Alphabet Soup

The site of Alphabet Soup daycare in Prairieville (image via Google Maps)

Louisiana education officials revoked the license of an Ascension Parish day care Friday over the strong objections of its owners, ending their ability to receive public funding after the center over-medicated an infant, state officials said.

Alphabet Soup Learning Center II, 38375 La. 42, Prairieville, has a history of noncompliance and did not report the child's over-medication, which the state Department of Education deemed a "critical incident," department officials said in a statement.

The revocation came after a parent complained that day-care staff was administering the wrong amount of medication to a child, leading state inspectors to visit the facility Dec. 14. State officials did not say what medication was being given or the effect it had on the infant.

The incident is the latest in a string of problems state inspectors have found at Alphabet Soup. It has been cited for 74 deficiencies in the past 24 months, despite state licensing officials' attempts to work with the center to correct its problems, state education officials said in a written statement.

A copy of the nine-page revocation letter that was sent to Alphabet Soup Friday lists problems dating back to 2016. They included issues relating to record keeping and equipment maintenance, child hazards, flawed eating and sleeping practices, and substandard staffing ratios.

The license revocation letter says the revocation happened for three reasons: the failure to take steps to ensure the health and safety of children, violations of state licensing rules and the center's history of non-compliance.

State Superintendent of Education John White said in the written statement that regulators “must take corrective action” when child care centers repeatedly violates standards or when the health and well-being of children is threatened.

Joe Pursifull, one of the owners of Alphabet Soup, disputed the state’s claims Saturday. He said the state renewed Alphabet Soup's license at the end of December and gave no notice at that time that they were even considering revoking it.

"We will be fighting these allegations, and our attorney will be filing motions for temporary injunction," Pursifull wrote in the email.

He said Alphabet Soup has provided quality care for more than 15 years to thousands of families in the Baton Rouge and Prairieville areas.

"We will continue to operate as normal with the highest level of care parents have come to know and love provided by our dedicated supervisors and teachers," Pursifull said.

He said he's not shutting down the day care center operations despite the state's action on Friday. He said his business will cover the costs for the small number of kids who had been getting state funding assistance to attend.

State regulators have been active in Ascension in recent years, revoking the license of the Adventures in Learning Child Care Center north of Gonzales in early 2017 over safety violations.

Also last year, the state issued a cease and desist letter to an unlicensed home day care in Prairieville a few months before a 3-month-old died in the home. At the time, the child was sick and had been put down for a nap. An autopsy later found no sign of foul play and the home child care resumed operations.

In the alleged over-medication incident at Alphabet Soup, inspectors with the department's Division of Licensing found the center's owner was not documenting who administered medication to children, when it was given or how much was provided, the statement says.

Pursifull, however, said the day care was following the instructions of the child's father, who gave the day care one dosage, but the mother then changed the dosage on the form.

"We reported all that to the state," Pursifull added.

He added that the day care keeps track of medication given to children in its care but uses forms different from what the state wanted.

The Department of Education's Division of Licensing oversees day-cares with at least seven children in regular care for at least 12.5 per week.

Sydni Dunn, spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said Alphabet Soup had 20 children who were attending the day-care through the state's Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income families afford child care.

With the revocation, the center is ineligible for the program's money. The state has told families affected by the revocation and is helping them find other day-cares, state officials said.

Alphabet Soup has 15 days to appeal, but, if the revocation stands, the center won't be able to reapply for a license for two years, state official said.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.