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Ranch For Kids License Remains Suspended Pending Hearing

Ranch For Kids' main facility in the small, remote town of Rexford, MT.
Ranch For Kids' main facility in the small, remote town of Rexford, MT.

It’s been nearly two months since Montana health officials removed 27 children from the Ranch for Kids in Rexford due to allegations of physical and emotional abuse. Ranch for Kids’ license is still suspended, and according to the ranch’s director, a hearing to appeal that decision has not been held.

Authorities and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services removed the children in late July following a preliminary investigation into allegations that Ranch for Kids staff physically hit, kicked and body slammed children. Ranch for Kids Executive Director Bill Sutley has denied those allegations, but has admitted to other practices health officials are calling abusive, such as forced 16-mile walks in the night on remote roads.

After a hearing on new regulations for private therapeutic homes Thursday, Sutley said he was still awaiting a hearing to appeal Health and Human Services’ decision to suspend his license.

"We're looking forward to. We're looking forward to educating and empowering the state, because I believe that they also have a lot of kids with these issues that have trauma backgrounds, that they need our experience and our skillsets."

Health officials confirmed Thursday that Ranch for Kids’ license is still suspended, but would not say when a hearing on the matter might be scheduled. The department’s decision following the hearing will be posted online.

Health officials also confirmed that a, "handful" of children removed from Ranch for Kids still remain in state custody.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.