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Ranch for Kids fights to get operating license back

27 children were removed from the Rexford facility
Posted: 7:43 AM, Aug 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-08 16:33:54-04
Hotline tip leads to removal of 27 children at controversial Lincoln Co. youth ranch

REXFORD — The directors of a Northwest Montana youth ranch are anxious to make their case against abuse charges .

The Ranch for Kids in Rexford is fighting for their license renewal after it was suspended due to those allegations.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) spokesman Jon Ebelt says the facility's license was suspended on July 23.

The Ranch for Kid’s license is temporarily suspended based on allegations including students being hit, kicked, body slammed and spit on by staff and continuing psychological abuse.

Ebelt says that the operators are now fighting for their license to be re-instated.

“To receive a fair hearing on the action taken for the license, we need to receive a written request for a hearing within 10 days, and that’s happened now,” explained Ebelt.

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When MTN News last spoke with Ranch for Kids Director William Sutley he said he looked forward to having his license renewed.

“This will be a process where there will be hearings. Evidence should be able to be presented on both sides and I want that process to unfold," he said at the time.

"It’s probably going to take weeks, months. I don’t know how long that is going to be. Hopefully it can happen as quickly as possible,” Sutley added.

He told MTN News that the Ranch for Kids offers structure and discipline for children suffering with reactive attachment disorder and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

He added that children with these types of disorders create a volatile home life.

Sutley hopes to have the facility re opened soon to continue their mission to help families cope with challenging children.

“That’s my first priority is to support these parents in need. That’s our vision. We don’t exists for any other reason other than to help these families,” said Sutley.

While no court date is set for a hearing, Ebelt says almost all the children removed are now reunited with their parents.

Once a court date is set that hearing will be closed to the public which Ebelt says this is a relatively common practice for these cases.

In the near future, Ebelt says DPHHS plans to change licensing rules for facilities similar to Ranch for Kids.

“It’s the rules that would impact ones that are currently licensed or ones that apply for licenses in the future,” said Ebelt.

Ebelt says this rule changing process will take time and would need to be presented to the Montana Secretary of State and the public.