DCFS Investigating Day Care After Police Say Employees Gave Kids Melatonin

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is investigating after police arrested three employees of a suburban day care for allegedly giving children melatonin gummies before nap time.

Authorities said they got an anonymous tip last week which led them to investigate Kiddie Junction Daycare Center in Des Plaines Friday afternoon.

There, three teachers admitted to distributing gummy bears with melatonin to children, though the use of the substance had not been approved by parents, police said. The class had 12 children between the ages of 2 and 3, officials said.

“Allegedly, this was done in an effort to calm [the kids] down before nap time,” a release from Des Plaines police read.

Kristen Lauletta, 32, Ashley Helfenbein, 25, and 19-year-old Jessica Heyse were charged with two counts each of battery and endangering the life of a child, according to police. 

NBC 5 visited the homes of Lauletta and Helfenbein Monday but no one answered the door. Helfenbein's attorney spoke with NBC 5 over the phone, saying, "At this point these are simply allegations being brought against my client and the state needs to prove any and all charges beyond a reasonable doubt."

Parents and neighbors expressed shock and outrage at the news Monday, particularly in light of the fact that the day care has been in business since 1983.

Gisela Reyes said her 2-year-old daughter has attended Kiddie Junction Educational Institute in Des Plaines for about year, and that she was shocked to learned about the allegations.

"It's unexpected - I never thought that would happen," she said. "It's very heartbreaking for me because it's something I never would have expected."

"We just don't know where to go from here," added the father of a child who attends Kiddie Junction. "We're stunned."

"Like any parent, you worry what you give your kids, and you worry what they're given when they're at school or in the care of a caregiver." Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner said of the case.

The director of the day care did not return calls or emails on Monday requesting comment. Police said the director was cooperating with the investigation, and that DCFS was also conducting its own investigation into the matter.

All three women facing charges were expected to appear in court in April, according to police, who said more charges in the case are likely.

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