Day Care Employees Charged After What They Did in Secret to Children is Outed


Placing a toddler in daycare is a delicate situation. Finding the balance between safe, trustworthy, and affordable daycare almost seems like a pie-in-the-sky endeavor at times, especially in light of what happened at an Illinois daycare on Fri. March 2.

Des Plaines police received a call from the management at Kiddie Junction Educational Institute, a licensed and accredited facility caring for infants to kindergarteners.

Upon investigating, police learned that three female daycare providers had regularly been administering an over-the-counter sleep aid to a 2 and 3-year-old class in an effort to coax them to sleep.

According to police, some, but not all, children received a gummy bear containing melatonin every day before nap time.

Kristen Lauletta, 32, Jessica Heyse, 19, and Ashley Helfenbein, 25, were each charged with two counts of endangering the life or health of a child and two counts of battery, police say.

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According to Des Plaines police, the teachers didn’t think that distributing the gummies was a big deal.

“They did not think administering the melatonin-laced gummies was inappropriate as they were an over the counter sleep aid,” police stated.

Des Plaines Police Commander Chris Mierzwa said not only was the supplement unauthorized by parents, the specific brand the teachers used wasn’t approved for children. “The bottle specifically said it shouldn’t be given to children under 15,” Mierzwa said.

As a licensed and accredited facility, the daycare workers should have been trained on how to handle distribution of medication. At this time, it is unclear whether the teachers acted out of ignorance or made a deliberate choice to violate protocol.

“The problem is you shouldn’t be giving anything to a child that hasn’t been authorized by the parents, even if it is an over the counter supplement,” Mierzwa said. “(The teachers) didn’t know if the child was allergic to melatonin.”

All parents were notified of the situation, and none reported any serious side effects from the melatonin.

“I talked to one mother personally and she said she was wondering why her son came home a little more groggy than usual from school,” Mierzwa said.

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Police added that Kiddie Junction was cooperative with the investigation. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will conduct an investigation of their own.

The three daycare workers are expected to appear in court in April, and all are out on bond. Online reactions to the incident are mixed.

Many social media users have expressed dismay that yet another daycare center has failed its children in some capacity. Others have stood up in defense of local daycare centers, saying that some have higher standards than others.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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