A Montana family has accused social services of “kidnapping” their 14-year-old daughter after she began to identify as a transgender boy. The daughter is set to be sent to live with her biological mother in Canada.
Speaking exclusively to Reduxx, Krista Kolstad, the step-mother of the girl, recounted how in August of 2023 she and her husband Todd had received a phone call that their daughter, Jennifer, had expressed suicidal ideation at school. The parents state that Jennifer had a history of dishonest and attention-seeking behavior.
That same evening, a worker from Montana’s Child and Family Services (CFS) showed up at the Kolstad home and demanded to speak with Jennifer in private. During the interview, the teenager reportedly claimed that she had consumed toilet bowl cleaner and painkillers in an effort to kill herself. Krista maintained that this was impossible, as Jennifer did not have access to the items and had not exhibited any symptoms of illness that day. Despite not being convinced of Jennifer’s claims, the family agreed to take the girl to the hospital on an emergency basis.
After Jennifer was taken to the hospital, medical paperwork shown by Reduxx revealed she had no poisonous substances in her system. However, the hospital referred to Jennifer as “Leo,” and noted that she identified as “male,” something which Krista and Todd immediately objected to.
“We were very clear to the emergency room staff as well as [CFS] that this goes against our values, morals, and our religious beliefs,” Krista said, but the hospital staff refused to listen. “They told me to call their lawyer if I have an issue as they will do what the patient tells them.”
At the time, Montana had already banned “gender-affirming care” for minors. However, the hospital claimed that “social transitioning” was a “grey area” and that they would continue to respect Jennifer’s demands. While on 24/7 suicide watch, Krista says one aide placed outside Jennifer’s door would talk about such “care” to her.
“I came one day and [the aide] was talking about having top-surgery and being non-binary,” Krista said. She complained to the doctor on duty, but he didn’t seem to care. “He told me, ‘why are not you more concerned that your daughter is trying to harm herself, then what [the aide] is talking about?’”
During Jennifer’s stay in the hospital, her parents and CFS determined it was best if she was placed in a specialized residential facility for treatment and counseling. Of the facilities discussed, one was across state lines in Wyoming, which concerned Krista and Todd as Wyoming has no laws against providing minors “gender-affirming care.” After raising their objections, the parents were assured that Jennifer would most likely stay in Montana, and were told on August 22 that she was next in line for a bed in Billings.
But hours later, the Kolstad’s received a call from the hospital stating that Jennifer was being moved to the Wyoming-based facility.
“They called and told us that a bed had opened up in Wyoming and that Jennifer needed to go. [The Doctor] said ‘she has to go. She’s not doing any good here,’ and we were really blown away,” Krista said. “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.”
Within 10 minutes, CFS arrived to their home with the police and served with them papers to remove Jennifer from their care. The reason given was that the family was “unable or refusing to provide medical care,” something Krista denies. Jennifer was moved to the Wyoming facility the next day.
While in Wyoming, Krista and Todd weren’t able to contact Jennifer directly, only communicating through her counsellor, who was reluctant to hand over information. Jennifer was returned to Montana to a Youth Dynamics group home on September 25, where she currently resides.
“They called it ‘temporary legal custody,’ which means they have the say over where she is at, but we are supposed to be able to have the say over everything else,” Krista told Reduxx. “But that was not upheld. There were incidents of her getting vaccines we did not consent to, we were not told the name of the Doctors involved, and she was allowed to shave her head.”
Following Jennifer’s placement at the Youth Dynamics Group Home, the Kolstads and CFS had monthly court meetings to determine their next steps. Though the facility placement was only intended to last for 6-9 months, things took a dramatic turn for the worse on on January 19.
Krista and Todd were informed by the court that Jennifer was being handed over to Montana’s CFS.
“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. “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.’”
Christine, Jennifer’s biological mother, currently lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband. However, statements from a professional counselor detailing sessions with Jennifer and her sister reveal that the girls had previously described their biological mother as “crazy” and “abusive.”
The counselor wrote down that the girls saw “incidents of violence directed at an older sibling,” involving Christine “throwing that sibling against the refrigerator after becoming enraged at her” for wearing her jewellery without permission. Other alleged incidents included “when her biological mother would punch, hit, slap, and kick her and her siblings.”
Out of the five children that Christine and Todd had together, only one lived with her before he aged out of her care. Christine had to approach Krista and Todd for help with “behavioural problems” that he expressed, and Christine even admitted checking homeless encampments and police records to look for him. Despite the mountains of records and text message conversations, CFS still determined that Christine was the best person to look after Jennifer.
Krista told Reduxx that despite the situation, they will “continue to fight” for Jennifer. “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.”