Daycare workers charged after giving toddlers melatonin gummy bears

Daycare workers charged after giving toddlers melatonin gummy bears
Daycare workers charged after giving toddlers melatonin gummy bears Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Three daycare workers have been charged after giving a group of toddlers melatonin gummy bears before nap time, without their parents' consent.

Police were called to Kiddie Junction in Des Plaines, Chicago, last week after centre management discovered a bottle containing the sleep-aid in a classroom. Only four of the 120 tablets were left, reports CBS Chicago.

Kristen Lauletta, 32, of Niles, Jessica Heyse, 19, of Des Plaines, and Ashley Helfenbein, 25, of Chicago have all been  charged with two counts of endangering the life or health of a child and two counts of battery. Police have obtained footage of the teachers giving two and three-year-old children the gummy bears on two occasions in an effort to "calm them down before nap time".

It is believed that one of the accused may have been using the gummies with toddlers at the centre as far back as November 2016.

According to FOX 32 the staff told officers, "they did not think administering the melatonin-laced gummies was inappropriate as they were an over-the-counter sleep aid." 

Speaking to The Chicago Tribune, police Commander Christopher Mierzwa said: "You can't distribute that without the parents being told. [The teachers] didn't know if the child was allergic to melatonin."

While no children were sickened after ingesting the gummy bears, some parents told police that their kids had seemed more "groggy" than usual at school pick up, Commander Mierzwa said.

Kathy Wiley, whose grandson Mason attends Kiddie Junction, told FOX 32 that she still has faith in the centre."I feel terrible for the owners and the management and this is just some poor choices that these girls made."

A spokesperson from The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services confirmed that they are investigating the incident.

Melatonin is available over the counter in the United States, Canada and Europe, but remains a prescription-only medication in Australia. Last year the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) rejected an application to exempt the sleep-aid from Schedule 4 of the Poisons Standard (prescription only) due to concerns parents might misuse the drug for children with behavioural issues.

"There is potential that unscheduled melatonin could be used in children, which also poses a potential for misuse, eg for long-term treatment or in children with behavioural/discipline issues," the TGA's Advisory on Medicines Scheduling Committee said at the time.