Park County Ranch For Troubled Girls Shuts Down
A Powell-area for-profit ranch that touted Christian-based therapy, but accused of multiple abuses of teenage girls, has shut down, according to a press release from NBC News.
Trinity Teen Solutions told the Wyoming Department of Family Services that it stopped providing services on Sept. 28. DFS representatives did not immediately return calls requesting comment.
In November 2020, some former clients of Trinity Teen Solutions and the related Triangle Cross Ranch for boys filed federal lawsuits against the ranches, their owners and related organizations.
K2 Radio News immediately reported the lawsuits and some of the alleged abuses for both the boys and girls ranches:
- Jail-style strip searches upon arrival.
- Staff read all incoming and outgoing mail. Staff forced residents to re-write any critical comments about the facilities.
- If a telephone conversation was permitted, a staff member observed the communication and could stop it at any time.
- They were subjected to physical, verbal, psychological and emotional abuse.
- They were threatened with further confinement and forced labor unless they completed all chores and ranch duties.
- They routinely would have a device placed on their foot or leg to hinder their possibility of escape.
- They were forced to work at local churches and facilities owned by the Diocese of Cheyenne and the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, nearby ranches, and the monastery of the Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel who make "Mystic Monk Coffee."
The girls specifically cited these abuses:
- Shoveled manure for up to four hours a day daily.
- Sleep deprivation.
- Being leashed to other girls, staff members or farm animals.
- Showered rarely more than once every three or four days.
- Staff controlled their ability to use the restroom and would routinely deny residents the ability to change their feminine products.
- Routinely denied access to restrooms or latrines, resulting in them urinating on themselves and then being ridiculed.
- Often subsisted on a diet of only a half a can of cold kidney beans and half a can of olives for every meal.
- Forced to run "the hill,' which was steep, rocky and infested with rattlesnakes, causing injuries.
- Forced to wear signs around their necks containing humiliating statements.
- Subjected to verbal, psychological and emotional abuse.
- Former residents who spoke out publicly about their abuse were threatened with legal action, with the positive endorsements they wrote before their release used as evidence that the abuse did not occur.
- The facilities promised education and therapy, but they received only a single weekly meeting with a counselor.
- Daily manual labor included mucking out livestock stalls, fixing damaged fence posts and barbed wire fences at Trinity Teen Solutions and surrounding ranches, cleaning office buildings and living areas, cleaning ranch equipment and barns, grooming animals, managing fires, splitting firewood, doing laundry, "and being forced to wash the feet of staff and other class members nightly."
- Without proper training or oversight, they did lambing and calving tasks normally done by experienced ranch hands. They did "preg checks" by inserting their arms elbow deep into the birth canal of livestock to check for a fetus, castrating animals, and providing medical attention to animals without gloves or proper safety equipment.
In September, an NBC News Investigation interviewed 22 women who had been placed at the ranch by their parents from 2007 to 2020. Women described injuries from hauling heavy metal pipes to irrigate fields and carrying bales of hay they said weighed over 50 pounds, according to the news release.
The NBC News release said Trinity Teen Solutions notified the Wyoming Department of Family Services on Sept. 28 that it was no longer accepting clients. A DFS spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment to K2 Radio News.
The NBC News release said the ranch maintains its state license and was not ordered to stop operating. Likewise, the ranch also remains in good standing with the Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that accredits hospitals and behavioral health centers, a spokeswoman said.
Whether the announcement of the closure is related to the investigation is unclear.
Ranch founder and owner Angie Woodward did not respond to emails and phone calls, according to the NBC News release.
The facility has denied many of the former residents’ allegations in court filings, and no charges have been filed.
Women reported concerns about their treatment at the ranch to state authorities and law enforcement several times over the past decade. The prosecutor and sheriff’s department for Park County said a criminal investigation into the women’s complaints remains open.
In November 2020, former clients of Trinity Teen Solutions and the Triangle Cross Ranch filed federal lawsuits detailing the abuses. Those lawsuits are still active. Some of the original defendants, including the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, have been dismissed.
The ranches have broadly denied allegations that children were mistreated at the ranches, but have declined to comment directly on them, according to court records and NBC News.
The ranches are part of what’s often dubbed the “troubled teen industry,” a constellation of private programs that promise parents they can reform children’s behavior, according to the NBC News release.
The programs that do not accept government funding are not subject to federal regulations, leaving oversight to state agencies. In recent years, former residents have demanded more accountability from state authorities in response to abuse allegations at the programs, according to the news release.