director of the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama (FOCAL), emphasizes, “This new law is broad in its coverage and complex in its administration. It requires policies, procedures, precautions, and interactions between care givers and parents that are unprecedented. Protecting children under the new law is now everybody’s business.”
Public Awareness Campaign
In order to alleviate these fears and clear up confusion over the law, the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama (FOCAL) kicked off a statewide public awareness campaign, Mind the Meds, in Birmingham in 2005. Speaking at the kick-off event was Sophia Bracy Harris, FOCAL’s Executive Director; Dr. Marquita Furness Davis, Deputy Director of Child Development Services, Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity; and James F. Loudermilk, President, Child Development Schools. Materials were available for participants to take back to their organizations.
FOCAL worked in conjunction with a Birmingham Advisory Committee to plan the Mind the Meds public awareness campaign and develop strategies for dispersing information. “This new law has many implications that affect everyone involved with the health and safety of children,” James Loudermilk, President of Child Development Schools pointed out. “Doctors must learn to be more precise in specifying times and dosages, pharmacists may be asked to dispense medications in separate containers for home and child care facility, parents cannot ask a caregiver to administer medications in a way that differs from instructions on the label. It is not only the child care providers that must learn new rules and practices.”
Bracy Harris added that a further complication involves the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Child care centers can’t merely stick their heads in the sand and refuse to be responsible for dispensing medications,” she pointed out. “This federal law may preclude a child care facility from eliminating the administration of medicine entirely.”
Child care providers are encouraged to seek advice from competent, knowledgeable attorneys and to remember that although DHR regulations are still in effect as well, compliance with those regulations alone does not ensure compliance with the new law.
A basic information sheet is available here. A Baby Douglas DVD, featuring an interview with the then Alabama Department of Human Resources’ Attorney James Long, is available from the FOCAL Office.