Two Montana parents say they are facing their worst nightmare: having their daughter, 14, taken from them by the state because they did not support her gender transition.
Governor Greg Gianforte, however, is backing Child and Family Services (CFS) in the case.
“Upon hearing recent allegations related to a child welfare case, I asked Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras… to review it,” Gianforte said. “Lieutenant Governor Juras has concluded that DPHHS and the court have followed state policy and law in their handling of this tragic case.”
However, in an exclusive interview with Reduxx, parents Krista and Todd Kolstad disagree, calling their daughter’s removal by CFS a “kidnapping.”
In the interview, the Kolstads claim the events that led up to the nightmare scenario began in August. That’s when they say the school called to notify them their daughter had expressed thoughts of suicide.
They knew their daughter had problems at school, and even had to move districts previously due to bullying. But they also suspected she suffered from undiagnosed mental health issues, including attention-seeking behavior.
When CFS showed up at the Kolstad home for an inspection, arriving as the family was preparing for dinner later that evening, they reluctantly agreed to let the visitors in.
During the visit, their daughter reportedly told the CFS agent she tried to kill herself by taking pain killers and swallowing toilet bowl cleaner. The Kolstads dispute their daughters claim, as they note she never showed any signs of illness or distress. Medical records shared with Reduxx reportedly confirm their suspicion that she had not ingested those items.
However, the medical records did have an alarming note of interest. In them, their daughter is described as a “14-year-old girl (who identifies as male – ‘Leo’).” When the parents made their objections to this known, they say hospital staff told them to sue if they had a problem – and the staff would continue to honor the child’s wishes.
“We were very clear to the emergency room staff as well as [CFS] that this goes against our values, morals, and our religious beliefs,” she said. “They told me to call their lawyer if I have an issue as they will do what the patient tells them.”
While surgical procedures for gender transitions are illegal for minors in Montana, the Kolstads say that didn’t stop hospital staff from talking to their daughter about it. And, since she was technically on suicide watch, there was a staff person available to discuss it with her 24/7.
When Krista discussed the matter with doctor on-duty, she says she was chastised for caring about the wrong issues.
“I came one day and she was talking about having top-surgery and being non-binary,” Krista says of her daughter’s aide. “[The doctor on-duty] told me, ‘Why are not you more concerned that your daughter is trying to harm herself, then what [the aide] is talking about?’”
From there, she says, her daughter’s hospital stay was a constant battle, as the hospital attempted to undermine their parental authority. Even refusing to support the parents over seemingly innocuous issues like screen time or junk food.
During the hospital stay, the Kolstads reportedly met with CFS frequently and a plan was formulated. All parties agreed the daughter would be referred to a residential treatment facility.
Where they differed was over the location of that facility, with six options in Montana and one in Wyoming, where the parents feared their daughter could have treatments without their consent.
“They told us that there were six facilities in Montana, but that there was also a facility in Wyoming,” Krista recalled. “And at that point, because we were already in such a state from the hospital disrespecting us and our wishes, we immediately looked up Wyoming’s laws on transitioning minors, it looked to us like kids could go ahead and have procedures done and have hormones without parental consent.”
On Aug. 22, they were told their worst fears had come true, their daughter would be taken to the facility in Wyoming.
“They called and told us that a bed had opened up in Wyoming and that [our daughter] needed to go. [The Doctor] said, ‘She has to go; she’s not doing any good here,’ and we were really blown away. No one talked to us about the name of the facility — we had no one to answer our questions. We told them we wanted our questions answered before we accepted the bed.”
A few minutes later, CFS was at their home with the police.
“They showed up at our home to serve us with papers to take Jennifer out of our care,” Krista told Reduxx. “They told me the reason was that we were ‘unable or refusing to provide medical care.’ That’s just not true.”
On Aug. 23, their daughter was moved to the facility in Wyoming, where she stayed until Sept. 25. Then, she was placed in a group home, back in Montana, where she has remained since.
On Jan.19, the court rule to give custody of the child to CFS, turning what was supposed to be a six to nine month stay in a therapeutic facility into the child’s complete removal from the home.
“We were told that letting Jennifer transition and live as a boy was in her ‘therapeutic best interest’ and because we aren’t willing to follow that recommendation, the court gave CFS custody of Jennifer for six months,” Krista said.
Making matters worse, CFS reportedly then decided to transfer custody of the child to her biological mother in Canada, who the Kolstads claim is unfit, with a history of abuse.
“CFS is now going to place Jennifer in the care of her birth mother in Canada, who has never really been a part of her life. The judge said to us, ‘You need to expect that reunification with your family may not be what you are expecting.’
“I have this letter from one of Jennifer’s previous counsellors that recommends that if Christine wants to come back into her children’s lives, she should do unification therapy, there should be trial visits… all of this stuff should happen because the children reported her as being abusive.”
Ultimately, the Kolstads feel their family has been destroyed and their parental rights trampled.
“Our family has been destroyed by this. We have little to no contact with Jennifer and our rights as her parents have been trampled on,” Krista says. “We will continue to fight. We will never give up on our daughter and for what we believe is morally right.
“We will continue to tell our story, even though we are currently in contempt of court, and try to keep other families from going through this. Our greatest fear is that our daughter is now going to become a victim of this system and eventually take her own life.”