Day Care Workers Accused of Drugging Toddlers Before Nap Time

by Angelica Lai

Photograph by Twenty20

Three day care workers from Kiddie Junction in Des Plaines, Illinois, have been arrested for giving toddlers over-the-counter melatonin-laced gummy bears. The staff members reportedly would give the sleep aid to some of the 2- and 3-year-old children in a classroom of 12 to calm them down before nap time without parents' consent, allegedly thinking it wasn't harmful to the kids. Not only that, but it has been happening since November 2016, according to Commander Chris Mierzwa of the Des Plaines Police Department.

Drugging kids to get them to go the f*ck to sleep has long been a dangerous running joke among stressed-out parents who just need a break. Kids aren't sleeping early enough or long enough? Some parents think they can just slip them some cold medicine or Benadryl. The same goes for melatonin, which despite being a natural hormone that regulates sleep, isn't necessarily "safe" for children.

Mierzwa told ABC News that the over-the-counter bottle of Walgreens-brand gummy bears the day-care workers used clearly stated they were not to be given to children under the age of 15.

As children's brains are still developing, there are many unanswered questions about the potential risks of melatonin.

As children's brains are still developing, there are many unanswered questions about the potential risks of melatonin. How will it affect their reproductive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems? What's a safe dose? How long can children safely be on melatonin supplements? National poison center data show melatonin accounts for more calls than any other herb or supplement.

Melatonin concentrations also vary greatly among products and it's recommended to consult a pediatrician before use, which is why this Kiddie Junction case can be so unnerving for parents. They had no idea what their kids were taking, how much of it or for how long. Too much melatonin can cause unintended side effects, including nausea, gastrointestinal problems, headaches and mood changes. Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Sleep Center at Boston Children's Hospital, recommends kids under 3 avoid melatonin supplements altogether.

Kristen M. Lauletta, 32, Jessica Heyse, 19, and 25-year-old Ashley Helfenbein were each charged with two counts of endangering the life or health of a child and two counts of battery. Parents who have kids attending Kiddie Junction were notified about the investigation. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will also conduct its own investigation.

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