Jodi Hildebrandt, the business partner and co-defendant of Utah parenting advice YouTuber Ruby Franke, voluntarily surrendered her counseling license Tuesday in light of the felony child abuse charges filed against her last month.
“Given the heinous abuse allegations, the agency felt that the surrender of the license was the best course of action to protect the safety of Hildebrandt’s patients and clients,” Margaret Busse, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, said in a statement Tuesday.
Hildebrandt first became a licensed mental health counselor in Utah in 2003, acquiring her associate clinical mental health counselor license in May of that year, according to the Utah Division of Professional Licensing. She was later licensed as a clinical mental health counselor in July 2005, records show.
Until her Aug. 30 arrest, Hildebrandt ran an online self-improvement program with Franke called ConneXions, which was based out of Ivins. The program aimed to “help treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion,” according to its website, through its curriculum of workbooks, DVDs and podcasts.
Hildebrandt and Franke are each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse and currently being held without bail in Washington County. The licensing agency has been working with the Utah attorney general’s office since Hildebrandt’s arrest to suspend her professional license and ensure that she cannot practice, even if released from jail.
Hildebrandt ultimately agreed to surrender her license voluntarily, essentially “limiting” her ability to practice in any way until her child abuse case is adjudicated and either a disciplinary hearing is conducted, Hildebrandt enters into a disciplinary agreement with the licensing division, or the licensing division decides there is insufficient evidence to pursue disciplinary action.
Her voluntary surrender is not considered a disciplinary action, and Hildebrandt was able to consult with an attorney before doing so, a stipulation and order regarding the surrender states. The division has not issued a finding of unlawful conduct.
Hildebrandt and Franke were charged last month after Franke’s 12-year-old son climbed out of a window at Hildebrandt’s Ivins home on Aug. 30 and asked neighbors for food and water, court documents state. The neighbors saw the boy had duct tape on his ankles and wrists and called police.
Responding officers then found Franke’s 10-year-old daughter malnourished in Hildebrandt’s home, authorities said. The two children were taken to a hospital for medical treatment; they and two of Franke’s other children have since been placed into state custody, according to charging documents.
In 2012, Hildebrandt was disciplined by state regulators for discussing a patient with leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Brigham Young University without their permission, The Salt Lake Tribune previously reported.
At the time, Hildebrandt was working as a counselor for “pornography addiction” when she provided therapy for a married couple beginning in 2008. According to documents, she repeatedly discussed the couple with Latter-day Saint clergy and the BYU Honor Code Office. She was placed on probation for 18 months.
However, the Division of Professional Licensing’s website states that Hildebrandt has received “no disciplinary actions.” That’s likely because, according to Utah law, state websites with public access to professionals’ disciplinary records must remove a record by the time 10 years have passed since a disciplinary action was issued or commenced, unless otherwise required by federal law.
Professionals may also petition that a disciplinary record be removed five years after the final disciplinary order was issued, the statute says.
Hildebrandt and Franke were initially scheduled to appear in court Monday for a status review hearing in their child abuse case, but that day, a Utah courts spokesperson announced that the hearing had been postponed until after Oct. 5. Attorneys had requested the delay, citing “additional time needed to review copious amounts of discovery,” the spokesperson advised.
As of Tuesday afternoon, it’s unclear when the women will next appear in court.