LEBANON — Lebanon parents are raising concerns after they say their toddler was hospitalized after eating a cannabis gummy while at daycare.
The alleged incident happened on January 16 at Just Be Kids Learning Center in Lebanon.
Two former workers at the center are criminally charged in connection with the incident.
Boone County prosecutors criminally charged Stella Latham and Paige Wilson Thursday with Neglect of a Dependent, a Level 6 felony.
The toddler’s parents, Joseph Rauseo and Shelby Edens, contacted WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney.
They chose Just Be Kids Learning Center because it’s a licensed center, which means they have to follow specific child/staff ratios, supervision requirements, submit to criminal history checks and complete safe sleep and CPR training.
“I did my research,” said Edens. “I looked up this facility. They are a licensed facility.”
Their 1-year-old son, Creed, is rambunctious and high energy—a typical toddler.
That’s why his father, Joseph Rauseo, knew something was wrong when he picked Creed up from daycare on January 16.
“He was lethargic, very unresponsive to me,” said Rauseo.
Creed was wearing different clothing than he had on that morning, Rauseo said, and the staff told him Creed didn’t take a nap that day.
But Rauseo said Creed’s behavior seemed more serious than just skipping a nap.
“I put him in the car, and he was nodding in and out, not himself at all,” said Rauseo. “You could tell something was not right.”
Rauseo drove Creed to the hospital with Creed’s older sister in tow, and called their mother and his fiancé, Shelby Edens.
Edens will never forget seeing her baby in that hospital bed.
“It was very concerning seeing him limp and not responding to anything,” said Edens.
Doctors ran tests on Creed.
“When we got the toxicology report back, I was just in shock you know,” said Edens.
Records show Creed tested positive for Cannabinoids, a group of substances found in the cannabis plant, typically THC and CBD.
Creed’s parents say they don’t use any marijuana products, so they immediately suspected the childcare center.
“You’re supposed to be able to trust these people with your children,” said Edens. “So, when something like that happens, I was just in a world of shock.”
The parents contacted the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA)—the state agency that licenses and inspects childcare facilities.
They also filed a police report with the Lebanon Police Department, which investigated the incident.
On February 8, Boone County prosecutors charged Stella Latham and Paige Wilson with Neglect of a Dependent.
Latham brought a THC gummy into the classroom during naptime, and Wilson placed it on a box that was accessible to children, according to court documents.
The gummy contained Delta 8 or Delta 9, according to court documents, a cannabis product that can be legal to buy in Indiana in low concentrations.
Video surveillance showed Creed grab the gummy and put it into his mouth, drop it onto his shirt and then onto the floor, according to court documents.
Creed’s parents say their son only ate part of the gummy, but because he’s only 30 pounds, it was enough to make him sick.
The daycare workers later found the gummy, checked on Creed, changed his stained shirt and high-fived each other, according to court documents.
“That showed me that they were trying to hide it,” said Edens. “They instantly took his shirt off. That shows me they didn’t want us to find out. They didn’t want us to know what happened.”
WRTV Investigates emailed and stopped by Just Be Kids Learning Center to get their side of the story.
A woman who identified herself as the director did not want to go on camera, but she told WRTV she didn’t know about the gummy incident until Lebanon Police showed up at their door.
The director said both employees involved have been fired, and she told WRTV Investigates the incident was not intentional.
She also told us the center has cooperated with authorities and provided video footage to police, DCS and FSSA.
WRTV Investigates checked the FSSA website and found the state inspected Just Be Kids Learning Center on January 26.
FSSA cited the childcare center eight times, including that the center did not report the gummy incident to FSSA within five days.
In addition, FSSA found a disqualified staff member who did not have fingerprints on file.
FSSA also noted in its inspection findings, “The center shall verbally report immediately to the affected childs parent and to the division any serious occurrences involving any child. These occurrences include, but are not limited to, the following: Alleged abuse or neglect by child care center personnel.”
On February 8, an FSSA spokesperson said they placed Just Be Kids Learning Center on a six-month probation, during which time the state will visit monthly to check for compliance and safety.
“The disqualified staff member is no longer employed,” said James Vaughn, FSSA spokesperson in an email to WRTV.
FSSA sent letters to families of children enrolled notifying them the program is on probation, said Vaughn.
Creed’s parents wish someone from the childcare center had told them what happened.
“If my son ingested something he shouldn’t have,” said Rauseo. “I need to know so I can get the situation resolved immediately. They let us walk out the door with no notification.”
Creed appears to be back to normal, but his parents worry about long-lasting impacts on his growing brain.
Rauseo and Edens immediately pulled both of their children from Just Be Kids Learning Center.
Edens left her job working with special needs children, and now stays home with Creed and his sister.
“It’s hard to trust anybody with your kids after something like this happens,” said Edens.
More and more Hoosier children are receiving medical treatment after they ingest cannabis-laced edibles, according to the Indiana Poison Center.
“We’ve definitely seen a sharp increase, especially over the last seven to eight years,” said Dr. Blake Froberg, director of the Indiana Poison Center. “We’re seeing more kids that, as they explore their environment, get into these and then end up needing medical care.”
In recent months, police and school officials have been warning parents of the dangers of cannabis edibles and kids.
- In May, 11 children were sent to the hospital or home with parents after a student shared cannabis-laced gummies with classmates at Mt. Vernon Middle School.
- In 2021, the Edinburgh Police Department warned parents to look out for these drugs after officers seized more than six pounds of THC edibles that looked like “Nerds” candy.
- In September, Washington Township Schools told parentsabout an incident where edible candy laced with an unknown drug was distributed to multiple students at Eastwood Middle School.
- And in 2022, a Lawrence Township mother told WRTV that a classmate gave THC-laced candy to her 12-year-old son and other students at Fall Creek Middle School.