Day care workers gave toddlers laced gummies to ‘calm them’ before nap time, cops say

Three day care workers have been charged with giving a sleep aid to toddlers without their parents’ consent.
Three day care workers have been charged with giving a sleep aid to toddlers without their parents’ consent. Markus Schreiber

Three teachers’ method for getting 2-year-olds to sleep at a suburban Chicago day care center has led to criminal charges, according to police.

A manager at Kiddie Junction in Des Plaines, Illinois found out a teacher had been giving the toddlers gummy bears laced with Melatonin — a hormone that regulates sleep — to help put them to bed, police said, the Chicago Tribune reported. The manager told authorities, CBS Chicago reported.

“Allegedly, this was done in an effort to calm them down before nap time,” police said Monday, the news station reported.

Three teachers were questioned, the Chicago Daily Herald reported. That’s when they admitted to giving the laced gummies to the children, police said, and didn’t see anything wrong with what they were doing.

The teachers allegedly told officers they didn’t think it was inappropriate because it was an over-the-counter sleep aid, the newspaper said.

But the children’s parents had no idea what the women, 32-year-old Kristen Lauletta, 19-year-old Jessica Heyse, and 25-year-old Ashley Helfenbein, were doing, police said.

“You can’t distribute that without the parents being told,” said police Commander Christopher Mierzwa. “(The teachers) didn’t know if the child was allergic to melatonin,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Mierzwa said that while it’s unclear how long the children were being given the gummies, none of the kids appeared to have been harmed, the Daily Herald reported.

"We spoke with every single parent that had a child in the day care, and only one could recall their child being groggy after being picked up," he said.

The women were each charged Friday with two counts of endangering the life or health of a child and two counts of battery, CBS Chicago reported.

Studies have found that Melatonin is a popular sleep aid for children, particularly those who suffer from a sleep disorder. But the alleged use of the drug in day cares without the parents’ consent has resulted in criminal investigations.

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat