Three daycare workers arrested for giving Gummy Bears containing melatonin to toddlers before nap time without parental consent could be charged with endangering the lives of the children.
Police were alerted to the incident on Friday after a staff member at the Kiddie Junction Daycare Center in Des Plaines, Illinois reported one of the teachers had been giving out the laced chewy candies to a class of two-year-olds to help them sleep at nap time, USA Today reported.
Further investigation led to the arrest of 32-year-old Kristen Lauletta, 19-year-old Jessica Heyse and 25-year-old Ashley Helfenbein.
“Allegedly, this was done in an effort to calm them down before nap time,” police said on Monday, per CBS News.
The three reportedly told police they didn’t see anything wrong in giving a natural over-the-counter supplement to the children, but Des Plaines Police Commender Christopher Mierzwa said it couldn’t be done without receiving consent from the parents.
“(The teachers) didn’t know if the child was allergic to melatonin,” he said, per the Chicago Tribune, adding that the parents of each child were contacted. He said fortunately there were no reports of children being made sick by the supplement.
The three are scheduled to appear in court on April 4 but in the interim police have contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which will conduct its own investigation, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The Guardian reported that it’s common for parents to give and even pediatric doctors to prescribe melatonin to children with sleeping difficulties, but animal studies showed the long-term effects of melatonin use could affect puberty-related hormones.
“Unless a child has a diagnosed condition such as autism that has been scientifically proven to be helped by melatonin, there is no medical rationale for a child to be given it,” said Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert and former director of sleep research at the University of Surrey.
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