Three daycare workers were arrested after a group of two-year-olds were given gummy bears that were laced with melatonin, a drug that regulates sleep. Parents had not given consent for the drug to be administered, nor were they asked beforehand. The trio’s use of the drug was discovered after a manager at the daycare found a nearly empty bottle of melatonin next to gummy bears.
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Kristen Lauletta, 32, Jessica Heyse, 19, and Ashley Helfenbein, 25, all told police they didn’t see anything wrong with giving children melatonin-laced gummy bears because it was an over-the-counter sleep aid, according to Yahoo News.
The three Illinois women have been charged with two counts of child endangerment and two counts of battery.
Melatonin is a hormone that is created in the pineal gland in the brain, the New York Daily News reported. “Allegedly, this was done in an effort to calm them down before nap time,” Des Plaines Police said in a statement.
Neurologist Dr. Anna Ivanenko spoke to the Chicago Tribune and explained that giving melatonin to a child without the parent’s knowledge is “very inappropriate and potentially dangerous.”
Walgreens and other sellers of the drug indicate that gummy melatonin bottles are clearly marked on the label as not to be taken by someone under the age of 16.
“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.”
The state’s Children’s and Families Department is expected to launch its own investigation into the matter in the coming weeks. Law enforcement is still trying to pinpoint how long the women have been giving the sleeping drug to the children who attended the daycare.
No children seem to have experienced any negative effects since taking the drug, but it is known to have an effect on young children who are still developing.
“With children … it can affect puberty, disrupt menstrual cycles and impede normal hormonal development,” The Huffington Post reported. The women will appear in court on April 4.