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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2019

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

DPHHS issues statement regarding Ranch for Kids

“Today, the State of Montana removed 27 children due to serious allegations of egregious, chronic, and persistent child abuse and neglect of youth who reside at Ranch for Kids in Rexford, Montana, including physical and psychological abuse and assaults of children by staff. Simultaneously, the facility’s license was suspended effective immediately.  DPHHS is working to contact parents and develop plans to reunify families or help find suitable placement for these youth. The health, safety, and welfare of all children who live in Montana is paramount, and no child should have to experience what multiple sources have alleged has happened at the Ranch for Kids. We are grateful to the many agencies, including law enforcement, who ensured the safety of the kids and caseworkers during today’s removals.”
DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
This is an ongoing investigation and we are also limited by state law as to what we can share.

This is what we can share:

  • We prioritize the safety and security of children.  The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) made the decision to remove the children currently residing at the Ranch and to suspend the Ranch’s license to prevent future abuse.
  • Allegations of egregious abuse regarding Ranch for Kids has escalated in both frequency and severity in recent months.
  • We have carefully staffed this process to ensure that the children are in a safe, trauma-informed place with needed care and proper nutrition.
  • The 27 children that were removed are now at a safe location. They are receiving medical care. The details of their care and condition are confidential.
  • The reports include consistent and chronic allegations of physical and psychological abuse, as well as medical neglect. 
    • We have information involving:
      • Students being physically hit, kicked, body slammed and spit on by staff.
      • Staff inflicting persistent psychological abuse on children.
      • Staff using excessive discipline, including 15-20 mile walks on a remote forest service roads in harsh conditions, with improper or no shoes, withholding food, shooting a nail gun at a student, and prolonged isolation.
      • Children do not receive medical attention when critically needed and medications are not properly administered, stored, or regulated.
      • Runaways are not reported in a consistent or timely manner to law enforcement, even in harsh winter conditions
  • Ranch for Kids cannot operate without a valid state license.
  • We are contacting parents to make plans for reunification or help them find a safe alternative placement. This is in process. DPHHS has set up a toll-free phone line for parents and guardians of these children seeking information. That number is 1-888-200-8002 However, DPHHS will be proactively reaching out to parents and guardians.
  • If any parent or guardian of children who are residence at the Ranch for Kids has questions or anyone can provide information about the children at the Ranch for Kids, please call 1-888-200-8002
  • Again, we appreciate the support we received from local and state law enforcement that was needed to ensure the safety for the children involved and for our caseworkers who conducted the removals.

As of July 1, a new state law transfers authority of the Private Alternative Adolescent Residential and Outdoor Program to DPHHS. Prior to July 1, DPHHS did not have licensing authority over these programs.