Montana has removed 27 children from a home for troubled youth after reports of abuse, including one mentioning a nail gun shot at a child, per NBC News. "No child should have to experience what multiple sources have alleged has happened at the Ranch for Kids" in Rexford, near the Canadian border, says Sheila Hogan, director of the state's Department of Public Health and Human Services. Deputy Director Laura Smith describes reports of children being "hit, kicked, body-slammed, and spit on," reports the Missoulian. Reports also claim food and medical attention were withheld from youth, who were forced to walk up to 22 miles at night in poor weather and inappropriate footwear as punishment. Smith said the 27 children removed Tuesday under a court order, aged 11 to 17, are now "in a trauma-informed safe place." Some have been reunited with parents, per the Missoulian.
Though no arrests were made, the ranch catering to children adopted from overseas, reportedly with no certified or trained therapists on staff, was stripped of its license—a decision executive director Bill Sutley plans to fight. "If these things are true, you should put me in jail," he tells NBC Montana. The ranch operated without a license prior to 2013, claiming it was an adjunct ministry of Epicenter International Missions. After state officials determined Epicenter had no building, congregation, or ordained clergy, the ranch was forced to register with the Department of Labor and Industry’s Private Alternative Adolescent Residential or Outdoor Program Board. That board suggested taking action in May, based on a 2017 complaint of abuse, before DPHHS assumed regulatory authority as new state laws went into effect on July 1. (Read more Montana stories.)