MTN Investigates


Child Welfare in Montana: The Kolstad Family (Part 2)

Todd and Krista Kolstad
Posted at 6:39 PM, Apr 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-04 20:41:45-04

GLASGOW — Todd and Krista Kolstad of Glasgow are fighting for their parental rights following a suspected suicide attempt by their 14-year-old biological female daughter.

As MTN continues an investigative series on Child Welfare in Montana. The first installment established the complex nature of child welfare cases (link). The Kolstad family story, goes back over a decade — when problems in their home life stemmed from a rocky marriage between Todd and his former wife.

Todd and Krista Kolstad's moral values are being challenged. It's a fight for families across the state and nation.

“We feel like the most important aspects of who she is, that she’s the true victim here. That she is losing, what made her happy," shared Todd.

As we move deeper into this series — it's important to look at what's happened in the course of the new year.

The Kolstad's posted an initial YouTube video outlining the events leading up to the state's involvement with their family.

On January 18, 2024, the Honorable Yvonne Laird, District Court Judge of the 17th Judicial District in Valley County issued an Order for a Hearing of Contempt of Court.

The motion was filed by the attorney representing the Kolstad child during the state's Temporary Legal Custody. A hearing was scheduled on January 29, 2024, at the Valley County Courthouse in Glasgow. It was later postponed into February following the Kolstad's filing a continuance and being out of town.

The order states, "...the Birthfather and Step-mother shall DELETE any video or any other statements they have made, or access thereto, from any social media or news media, directly linked to this specific dependency and neglect matter, to prevent further dissemination of the Youth's confidential state of mind and mental and physical health care information."

MTN arrived at the Kolstad residence shortly after they received the notice. We discussed the legal ramifications of speaking to the media. We assured the Kolstad's we would not be releasing information until MTN felt a complete story could be made.

Both, Todd and Krista chose to speak publicly and accept the repercussions.

They told MTN, "We feel our family is already ruined by the system."

With the Kolstad's understanding what could be brought against them, MTN proceeded to hear their side of the story.

The next day, January 19th, the Kolstad's were set to appear in court for a treatment plan regarding their case. The Kolstad's respective legal counsel explained they were each were allowed a support witness during the hearing. MTN is aware hearings involving a minor are private. They requested MTN's reporter to be their support witness — no camera, no broadcast, simply, listening.

Upon arrival in the courtroom a pair of women seated in the jury bench identified MTN's reporter. The Clerk of Court took their name, notified the judge, and it was requested MTN leave the courtroom.

The scheduled 30-minute hearing lasted shy of two hours.

A brief recess in the middle occured when Judge Laird demanded they remove the YouTube video.

The Kolstad's obliged — deleting the original copy of the video. After the hearing, MTN met with the family back at their residence. The two describe the hearing as one sided. Stating, "She (referring to the judge) screamed at us to take it down."

The video they removed was later re-posted to another YouTube account. The Kolstad's told MTN other media outlets and networks had requested a copy or made their own.

Following MTN's initial meeting with the Kolstad's in mid-January their fight for parental rights escalated on a national scale.

Posts on X and Facebook exploded on "Libs of TikTok" a known anti-LGBTQIA+ page. Elon Musk, owner of X, responded multiple times to posts regarding the Kolstad family.

Libs of TikTok, is a conservative X platform promoting anti-LGBTQIA+ content. Elon Musk, owner of the X Corporation formerly known as Twitter.

Criticisms could be found on most posts from Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) on X — calling on him to return the Kolstad child.

Gianforte Kolstad Criticism
One of numerous pages criticizing Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT).

The governor later responded to public interest of the Kolstad Case on X, stating:

MTN reached out for an interview with Gov. Gianforte. His Office declined but issued a statement from a spokesperson:

While the State of Montana is limited in disclosing the specifics of cases involving minor children in its care due to their sensitive nature, broadly speaking, the state does not remove minors from homes to provide gender transition services or use taxpayer funds to pay for those services while a minor is in the custody of the state. As outlined in its statement of purpose, Child Protective Services protects children who have been or are at substantial risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Furthermore, the Governor has asked his Department of Public Health and Human Services to codify a formal policy and/or develop a regulation to clarify and ensure the definition of abuse or neglect does not include a parent’s right to refuse to provide gender transition services to his or her minor child.

In the Governor's post on X, he highlighted abuse and neglect in certain family dynamics. Montana Code Annotated 41-3-102, defines Child Abuse and Neglect, "(6) "Child" or "youth" means any person under 18 years of age. (7) (a) "Child abuse or neglect" means: (i) actual physical or psychological harm to a child; (ii) substantial risk of physical or psychological harm to a child; or (iii) abandonment."

Throughout our investigation into the Kolstad family's case, a former state Social Worker, who asked to remain anonymous, told MTN — "Medical Neglect" can fall under the Title 41 statute.

The case documents regarding the Kolstad child highlighted the parents unwillingness to sign off on care for their child in Wyoming.

"We told CPS that we will support our daughter no matter what. We just want mental health addressed before transitioning her," explained Todd.

The public outcry for the governor to step in and the Kolstad's concern of how the Department of Public Health and Human Services — Child and Family Services Division handled their case pushed us to look further.

MTN went to the source and provided a detailed list of questions per the request of DPHHS.

List of questions.png
Screenshot of email correspondence with DPHHS.
DPHHS Response to Questions.png
Response from DPHHS' Communications Director, Jon Ebelt after it was requested MTN sent a detailed list of questions and declined an interview.

MTN was told the questions presented were too specific and pertaining to an individual case. It's important to note MTN initially reached out requesting an interview to discuss a general overview of CFS cases and how they're handled. The Department declined that interview.

Without help at the state level, we looked elsewhere, to the University of Providence campus and found Deborah Kottel, a Professor of Law.

"I pulled the Declaration of Policy out of Title 41 in Montana Code. It says: It is the policy of the State of Montana to provide for the protection of children who are and adversely affected, and further threatened by the conduct of those responsible for the children’s care and protection.

"...The children's care and protection," is where the Kolstad's feel differently than the policy.

"We feel like what they’re doing is transitioning her. Our 'child's' Attorney is very adamant that because she’s not getting surgery or hormones, she’s not being transitioned," explained Krista. "That’s not the case, when someone is allowed to socially live as a man, you are transitioning them.”

The State of Montana promotes the reunification of families upon its involvement. When a child is in imminent danger, the state has an obligation to step in, conduct an investigation, take Temporary Legal Custody (TLC), and work on a treatment plan for the family to promote reunification.

Taking it a step further to the Montana Constitution:

Part II, Section 14 — Rights of Adults: A person 18 years of age or older is an adult for all purposes, except that the legislature or the people by initiative may establish the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing alcoholic beverages and marijuana.

Part II, Section 15 — Rights of persons not adults: The rights of persons under 18 years of age shall include, but not be limited to, all the fundamental rights of this Article unless specifically precluded by laws which enhance the protection of such persons.

“Children are recorded the same rights as adults, freedom of religion, dignity of the person, privacy rights, freedom of speech." Kottel said. "Which is very interesting, because it comes head to head with I'm the parent, I get to say what you can or cannot do. Are those rights equal to adults? Probably not. Because we accord and others the right to protect and oversee children who can sometimes make decisions that make no sense at all."

Kottel explained case workers must see a child is "at-risk" from abuse or neglect. She told MTN, some of the "at-risk" be someone with a good heart but stronger moral beliefs countering the child's well-being.

She used an example, "We protect religious freedom. If you said that because of your religion you don't believe in blood transfusions. We would honor that as an adult. But if you said I will not give a blood transfusion to my child and your child would die without it. And you would do it for honest reasons of your should because its your religious belief. Nevertheless, CPS would come in because, they would see that the child is experiencing significant risk in this regard. They would come in under the Emergency Provisions of the Code, and the evidence in documentation and remove the child for investigation and take temporary custody of the child."

The Kolstad family has repeatedly told MTN they wanted their child to receive the mental health care needed to address their immediate needs. Denying care in Wyoming lead to Child and Family Services following the processes in place to take their child into Temporary Legal Custody. Transporting them to Wyoming for acute psychiatric treatment.

Today, the Kolstad's remain firm in their stance they did not disagree with acute psychiatric treatment. Furthermore, arguing they did not want their child under the care of another state than Montana where limited beds were available. Todd stated numerous times in phone calls with MTN they were told by hospital staff a bed was available in Billings. He said in a matter of minutes the bed was filled and the only option was in Wyoming. MTN's anonymous Social Worker source stated in his experience — Montana's limited beds for in-patient treatment lead him to transporting children as far away as Arkansas. Kottel told MTN it's her understanding that Wyoming laws of gender affirming care or other laws would not affect the Kolstad child as a Montana resident.

The Kolstad's have held onto their child's gender dysphoria and history of behavior problems as a culprit to their family situation. On X, many who lashed out on the governor stated the Kolstad child received "mutilating gender affirming care" while in Wyoming. Todd and Krista told MTN, their child never received Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or anything else while in Wyoming. What was permitted was chest bindings, a male haircut, male clothing, and male hygiene products while under supervised care in Wyoming and Montana.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Case Management Procedure states:

  1. Appearance:
    1. Only non-permanent changes to appearance may be made. Resource parent must seek CPS, in consult with CPSS, permission when child and biological parent’s choice in hairstyle are in conflict.
    2. Permanent changes or significant changes are not permitted without parents’ consent. These include but are not limited to, piercings and tattoos.

MTN wanted to look further, tracking down Tyson Habien the father of a transgender male. Tyson is a barista at Luna Coffee in Great Falls. MTN recently published a story on the shops mission to create a safe and inclusive environment for all walks of life.
Tyson and his wife are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. From a young age he offered information to his son, Sam, about who he could be as an individual. Sam, is away at college now — living a life his parents didn't order but also one they didn't shy away from.

"This is who my kid is. Let’s try to figure out what they need to make things work for ‘em." He told MTN.

If Habien not been as open to his son's transition — the outcome could've been drastic.

The National Library of Medicineconducted a study publish in 2016 on Suicide and Suicidal Behavior among transgender people. It found the rate and tendencies in trans persons are considerably higher than the general population.

The manual study conducted from 2005 to 2015 highlights suicide attempts and rates in India, finding 31% of transgender persons end their life by suicide. While 50% have attempted suicide once before their 20th birthday.

The study also looked inside the United States finding that 41% of transgender people attempted suicide at least once in their life.

On a global scale, the findings concluded that sexual minorities in Japan, England, Virginia, and San Francisco saw a suicide attempt rate ranging between 30-50%.

Psychological autopsy's revealed, 64.3% of completed suicides were initiated because of love-relationship break ups.

The second lowest ranking cause of suicide among transgender persons was the refusal of gender or sex reassignment by their family members at 9.5%.

As suicidal tendencies in transgender populations are higher than the general population. MTN found three individuals with acute experiences that have transformed their lives.

Walt Heyer is a former transgender woman. He's in his 80's and the memory of his life has a black cloud cast over what should have been.

"That one conversation that one person said, ‘You have Gender Dysphoria.’ Every time they say, ‘You have Gender Dysphoria’ and do not address the underlying co-morbid disorders that are there, that exist, and they ignore them. You are destroying that person’s life, that’s what happened to me, and I’m pissed.” He exclaimed.

At four years old, Heyer told MTN, he was dressed in a purple Chiffon dress by his grandmother. She frequently told him how cute he was for the years it persisted.

"A four-year-old has absolutely no idea what the consequences of cross-dressing them is."

When Walt came home one day with the dress, his father battered the behavior out of him. His father's friend then molested him at eight years old — leaving him traumatized. It made him question what was real and what wasn't, while knocking on death's door in a suicide attempt of his own.

A suicide attempt or ideation isn't far off for Astrid Peterson and Gwendolyn Gunn two transgender women.

“Why bother, I’ve hated myself all this time, I have no reason to stick around," said Gunn.

Peterson added, "I ended up being disowned by my father.”

As young women, the two always knew they were different. Astrid said their body always looked and felt flat and somewhat out of place. When they came out to their family as transgender, their father didn't show grace. Gwen, she had all of the support needed to transition smoothly.

“I discovered it in my opinion too late in life… I haven’t lost any friends over it. One, almost, but he came around a couple years later discovering that being uncomfortable was his problem and not mine. I have been so lucky compared to so many other trans-women that I know.”

Heyer told MTN his experience wasn't pleasant when the gender dysphoria set in.

"A child's brain is not fully developed until somewhere between 25 and 30." He said. "What we know to be a fact is that someone who suffers from identifying as someone else is suffering primarily from an adverse childhood experience. Which is my experience."

He told MTN, "cross-dressing" a child is psychological and and physical child abuse. While stating in world history, nobody has changed their gender. Little did he know, he'd end up receiving treatment by Dr. Paul Walker in San Francisco, who drafted the World Professional Association for Transgender HealthStandards of Care.

"This wasn't no rinky-dink facility. This guy was known worldwide."

Dr. Walker was Walt's therapist where he told him about his childhood history. Dr. Walker identified Heyer's Gender Dysphoria.

"At the time, Gender Dypshoria had not been used as a diagnosis in 1981, but the term had been coined in 1973 by Dr. Harry Benjamin."

Dr. Harry Benjamin, was the original physician to work with gender dysphoric people.

Heyer exclaimed Walker identified his gender dysphoria and recommended gender affirming care.

"I did not have gender dysphoria, children do not have gender dysphoria. I have worked with thousands of people and have not found a case of gender dysphoria." He said. "What I have found, they suffered from adverse childhood experiences, they suffered from a social contagion, which means, they were grouped with other kids who were doing this and they did it too... A child who just feels unsafe, in his home... All he has to do is say he feels unsafe in his home and he can be a candidate for gender dysphoria."

MTN reached out to WPATH to participate. The organization declined an interview but issued a statement regarding gender-affirming care in Montana from USWPATH President, Dr. Carl Streed:

“Last year, Montana politicians passed a ban on essential medical care for transgender youth. Thankfully, the courts saw reason and temporarily blocked this measure to ensure health care providers could continue following best practices to support transgender patients. But we know there are still very real risks of bills or policies restricting access to gender affirming-care. Government interference would threaten Montana’s health care providers simply for doing their jobs and make it even harder for transgender and gender-diverse people to obtain essential health care.The medical community is unified in endorsing gender-affirming care as safe, effective and necessary care. Decisions about health care, including gender-affirming care, must remain between a health care provider and their patient, without political interference.”

Political interference for Gunn and Peterson never crossed their minds. The two, always knew something wasn't right. It turned out to be one of the best decisions Peterson made for herself.

"I grew up hating myself and I didn't know why. It was bullying some of it, but I just knew that something was wrong and I hated every single thing about me. I repressed it until I was 23 and figured it all out. Since then, I've gotten through it with a lot of therapy."

She passively thought about suicide on a daily basis but never considered it. When Gwen was in high school, she got into an altercation that resulted in a fight. She was later suspended from school and it threw her into a tail spin.

"I was ostracized that my parents would be disappointed in me, the school kicking me out, I figured why bother, I've hated myself all this time, I have no reason to stick around." She said. "I think the only reason I didn't is because my parents have a gun safe and they kept them locked up. My parents have since admitted to me that they knew I was depressed and kept the guns locked up for a reason. It sucks to have been put there. But, since I have transitioned, not a single one of those thoughts. It has made me happier, it has made me more comfortable, it has made me in my body more rooted."

Heyer would argue in Gunn's case — an adverse childhood experience could have lead to the negative mindset.

He told MTN taking the ACEs testcould save children from experiencing care that's not right for them. It's what he believes would've changed the course of his life.

“HA! I would’ve maintained my marriage, I would’ve maintained my career, I would have gone on to have a retirement income which I don’t."

For now Heyer is an author and advocates against gender affirming care legislation across the nation as a Senior Fellow for the Family Research Council, a pro-marriage and pro-life organization in Washington D.C.

WPATH reports evidence of regret in transgender people is insufficient but should be discussed during psychological counseling.

The AP reported on a recent Dutch study finding no evidence of regret in transgender individuals who underwent a comprehensive psych-evaluation during childhood.

“If in fact, hormones and surgery were effective, do you think there would be a website called” Heyer added.

Peterson shared, “It shouldn’t have to be a thing of bravery to be who you want to be. I’m trans and that should just be cool!”

Cool or not — the state of Montana has an obligation to the Kolstad child through the remainder of the families case. When an imminent threat is present, the state relies on social workers to make the call.

"For the most part, Social Workers are erring on the side of the children. Could you imagine being a social worker that didn’t take a child away that is found hung in the closet, killing themselves?" Kottel said.

Todd and Krista were finally issued a treatment plan from Child and Family Services. Typically, those plans outline treatment for the parents i.e., therapy. It's what was outline for the Kolstad parents and they refused.

"If you tell me you’re a unicorn, Ryan. That’s fine, you’re an adult but there is nothing that says I have to agree and look at you like a unicorn. My answer would be, you're not and I'm not going to play in fantasy games just to make you feel better."

If you or someone you know is having the thought of suicide dial 988 for the crisis hotline.


The final MTN Investgates Child Welfare in Montana story releases on Thursday, April 4, 2024 at 5:30pm on your local MTN Station. We look into where the Kolstad Child is at now, the status of the families fight, and dive into why the state removed custody of the Kolstad Child.


For all installments of this series, here is who we asked to participate:

Birth mother of Kolstad Children, DPHHS, Gov. Gianforte (provided generic statement from his office), Attorney General Austin Knudsen, World Professional Association for Transgender Health (declined interview but provided resource links and statement), ACLU (Declined interview), Francis Mahon Deaconess Hospital (Declined interview, statement, or participation), American Academy of Pediatrics (Declined to participate but provided resource links), Valley County District Attorney (Submitted FOIA/Public Records request and was declined), Glasgow Police Department (No Response), Youth Dynamics CEO (No call back), Many Rivers Whole Health (Declined to participate), Rep. Matt Rosendale (No response from his Communications team — Rep. Rosendale made a statement on X about this case), Chloe Cole (De-transitioned transgender woman), Scott Newgent (De-transitioned male), School of Social Work at the University of Montana (Declined Participation), Montana State University Department of Political Science (Declined to participate).