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Montana removes kids from adolescent treatment program

State officials removed 27 kids from the Ranch for Kids in Rexford. (NBC Montana photo){p}{/p}{p}{/p}
State officials removed 27 kids from the Ranch for Kids in Rexford. (NBC Montana photo)

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The state has removed 27 children from a private adolescent treatment program in northwestern Montana, citing escalating reports of physical and psychological abuse.

Tuesday's action at the Ranch for Kids in Rexford came less than a month after the health department was given licensing authority over such programs.

Health officials say the children -- ranging in age from about 11 to 17 -- are safe. Officials were working to reunite them with their parents.

No one answered a phone call to the ranch seeking comment.

The ranch's website says it provides treatment for children with issues due to maternal use of alcohol or drugs while pregnant or an inability to bond with adoptive parents.

Health officials say they received reports children were beaten by staff, received inadequate medical care or were subject to excessive discipline such as withholding food.

Former staff, counselors and kids were interviewed in a multi-phase investigation, resulting in a court order allowing DPHHS and Child Protective Services to take the children and business license from the Ranch for Kids.

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Here’s a statement from the state health department: “DPHHS is working to contact parents and develop plans to reunify families or help find suitable placement for these youth. The health, safety, and welfare of all children who live in Montana is paramount, and no child should have to experience what multiple sources have alleged has happened at the Ranch for Kids. We are grateful to the many agencies, including law enforcement, who ensured the safety of the kids and caseworkers during today’s removals.”

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