A Montana family is searching for answers after losing custody of their 14-year-old daughter due to what they believe was their refusal to provide ‘gender affirming’ care.
Todd and Krista Kolstad learned earlier this month that their daughter Jennifer (the child’s name has been changed to protect her identity) would remain in the care of Montana’s Child and Family Services (CFS) for the next six months. She will then reportedly be moved to Canada to live with her birth mother.
Under the care of the state, Jennifer has socially transitioned to a boy, goes by the name Leo, dresses in men’s clothing, and attends school in a boys group.
The Kolstads have chosen to defy a judge’s order to remain silent on the case and began speaking to the media in an attempt to raise awareness. On Wednesday’s show, they joined Megyn for an exclusive interview about their “nightmare” situation and what they want other families to know.
[Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Megyn’s position on preferred pronouns here.]
A Troubled Childhood
Megyn called what the Kolstad’s are going through “a nightmare” and said that it is even more surprising given where they live. “It’s shocking that this happened in Montana,” she noted. “I might have believed California. When I hear stuff like this happening in Canada, I’m slightly less shocked. But Montana? This I don’t get.”
Jennifer is the daughter of Todd and his ex-wife, though she was raised for much of her life by Todd and her stepmother Krista. As Krista described, Jennifer was a “really good student” with “very high grades” but had some trouble socially. “She’s always struggled with bullying at school for many years,” she explained. “And she’s had a few traumatic events in her young life that we sought counseling for and tried to help her as much as we could as her parents to kind of get through those events.”
Around the age of 12, the couple heard Jennifer being referred to as a boy and telling people her name was Leo at church. The couple – who noted they believe “transgenderism is more on the make believe scale than on something that is appropriate for a child” – said they asked her about it, but she denied it.
Questions about gender identity arose again, however, last summer when the Kolstads said they learned Jennifer was representing herself as a man at her summer job. “We were shocked,” Krista shared. “When she had said at the church that she wanted to go as Leo, we had put her in counseling… They were not an ‘affirm’ counselor… so we never would have seen this coming.”
CFS Gets Involved
At that point, it was August 2023 and the new school year was about to begin. “Todd and I had discussed that we felt she needed to focus on going into ninth grade, having a clean slate this year, and kind of getting on track,” Krista recalled. “So, we wanted her to quit her summer job.”
Jennifer did not take the news well. “She was very, very angry with us and didn’t agree with us of course and made a statement to another child that she met at a track meet that she had wanted to kill herself,” Krista said. “And that’s when the whole thing kicked off.”
The child Jennifer made the suicidal comments to reported the incident to CFS, which led to a call from the police and then the agency showing up at their Glasgow home. “That particular day, we were having a good day at home,” Todd recalled. “You can tell there is maybe a little bit something wrong, but she was happy and she was in and out of the house a lot. We had nothing to be alarmed about.”
Krista said she received a call from police around 2pm stating that the welfare of the child was in question. She recalled that she had a conversation with Jennifer that the officer could hear confirming that she was alright. “At approximately 7:40pm that evening is when children’s services came to our house because they said the police officer could not speak to the child or lay eyes on the child, even though he had never asked to do that,” Krista said.
The case worker toured the house with Krista and then asked to speak with Jennifer alone. “After about 10 minutes or so, Todd and I went on the front porch and we were told that our daughter had drank toilet bowl cleaner and taken an overdose of Tylenol,” Krista recalled.
The Kolstads did not believe the claim. “I had been working on my laptop at the kitchen table where the cleaners and all the ibuprofen and Tylenol and stuff had been kept, so I knew that she hadn’t taken those,” Krista shared. “Plus, she has a history of attention-seeking behavior and telling stories to get what she wants.”
Even so, the couple agreed it was a good idea to take her to the hospital. Tests were run and there was no trace of cleaners or medication in her system, but Krista said they started feeling “undermined” by the medical staff. During her five day stay, it was determined that Jennifer should enter a mental health facility for additional treatment.
The Kolstads wanted her to be placed at a facility in Billings, but they said the medical team started talking about continuing care in Wyoming. “At that point, because we were being so disrespected as parents, we immediately looked up Wyoming on our phones,” Krista shared.
They discovered that Wyoming does not have the same ban on gender reassignment procedures for minors that Montana and other states in the surrounding do. “We were concerned that she could go to Wyoming and have puberty blockers or anything else that she wanted to do this transition, and we were not okay with that at all,” Krista noted.
While the couple said they were told a spot at a clinic in Billings would be opening up soon for Jennifer, they got a call not long after that she would be transported to Wyoming Behavioral Institute instead. “Within 10 minutes of that call, the children’s services worker and the police show up at our door serving us with papers to remove her from our care, saying that we were unable or unwilling to provide her medical care,” Krista recalled. “And that’s just not true at all.”
The couple said they were left feeling “shocked,” “helpless,” and “crushed.” During Jennifer’s month in Wyoming, they were only able to speak to her by phone and believe the calls were monitored. She was living at the in-patient clinic as a boy named Leo.
Jennifer returned to Montana at the end of September and was placed in a group home where the Kolstads say she continued to be “socially transitioned” to Leo. She was given men’s clothes and hygiene products, shaved her head, began wearing a chest binder, and started attending all-boys groups.
In the meantime, the Kolstads were granted public defenders and had been fighting for Jennifer in court. On January 19, the couple lost custody of their daughter to CFS because the court determined transitioning is “in [Jennifer’s] therapeutic interest” and her parents are “not following recommended therapy.” Megyn called the lack of respect for parental rights “an absolute outrage.”
Jennifer will be in state custody for six months, at which point she will likely be moved to Canada to live with her birth mother who has had little involvement in her life. The Kolstads have concerns about the child’s safety in that situation.
Krista said the judge in the custody case imposed a gag order, but the Kolstads determined they could not stay silent. “We’re doing this because we feel like we have no choice,” she said. “Because our rights have been so trampled on, now we’re at a point where our family unit has been destroyed and the best thing we can do is stand up for other families and get the word out and not allow this to happen to anyone else again.”
For his part, Montana’s Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has defended the state’s actions and decisions in a series of posts on X. He also said he appointed Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras “to continue monitoring the case as it progresses.”
In Megyn’s view, the case doesn’t add up. “I’ve read the affidavit. I am looking for the smoking gun against you two,” she said. “Even taking everything Jennifer said as true… I don’t get it. It seems even what has been so persuasive to the lieutenant governor is the allegation that you won’t affirm.”
What Comes Next
The Kolstads are hoping to appeal the court’s ruling, but they are not sure what the future holds. “Our family has been gutted and destroyed by this,” Krista said. “Even if they return her to us – and we certainly want her back; we will never stop fighting for her – they’ve undermined our parental authority [and] they’ve taught her to weaponize the system.”
Ultimately, the couple had a simple message for Jennifer. “We love you very, very much,” Todd shared. “And we want you to come back home.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with the Kolstads by tuning in to episode 714 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.