HANCOCK COUNTY — A daycare worker employed at a county church has been charged with multiple counts of neglect after officials say she gave pediatric-strength melatonin to several children at a daycare facility without parental consent.
The administration of the melatonin without proper approval caused side effects to several of the children, parents stated in a probable cause affidavit.
Tonya Rachelle Voris, 52, 1000 block of E Broadway Street, Fortville, is facing 17 charges including 11 different counts of Level 6 felony neglect of a dependent and six Class B Misdemeanor charges of reckless supervision by a child care provider.
The case against Voris was officially opened in Hancock County Superior Court 2, Friday, Feb. 10 when Magistrate Cody Coombs issued a warrant for Voris. Voris made her initial appearance in HCSC 2 Monday, Feb. 13 court records show. She was arrested and given a $15,000 surety bond and is due back in court Wednesday, April 5.
According to a probable cause affidavit, pastor David M. Faulk of New Life Church, 501 N. Buck Creek Road, Cumberland, reported the crime to authorities. Faulk told officials with the Cumberland Police Department the church operates a day care business under the name Kidz Life Childcare where they are responsible for an estimated 40 children ranging from infants to 4 years old.
Faulk told officials on Jan. 29 that the assistant director of the daycare came to him and expressed concerns of a pediatric-strength melatonin being administered to children without parental consent by the director of the daycare, Voris.
The report stated that, in Dec. 2022, a parent advised Voris to provide their child with a specific amount of pediatric-strength melatonin to aid in the child falling asleep at nap time. The affidavit states Faulk was told Voris was pleased with how the melatonin worked and started administering the melatonin to a large number of children without parental consent.
The assistant director of the daycare, the report stated, told Faulk she too had administered the melatonin to children after Voris had instructed her to do so, but stopped because she felt it was not right without the parents knowing.
Officials met with Faulk at the church on Feb. 2, the affidavit said. It was there that Faulk told law enforcement 17 children were given the melatonin gummies without parental consent from Dec. 22 to the end of January by Voris and the assistant.
Faulk told authorities he met with church legal officials, Voris and her husband Jan. 30 at the church. Voris advised him she had permission from two sets of parents to dispense the melatonin gummies to two different children and one of the parents had supplied the gummies. Voris also told Faulk she had been giving the melatonin gummies to other children without consent, the affidavit said.
When Faulk told Voris she was wrong to administer the gummies without consent she became disgruntled and took some church files, the affidavit said. Faulk noted that he asked her to leave the church property and immediately terminated her employment. The report also stated that Voris had recently turned in a resignation since she was planning to move to Florida in mid-February.
The assistant daycare director told officials that all children in the daycare ages 1 to 4 years old take nap time at the same time in the main sanctuary of the church for two hours daily. The assistant stated that children ages 1 to 4 years old were given the melatonin gummies by Voris and herself. The assistant said she stopped giving the gummies and informed Faulk once she thought about what was happening and had only done so because her boss, Voris, instructed her to do so.
The assistant went on to say in the report that Voris was a “bully” to the staff and was very controlling and rude. The woman stated the staff felt intimidated by Voris and if they did not do as she wanted, they would be wrongfully disciplined or terminated from employment, the affidavit said. Another employee at the church described Voris as a “difficult” boss who managed in a “her way or the highway” style, the affidavit said.
Voris refused to meet with officials to discuss the accusations, officials said in the report.
Several parents, however, spoke with officials and noted their children had experienced side effects from the melatonin, the report stated.
One parent reported their child was constantly waking in the middle of the night for no reason during the time it was determined the child was being given the melatonin gummies. The child had gone back to a normal sleep pattern after the unapproved administration of the gummies stopped, the report stated.
Another parent stated that they noticed a strange rash on their child, which can be a common side effect of melatonin use in children under 4 years of age. The parent also said their child was abnormally more tired than normal and would be asleep by 6 p.m. every night and would not wake until around 7 a.m. The parent was so concerned she took the child to the doctor for an evaluation but, since Voris was terminated, the child has gone back to normal sleep patterns, the report stated.
Another parent stated that their child’s behavior was much more “erratic” and the child would “act crazy” in the evenings, something that they had not ever seen before and attributed it to the melatonin gummies. A different parent told officials their child would have anxiety about going to the daycare center and expressed that he was afraid of Voris.
Officials also noted in their report the bottle of melatonin had warnings on it about possible allergic reaction as well and for parents to consult a healthcare professional before use. The bottle also stated, officials said in the report, that if administered the child should be allowed six hours of sleep after taking, among other health warnings.
Officials noted in the report that Voris’ dispensing of melatonin gummies to children without parental consent was reckless due to her being unaware of a potential allergy threat, dietary issues and unknown side effects harming the children. Officials said that Voris dispensed the melatonin gummies to forcefully induce sleep in several children for her personal gain in not having to deal with fussy or problematic children who would not sleep during “nap time,” which was characterized by several staff members as their “break time.”