Three Illinois daycare workers were arrested after allegedly giving melatonin-laced gummy bear candies to two-year-olds before naptime.
The Chicago-area workers are accused of child endangerment and battery after giving the candy to toddlers to clam them before napping at the Kiddie Junction daycare, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.
The daycare center’s management reported to police after discovering that Kristen Lauletta, 32, Ashley Helfenbein, 25, and Jessica Heyse, 19 were giving the toddlers the gummies without the consent or knowledge of the parents.
“You can’t distribute that without the parents being told,” Des Plaines police Cmdr. Christopher Mierzwa said. “(The teachers) didn’t know if the child was allergic to melatonin.”
Melatonin, a hormone produced by the body, is available in over-the-counter supplements that can help people fall asleep, according to neurologist Smita Patel. And while not considered harmful, Patel thinks giving it to young children – especially without parental consent – is not advised.
Neurologist Dr. Anna Ivanenko told the Tribune that giving melatonin to children unbeknownst to parents is “a very inappropriate and potentially dangerous act.”
Kiddie Junction’s owner and director called police after discovering a nearly empty bottle of the melatonin-laced gummy bears, according to WBBM-TV. One of the employees allegedly admitted giving the supplement candy to the toddlers though it is not clear how long the practice had been going on. There were reportedly four gummies left in the 120-count Walgreens-brand bottle which states on the label that the product should not to be taken by anyone younger than 16, according to WBBM.
Police, who discovered that two other teachers were also involved, contacted the parents of the children who said none of their children had had any adverse reactions.
Edi Kulasic “didn’t know what to think” when he got the call from police.
“When they called me, as soon as they said they were at the school, my heart dropped,” the parent told WBBM.
The day care has no prior violations, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is also reportedly investigating the incident.
Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner told WBBM.
Lauletta, Helfenbein, and Heyse are due to appear in court on April 4.
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