A Montana family who lose custody of their daughter for refusing to “affirm” her transgender identity has launched a first amendment complaint against the state after being threatened with arrest for speaking out against Child and Family Services.
As previously reported by The Publica, 14-year-old “Jennifer” was recently removed from the custody of her family after a months-long battle that started in August last year. The ordeal began after Jennifer told a friend that she was suffering from untreated terminal cancer and was suicidal because her parents, Krista and Todd Kolstad, refused to allow her to transition to a “boy.”
Later that same day, a case worker with Child and Family Services (CFS) arrived to the Kolstad residence to do an inspection and speak to the child. Though the Kolstads explained that Jennifer had history of attention-seeking behavior and telling egregious lies, the CFS worker asked to speak to Jennifer in private. During the interview, Jennifer reportedly claimed that she had consumed toilet bowl cleaner and painkillers in an effort to take her own life.
Despite showing no symptoms and not having access either substance, Jennifer was taken to hospital, at which point bloodwork verified she hadn’t overdosed on anything, nor was she suffering from terminal cancer. Because she had been admitted for suicidal claims, Jennifer had to be monitored. But while at hospital, the issue of Jennifer’s self-declared gender identity became a point of disagreement between staff and the Kolstad family.
Jennifer demanded to be called “Leo” and referred to by “he/him” pronouns, which her parents objected to on religious and moral grounds. Hospital staff blatantly ignored their repeated requests, and instead continued to “affirm” Jennifer’s gender identity, and “respect” her pronouns. At one point, the Kolstads visited to find a “non-binary” aide talking to Jennifer about “top surgery.”
The Kolstads agreed with CFS that Jennifer would benefit from inpatient treatment, and agreed to send Jennifer to a residential facility for counseling. After being told Jennifer was “next in line” for a bed in Billings, the Kolstads unexpectedly received a call from the hospital informing them Jennifer had to be sent to Wyoming. This immediately concerned the family as Wyoming did not have laws preventing the medical transitioning of minors.
After expressing hesitancy to send Jennifer to the Wyoming facility, the girl was temporarily removed from their custody by CFS. But the issue has only escalated since then, and CFS filed a petition to relocate Jennifer to live with a relative in Canada earlier this year.
“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 told Reduxx.
Though they had a gag order restricting them from speaking on the case, the Kolstads chose to come forward last week to speak to media about their family’s situation.
This week, they were informed via their lawyer that they could be arrested when they return to Montana from Ohio where they are currently caring for a sick relative.
“We were very concerned, but not surprised, to learn from a credible source that the Governor of Montana plans to arrest us the moment we step foot back in Montana. We are also told that he has tasked his senior adviser and director of strategic communications to use the media to punish us for speaking out about the state’s medical kidnapping of our daughter,” Krista Kolstad told Reduxx.
“It was an abuse of power for the state to revoke custody of our daughter because we wouldn’t affirm her ‘gender identity.’ It is an abuse of power to use tax-dollars to smear us as negligent in the press despite records that prove we have always proactively sought care for our daughter’s ongoing, unrelated mental health issues. We have also followed medical recommendations pertaining to these issues since she has been in state custody. The only thing we ever objected to is ‘transitioning’ our daughter.”
Krista concluded: “Any accusation that she was taken from our home due to abuse or neglect secondary to this issue is a bald-faced lie with political foundations. Our daughter is not a political pawn. She is a child and she should be with her family – not the state. We are never going to stop fighting for our daughter.”
As a result, the First Amendment lawyer representing the Kolstads has filed a case at the Supreme Court in Montana, in order to remove the gag order and stop any potential arrests, allowing them to return home if granted.
Governor Gianforte had previously stated that he had reviewed the Kolstad’s case, but that he had sided with the decision of CFS.
While not specifically accusing them of abuse, he argued that the decision was legitimate, despite the fact that their hesitancy at sending Jennifer to a state that could medically transition her was the sole reason given for her custody removal.
Travis Hall, a senior advisor for Gianforte, had also shared content on X explicitly stating that there “must be a lot more to this story,” with the post claiming that children living in “absolute filth” and “meth labs” weren’t being taken away, suggesting what happened to Jennifer was much worse.
This post, and others shared by Gianforte, are currently being used in the lawsuit as evidence.