Three Chicago daycare workers were placed under arrest by the Des Plaines Police Department after feeding melatonin-laced gummy bears to children. Kristen Lauletta, Jessica Heyse, 19, and Ashley Helfenbein, 25, were all charged with two counts of endangering the life or health of a child and two counts of battery.
According to the official police report, the melatonin-laced gummy bears were administered to the children in an effort to calm them down before nap time. There were 12 children in the classroom at Kiddie Junction Educational Institute, each aged between two and three years old, according to police. The use of melatonin had not been approved by parents whose children were attending the daycare.
The melatonin-laced gummy bears are an over the counter sleep aid. However, the bottle states that they are not to be taken by anyone under the age of 16. Police said the arrested parties told them they thought it was alright to give the children melatonin as it is sold over the counter.
The daycare workers were never given permission by parents to give their children melatonin. While none of the children seemed to suffer any negative side effects, one parent told the Chicago Tribune that his 2-year-old child was “groggy” when they were picked up from Kiddie Junction. Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner told WBBM that this was “just a horrible case of bad judgment.”
While melatonin overdoses are not fatal, it can have adverse effects on children. This is due to melatonin being a hormone, which is normally produced in the body. A report from the Huffington Post stated that giving melatonin to children “can affect puberty, disrupt menstrual cycles and impede normal hormonal development.”
The Mayo Clinic has said that people should only take melatonin supplements after consulting a doctor. The body produces melatonin naturally around the same time every day. This is what makes people sleepy in the evening. While the daycare workers thought they were doing nothing wrong, they may have been negatively affecting the natural sleep cycles of the kids in their care.
When police arrived at the Kiddie Junction Educational Institute, they found that there were only four pieces left in a bottle that contained 120 melatonin-laced gummy bears. Dr. Anna Ivanenko, a neurologist and pediatric sleep specialist at AMITA Health, told the Chicago Tribune that administering melatonin to the children without informing the parents was “a very inappropriate and potentially dangerous act.”
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