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Child Welfare in Montana: The Kolstad Family (Part 1)

Todd and Krista Kolstad
Posted at 10:30 PM, Mar 25, 2024

GLASGOW — To many, a true Montana value is the privilege of a family unit. The state of Montana is graced with generational families who've built this state into what it is today. Descendants of those who built the past — are fighting for the future — like Todd and Krista Kolstad of Glasgow.

Along Montana’s Hi-Line — ringing in the new year left an uncertain future for the Kolstad family, a life that wasn’t ordered in fall of 2023, with the threat of losing a child — and a government agency challenging their moral values.

Child Welfare cases are complex in nature; they are not one size fits all. In the Kolstad experience, it's important to look back over a decade, at their family dynamic, speed bumps along the way, and follow the reports that lead to their involvement with the state of Montana.

Without that initial understanding, it's hard to comprehend the complicated nature of family units.

The Kolstad Family Dynamic

“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…" Todd Kolstad shared.

Todd Kolstad is a native to Montana's Hi-Line. The Glasgow Scottie married his wife Krista, a native to the Midwest, almost a decade ago.

Todd, a father of five children outside of his marriage with his current wife, moved home to Glasgow a few years ago. His five children are spread out across the country and globe, all but one are adults and living on their own.

Todd's youngest child is the reason they moved back to Glasgow – selling their home in the Flathead Valley and Krista selling her Funeral home. All in hopes to create a better life for their family.

Life in the Flathead was everything a dad could imagine, “…she would set up her own store within our store.” Todd is the owner of Montana Technical Solutions, Inc., a technology company contracting IT services across the state.

“She looked forward to coming back from 'MTS' every day. We set our stores up for parents that have children.” He explained, “There were single women that worked in our store who had children. There was a whole area with the big screen TV, video games, and all the technology the corporation could provide them.”

"She" refers to his youngest child who is a biological female.

In the last three years, that child has chosen to identify as a transgender male. In respect of the Kolstad child's privacy, MTN is choosing to refer to the minor as “child” and the pronouns, “they."

The child Todd once knew began to look different following their decision to come out as a transgender male.

“It's very, very difficult. Very difficult," explained Kolstad. "A couple weeks ago or so, we took a walk behind where she is at right now. They have a large yard in the back. We walked and we talked like it was before and (I think) how precious those moments were.” This quote is from January 2024.

He told MTN, he and his child were inseparable while they were young. The two walked to school each day, eating breakfast, and playing on computers — a passion they both share. Those happy times don't mask the day-to-day struggles experienced at home.

He claims his child has always had behavior issues at home and at school. He told MTN kids at school would throw balls at his child with written profanities on them and telling his child to commit suicide.

Todd and his wife Krista believe the issues stem from their child’s birth mother. Krista has only been Todd's wife for eight years. She says, she married into a hectic family that lacked a mother figure.

Krista Kolstad
Krista Kolstad

"They hadn't really had a mother. She'd been kind of absent. At that point they were all very accepting and it's kind of fun. I mean, we fell into like a little family, right away." She explained.

At the time, the newlyweds were providing a home for his five children. As time passed by, two remained in the home — Tara and the child MTN will not identify.

We reached out to the birth mother to participate in sharing their family dynamic. She requested to not have her name mentioned or to participate, following a court order we will discuss in a later article.

“We just probably weren't right for each other,” explained Todd about his ex-wife. “There's nothing really bad to say other than I think a lot of what (my child) has — she has (referring to his ex-wife, biological mother of his children)."

In a conversation with Todd, he mentioned some instances from his ex-wife’s prior marriages of suicide ideation and what he calls, “lies.” It’s evident to him his children must have a genetic disorder. MTN has no proof backing those claims, due to his ex-wife declining to participate.

“We think it’s genetic,” said Kolstad. “We think the lying thing has allowed her (referencing his child) to be put down by other kids.”

Throughout getting to know the Kolstad family, MTN interviewed his older daughter, Tara. She supports the claims Todd has made toward his children's birth mother.

“Things were rough because of our birth mom…” Tara Kolstad, daughter, explained, “After they divorced, my dad was finally able to spend time with us… He would always have to work extremely hard, because (mom) would kind of keep messing him up. She was that type of person that would take your money and go…”

According to the parents, life at home was rough with the children lashing out. The Kolstad's told MTN all the children had their own behavior problems.

Todd claims his children's biological mother has not been involved in the family unit for nearly a decade.

Todd Kolstad
Todd Kolstad

Following a visit from her in 2018, explained by his current wife, Krista, took a toll on their two youngest children. When their birth mother left, they enrolled them in therapy.

The Kolstad's provided MTN a letter from a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Dawn Brennan, which outlines visits from 2018 and beyond. MTN confirmed with Brennan, via a phone call that the document is something she could have written. Brennan explained that the Kolstad’s had a right to release the letter as the parents, but she could not disclose any more information due to her code of ethics. MTN had apprehensions to the letter due to it being electronically signed. Brennan told MTN that she cannot remember why it was electronically signed and it could be because it was needed immediately for court purposes.

The documents do not give away the identity of the children, only their initials. MTN has attached a copy of the letter with the initials of the minor blacked out for privacy reasons. "T.K." is now an adult and was comfortable helping her father and stepmother share their story.

The letter outlines detailed accounts of uncomfortable encounters the children experienced with their biological mother.

The letter reports Tara's experiences:

“T.K described witnessing almost daily incidents of domestic violence/arguing between her father and biological mother that often ended with her biological mother hitting her father, throwing objects at him or smashing/breaking household items. T.K. described her biological mother's behaviors as 'crazy'.”

The letter reports "Child's" experiences:

“(Child) described witnessing almost daily incidents of domestic violence/arguing between her father and biological mother that often ended with her biological mother hitting her father, throwing objects at him or smashing/breaking household items.

The counselor went on to add in the letter, “Psychological evaluations, parenting assessments and reunification therapy sessions might be some indicated outcomes of those discussions. Children rarely misrepresent the level of violence and abuse in their home.”

As MTN has navigated hours of interviews with the family, siblings, and beyond, questions were raised about the Kolstad childrens’ history of telling false narratives. Tara acknowledges her history of lying and behavior problems, but as a child and now an adult, she still believes it stems from her birth mother.

"I put in a lot of work towards my own mental health, and I recognize that I that I do have problems." Tara told MTN. "I try to address those problems immediately, just as a growing human being. I understand that telling these types of lies does more harm than good. You hurt yourself, you hurt others. I've seen that damage repeatedly... If I find myself in a position where I'm not feeling confident being my truthful self, I know that I need some serious help."

In the 2019 letter it outlines from Tara, "T.K. stated her biological mother worked from home. She described the work as being on the computer talking with men about sex...T.K described what she would believe to be animated figures on the screen performing sex acts on each other. She found it disgusting and gross.'"

The letter outlines physical abuse claims from both children toward their birth mother — the children claimed there was never a report made with a Child Protection Specialist and never reported it to their father. Later in the report — it states, "T.K. has stated repeatedly and emphatically that she is looking forward to turning eighteen because she never has to see or talk to her biological mother again." Tara told MTN she hasn't maintained a relationship with her biological mother and doesn't intend to.

Despite the report from the therapist, the family dynamic remained strong, according to Todd.

Krista recalls, "...looking back, I can tell that they were definitely red flags and markers of behavior problems and mental illness going on with her (referring to the minor child)."

In a former life, Krista didn't share much about her marriage or her relationship with her mother. She told MTN, "it's hard to be close to someone you're a thousand miles away with."

Hanging from their dining room wall is a memorial to her biological son, Aaron, who passed away in 2012 following an epileptic seizure.

Marrying into Todd's family allowed her to step into the mother-figure role.

"I think for a little girl, that's very hard, because you don't have someone that shows you how to be a girl. They're not teaching you manners, they're not teaching you, even the little things, like when you wear a skirt, cross your legs. You don't necessarily learn those things from a dad. I think it would be difficult."

A 2021 Kolstad Hiccup

Behavior is common theme throughout The Kolstad family's story. Following the families move to Glasgow — the goal to create a better life seemed to be far away as the problems persisted.

The Kolstad parents told MTN educators in the Glasgow School District were instrumental in bringing to light a potential mental health disorder with their minor child.

With behavior headlining this story, it isn't hard to find a mugshot of Todd Kolstad online. He was arrested in 2021 by the Glasgow Police Department after a conversation on how to discipline his child with his wife.

"We found out that day she likes girls. We were totally neutral on that." Todd said. "What the problem was, she had already had arrangements prior to go to the movies that night and then spend the night with one of those friends."

Those friends, the Kolstad's told MTN, were not the characters they wanted their child to spend time with.

One of the friends was a female and Todd says they were known to have parties. The Kolstad child was 12 years old at the time.

That same night was the City of Glasgow Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, and they permitted their child to attend. The child persisted they wanted to stay the night with their friend and both parents didn't feel it was appropriate following the child admitting to their affinity for females.

"I wasn't allowed to spend the night with girls. We said, there's nothing wrong with that. That's what you like. But it wouldn't be appropriate for you to spend the night with these girls, especially when they're having you do things you shouldn't do.'' Todd said. "She was livid. I'd never seen her that mad before. She was so upset. She was just shaken."

According to Kolstad, later that night, his child was upset at their parenting decision. He claims a bad storm was coming and he and his wife were attempting to get their pets inside the home. One got out of the house and small argument between the two broke out.

"We are not a couple that fights all the time," claimed Todd.

Kolstad went on to add his child was on the phone in the back bedroom and claims the child said they were hitting each other. Todd and Krista say it's a false accusation.

The Glasgow Police Department was called and dispatched to their home.

According to a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Montana Billings Division, Kolstad v. City of Glasgow; Valley County; Robert Weber; Tyler Edwards; Joshua Nolan; Does 1-10; and Corporations A-J — the lawsuit states:

"This is a civil rights action arising from Defendant's use of excessive force, violation of policies and procedures, assault and batter, and negligence, resulting in serious injury to Plaintiff, on or about December 4, 2021."

Kolstad's counsel Siefert & Wagner, PLLC in Missoula filed the suit adding, "In this action, Defendants acted unreasonably, in the absence of good faith, and without due care thereby violating Todd's clearly established rights."

The suit highlights the individual parties involved in the incident. The General Allegations of the suit are in congruence with Kolstad's interview. He claims he was compliant with officers upon their arrival. The officers attempted to put Todd in double handcuffs, while pulling him into their hallway. The suit states the officers yelled at Todd to stop moving — while he cried out that the handcuffs were too tight on his wrists, repeatedly asking to re-place the cuffs. The officers ignored the request leaving permanent injuries to Kolstad's wrist. Office Nolan, mentioned in the documents, pulled on the handcuffs, and forcefully slammed Todd on the ground, causing him to fall on his head and face. Todd was picked up from the ground by Officers Nolan and Edwards and its reported he cried out in pain while spitting blood from his mouth.

The officers escorted him to the patrol car, where the snow-covered steps made Todd slip and fall after the first step— the two carried him to the patrol vehicle, transporting him to the Valley County Jail.

Kolstad was assisted by an EMT, and he was initially charged with Partner Family Member Assault and Resisting Arrest. The lawsuit states that Kolstad suffered serious injuries of the brutal attack and excessive use of force by the officers.

Kolstad is calling for a Jury Trial to resolve the matter — as Todd told MTN, he has suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, that impaired his short-term memory.

The suit calls for five violations of the Defendants. Count II calls the Monell Claim to the City of Glasgow, Valley County, Chief Robert Weber, and Does 1-10. The Monell Claim, highlights victims of constitution rights wrongdoing. It specifically calls on Glasgow Police Chief Robert Weber's leadership of the department's officers.

MTN reached out to the Glasgow Police Department and Chief Weber — we did not receive a response.

Kolstad claimed in our interview he was not provided medical attention when he arrived at the jail.

"(At the time), I was half paralyzed. I couldn't even go to the bathroom. They opened a little door a couple of times, asked me if I wanted coffee." He said. "That's it. Nobody looked at me, nobody checked me out. It wasn't until l I was leaving, two days later covered in my blood that I experienced all these sensations going on... It's hard to even put into words."

While the lawsuit is pending litigation, the Kolstad's told MTN the trial continues to get pushed back. According to Todd, his company, Montana Technical Solutions Inc., operates IT for numerous government agencies. He claims that what happens next in their story — is retaliation.

With the Glasgow Police Department not responding to MTN's request for participation — we cannot validate those claims from Kolstad.

Both Todd and Krista Kolstad — have reverted to behavior in their story. It's important to note, that their child initiated the interaction with the Glasgow Police Department.

Todd wanted to make it clear, "I told (child) after I was arrested that I don't blame her for what happened to me... We can't control they sent these Officers to the house, and this is what happened," adding, "I don't want her to think this is her fault."

August 18, 2023 — Kolstad Family Investigation

Todd and Krista Kolstad provided the DPHHS Family Functioning Assessment outlining the report taken by the state of Montana. There are several names referenced in this document, MTN has chosen to leave those anonymous due to the privacy of the child involved and the state case workers. Throughout this report, "(Child)" refers to the Kolstad child involved, and CPS refers to "Child Protection Specialist."

On August 18, 2023 — a Child Protection Specialist, or CPS, spoke to a minor "reporter" who was confirmed by the Kolstad's a friend of their child. The reporter was concerned over text messages sent from the (child) stating they were going to end their life. The report acknowledges that (child) recently came out as transgender and their "parents do not accept this." The reporter stated, "They're concerned that dad drinks a lot and stepmother is verbally abusive. (Child) is very depressed and there were concerns about having terminal cancer. Glasgow Police Department was called but were unable to meet with the child as it was reported 'he' was in the shower. Stepmother did send a text message back, stating (child) is fine."

The report identifies the Kolstad child as both its birth name and pronouns and its preferred name and pronouns — while the child's parents identify the child in its birth name and gender pronouns.

The report adds the CPS employee spoke with the reporter more, identifying that the parents don't support their child being transgender and had been reprimanded earlier in the day, had technology taken away, and was upset. There was no contact made with the child at that time.

With no time stamp on the report, the CPS employee arrived at the residence where they and "stepmother," Krista, answered the door and spoke to each other on the front patio.

The report states from Krista, "She has been running around lying for about a year as she is wanting to identify as a male and telling people her name is (preferred name) and scientifically they have been telling her that she is a girl." Adding, "Father came to the deck area at this time, upset and talking about the corruption of the police department and that they have a lawsuit against them."

The report claims that Krista calmed Todd and he went back inside the home. The (child) had been working at a local restaurant in Glasgow, stating that supervisors at the restaurant had been identifying their child as their "preferred name and pronouns." Krista has told the supervisor that they have a "daughter named (birth name) and not a son."

It adds, "...parents explained to (child) she is a girl and if she is gay that is fine. However, they do not believe (child) is capable of making that decision and cannot go around lying about that."

The parents claimed the child had been disrespectful to the parents recently and the Kolstad's had reprimanded the child due to the behavior outbursts.

The report states, "Stepmother does not believe (child) is suicidal, but instead is attention seeking. Stepmother explained, she had received a phone call from the police at 1:28 that afternoon." It was pertaining the reporter concerned their child was suicidal. Krista, referred to as "stepmother" in the report claimed their child was fine and taking a shower.

At that time, the report indicates a third-party male witness arrived at the home.

Following the arrival of the third-party witness — the CPS worker and the parents went into the home, claiming that the father, Todd, was going on about corruption in the police department again. The CPS worker reported, "...could smell alcohol in father."

Krista showed the Child Protection Specialist the home, and CPS reported the home was clean and had plenty of food inside. The employee reiterated to the parents she would need to visit with the child to ensure they were safe due to the reports of suicidal thoughts.

The CPS worker interviewed the 14-year-old child, and they explained they were transgender to the Child Protection Specialist. The child explained the family dynamic, normal chores, how they get technology taken away as a punishment. The report added the child explained there was never physical abuse toward them in the home. The report goes on about interaction with the parents. The child reported, "...her dad wouldn't stop harassing her about changing her gender and telling (child) he didn't raise a son, he raised a daughter. (Child) texted (reporter) goodbye as (child) was wanting to end her life because the parents do not respect or support her. (Child's) parents will not allow her to go to counseling as 'the counselor may help with the transition.' They had the (child) see someone at church but stated, 'they just thought they could pray the gay away.'"

The report disclosed the child drank toilet bowl cleaner, but it reminded them of the scent of marijuana, and she didn't drink anymore. Though, the child thought about taking prescription medications and debating jumping off the balcony or roof at the time.

Following those statements, the stepmother stepped outside the house onto the front porch. Where the child reported they didn't feel comfortable interviewing in front of the parents. Krista sat down and stated, she had rights as a parent and would not leave. CPS explained that they could not leave until they knew the child was not feeling suicidal. The child, refused to talk, but agreed to write the answer down on a piece of paper and when asked if they were still suicidal. The child wrote, "yes" on the paper. The parents agreed to transport the child to the hospital. The CPS worker voiced concern over the smell of alcohol on the father and Krista agreed to drive.

The CPS worker and family met at Francis Mahon Deaconess Hospital. The report states, "parents refused to let the doctors or nurses speak to the child alone." The report added, "Father kept talking about the lawsuit and Stepmother kept stating she has parental rights." The child reported to doctors, they were uncomfortable talking in front of the parents and they declined to leave the room stating they had parental rights.

Medical staff entered and was in the room alone with the child who reported they were still suicidal, disclosing that they had taken a handful of ibuprofens and drinking an unknown amount of toilet bowl cleaner. It was then discovered the child had a knife in their pocket and was also planning to use it to commit suicide. The parents then consented for the child to be admitted to the hospital for observation.

August 18, 2023:

The next day, the CPS worker received a call from the stepmother regarding their parental rights. Krista outlined concerns that the hospital staff would identify their child as a male, and that all of this is a concern as parents supporting their "daughter" and anything more could make things worse.

The child received one-on-one medical attention staff believed they needed. A psych evaluation was also needed, and the hospital staff wanted to refer the child to a psych unit. Krista explained, they wanted their child referred to a facility in Billings, as they had work and animals to attend to. The parents continued to ask what was needed from them to ensure the child could remain in their care. It was outlined according to the report, the department had not found any immediate dangers and has not intervened with the family unit. The report stated the department will continue to follow up with the child to ensure they're getting the care needed.

Later, the report outlines the hospital staff and CPS worker discussed the parents wanting their child to be admitted in Billings. The hospital staff deemed the child needed acute psychiatric care. The hospital had also called their attorney to get clarification on how to deal with the Stepmother's request of the gender concerns. The report added, "Stepmother (Krista), refuses to go anywhere other than Billings Clinic for the (child) to get the care she needs." It also added that the hospital staff had concerns regarding the (child's) mental health needs and the relationship with (child) and parents due to (child) coming out as transgender and the parents not accepting this. The hospital believed the suicide attempts to be true.

For the rest of that day, the CPS employee and medical staff continued to interview the child.

August 20, 2023:

On the 20th both parents were asked to attend a meeting at the hospital to discuss care for their child.

It was outlined that the hospital and department needed to look elsewhere for care as beds are limited around the state. The parents stated in the report that Billings is most convenient with the father's medical appointments in Billings, but Kalispell could be made possible for them.

The department issued an in-home plan as there were concerns the Parents would not be able to transport the (Child) if accepted to a facility for acute care.

August 21, 2023:

The CPS worker received a phone call from Stepmother (Krista), that she cannot get to the hospital as she made a prior engagement. Outlined in the report, Krista was at the hospital earlier in the day and when she told the (child) she was leaving, the (child) made a scene yelling out, "Don't you touch me."

August 22, 2023:

The next day, medical staff at Francis Mahon Deaconess Hospital explained in the report a bed was available at the Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper. The report states, the stepmother is refusing to sign paperwork to admit the child.

The Child Protection Specialist visited the Kolstad residence that day and outlined there was an available bed in Wyoming as the child has been deemed suicidal by medical staff. The report claims, birth father, Todd, became upset quickly and voiced concern of the state of Wyoming, "mutilating the (child's) body and giving the (child) medication to alter her body."

The report states the CPS worker served the "Notification to Parent" to the Kolstad's. The department also issued a copy of the Protection Plan. The CPS worker drove to the hospital to complete paperwork to admit the child to the care facility in Wyoming.

It's noted in the Immediate Danger Assessment, "IDA: "Immediate Danger Identified." The (child) is suicidal and needs acute psychiatric care. Birth father and Stepmother refuse to sign paperwork in order for (child) to get the care that's recommended by medical professionals."

August 23, 2023:

The report states that Child and Family Services staff transported the child to Wyoming for care.

On that same day, it was documented, the parents did not attend an 11:00 a.m. meeting that was set forth in the Protection Plan given to the parents the previous day.

August 25, 2023:

The report outlines that the stepmother brought file folders to the DPHHS Field Office to show they do provide medical care to the child. The Stepmother spoke with a supervisor and Child Protection Specialist on the case. The report indicates, the stepmother's concern is the laws in Wyoming. Stating they would like their parental rights respected, while she and Todd had contacted many attorneys regarding their rights as parents.

What happened next:

Throughout MTN's investigation into this case we looked for answers directly at the source, the Montana Department of Public Health, and Human Services. In installment two of the Child Welfare series, MTN will outline the questions and correspondence it’s had with Child and Family Services.

When reading the case file, MTN asked the Kolstad's about the concern for their child.

Krista, the stepmother outlined in the documents, told MTN, "We're going to get through this. We're going to fight as hard as we can," adding, "We feel our family is already broken... We don't care about our daughter being transgender. We don't feel she is capable of making this decision right now. We want mental health addressed before her transition."

The Family Functioning Assessment outlines the parents concern of Wyoming Laws. MTN looked for answers at numerous law firms but tracked down answers at University of Providence in Great Falls. Dr. Deborah Kottel is a Professor of Law, with a background in Family Law.

She told MTN, if a child is a Montana resident receiving care out of state — Montana law is still in play.

MTN also worked with a former social worker; we had had him look at the case documents. The social worker asked to remain anonymous, but reported that in these cases, it can be dangerous for a social worker to make decisions because of the emotions surrounding them. Based on the Family Functioning Assessment, he told MTN he would've handled the case the same way.

MTN also reached out the University of Montana's Law Department and found Constance Van Kley an Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law who provided MTN with general information regarding parental rights and more.

"If the parent's choices were presenting a serious risk of death or bodily injury." Van Kley said. "Child abuse is not something that a parent can say, 'I have the parental right to abuse my child.' The government has the ability to regulate there because of the risks to the independent person that is the child."

Van Kley also told MTN, in general medical ethics, medical personnel take an oath to all patients right to live and work cohesively to provide care that is needed.


In Part 2 of our series, on April 1st, we look deeper inside the DPHHS Policy book, the Montana Constitution, and hear from those who have transitioned and de-transitioned from gender affirming care. MTN is looking to gain a full understanding of the complexities that come in these child welfare cases.

In Part 3 of our series, on April 4th, we look at where the Kolstad family is now, while also investigating happened to their child and taking a closer look into the final order when the state removed the custody of their child.


SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS


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).