The Christian parents from Montana who claimed they lost custody of their suicidal 14-year-old daughter after they refused to allow her to be admitted to a group home out of state over fears she could potentially seek surgical or hormonal gender interventions say they now face the possibility of arrest for sharing their story.
Todd and Krista Kolstad had their 14-year-old daughter removed from their custody last month, and the state of Montana's Child and Family Services took the girl into its care.
Their daughter (known to the public as "Jennifer" for privacy reasons) began identifying as male in 2021 and requested that people call her "Leo," which her parents opposed.
The parents have spoken publicly about what happened with their daughter in violation of a judge's order for them to remain silent about the case.
In an interview this week with The Christian Post, Krista Kolstad said the couple learned from a legal source that they would likely be arrested upon returning to Montana. The pair received notice about their potential arrest while caring for a sick relative in Ohio.
The stepmother said the couple has been talking with their public defender, but as of now, it remains unclear what will happen as it depends on the judge's interpretation of the gag order and how the pair may have violated it.
"Our rights were taken away, and we were disrespected as her parents," she said. "And as a result, our relationship with our daughter has been damaged, and our daughter ultimately has been damaged, and she's the most important one here."
At the time of the interview, the Kolstads' daughter was living in a group home in Billings, and they have been able to talk with her during family therapy sessions. The last time the couple spoke to their daughter was on Jan. 23.
"Physically, she's OK," the stepmother told CP. "She's very angry, and a lot of that anger stems from the fact that she's being allowed to transition, and we're saying that's still not OK with us."
While the stepmother stated that she and her husband would like their daughter to come home and have made this clear to her, the teenager has expressed a desire to live with her birthmother in Canada. According to Kolstad, the teen's mother only became involved in the girl's life a few months ago, and Jennifer wants to live with her birthmother because she'll allow the teenager to transition.
In August 2023, Jennifer expressed a desire to end her life while at school, and she was later taken to the hospital. After communicating with Child and Family Services, the parents agreed that Jennifer would benefit from specialized residential care.
The parents opposed sending the teenager to a facility in Wyoming once a space became available, fearing that Jennifer may transition without their consent due to the laws in that state. After the parents refused to sign the paperwork to approve sending Jennifer to the facility, CFS allegedly came to the family's home with police to take their daughter away.
According to Kolstad, the family was informed that Jennifer has since been moved to Canada to be with her birthmother.
According to an affidavit obtained by CP, CFS stated that the child was at "imminent risk of physical harm" as one of the reasons for removing the teenager from the home after the parents declined to sign the paperwork. The document also framed this as "neglect" on the part of the Kolstads.
"They showed up at our house with the paperwork removing her from our care," Krista Kolstad said. "And if you look at the paperwork, it specifically says that we were unable or unwilling to provide medical care. And that's not true."
The affidavit made other allegations about Jennifer's home environment, with the CFS worker reporting that the girl's father had a drinking problem and that the teenager was often exposed to fights between her parents. In addition, the CFS worker accused Krista Kolstad of being verbally abusive to Jennifer.
In response to the allegations, Krista Kolstad provided a statement to CP from an employee who lived in an apartment connected to the Kolstads' house in the summer of 2022. The teenage employee swore that he had never witnessed any verbal or physical abuse, nor did he witness any fights between Krista and Todd Kolstad during the time that he lived with them.
"I have never been accused of being verbally abusive to ANYONE in my life. It also says in the parenting assessment that my home was clean, well stocked with food, and free of any dangers," Kolstad said. "Our daughter has a history of lying and attention-seeking behavior. We let CPS know of this, and it is not noted in any of their reports."
Last month, Montana's Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte commented on the situation, stating that Lt. Gov. Kirsten Juras had reviewed the details and concluded that "officials followed state policy and law in their handling of this tragic case."
The Republican governor also referenced his signing of Senate Bill 99 in April 2023, which prohibits body-altering surgeries for minors suffering from gender dysphoria and prevents these procedures from being funded with taxpayer dollars.
Krista Kolstad told CP that she believes Gianforte is trying to "protect himself," noting that the legislation surrounding cases like hers is a bit of a "grey area."
"We, as far as we know, we're the first and only family in Montana this has happened to," the stepmother said. "But I feel like our family is damaged now, and the system broke our family. And you know, we'll come together as a family and make the repairs to that. But we have to speak up, or this is going to happen to other families."