Bus driver Joann Japalucci could have let the seven-year-old boy walk home by himself. His mom wasn’t waiting as she usually was, and according to school protocol, students in second grade and above are allowed to walk home from the bus stop on their own.

For some reason, however, the thought of doing so gave Japalucci a funny feeling. She describes the scene to WTAE:

“The little boy stood there and said his mom wasn’t there to pick him up. Usually, she is. We have standard protocol for kindergarten and first-graders that if their parent isn’t there to pick them up, we don’t let them go. He was in second grade. I could have let him go but I didn’t feel right about it.”

Japalucci kept the boy on the bus while she finished her route and circled back to his bus stop one her way back to school. His mother, 29-year-old Kaylee Macasaet, was still nowhere to be found.

Still, leaving the boy to walk on his own didn’t feel right to Japalucci. She contacted the school principal, Sherri Holler, who told Japalucci to bring the boy back to school with her. Holler tried to contact the mom, but she was unable to be reached, so Holler drove the boy home herself.

The scene that they happened upon when they entered the boy’s home left the seven-year-old screaming. Macasaet was passed out on the couch with a toddler on her chest.

Police who were called to the scene uncovered 247 empty bags of heroin and a plethora of drug paraphernalia— all within the children’s reach.

According to an affidavit obtained by TRIBLIVE, Macasaet told authorities that she was detoxing from the drug, and that she had taken several pills — one Adderall and four Xanax — to help with the process. The affidavit states:

“She was very lethargic and showed no concern for her children… Kaylee repeatedly told the officer how she is detoxing from heroin and would be fine in two days. Kaylee continued to state that she was going to lock herself in her bedroom for two days so she could sleep.”

As Officer Frank Tempo describes in the affidavit, the family was living in dire conditions and the toddler, a three-year-old boy, was wearing nothing but a dirty diaper.

Authorities contacted a relative to pick up the children. When he arrived, Macasaet attempted to physically assault him.

She was arrested and charged with child endangerment, possession of drug paraphernalia, and aggravated assault.

Recognizing how terribly the situation could have ended, Japalucci is glad that she listened to her gut, that she didn’t allow the seven-year-old to walk home on his own.

“I am very thankful. By the grace of God, it worked out the way it did,” she says. “Maybe now everybody can be aware of the situation, and the family can get the help they need.”

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