TRIANGLE CROSS RANCH, INC., GERALD E. SCHNEIDER and MICHAELEEN SCHNEIDER, Appellants (Defendants),
STATE OF WYOMING, WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, Appellee (Plaintiff)
Appeal fro the District Court of Park County. The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge.
Representing Appellants: Matthew D. Winslow of Keegan & Winslow, P.C., Cody, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Kucera.
Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.
[¶1] Triangle Cross Ranch, Inc. (Triangle Cross) offered help to troubled boys by putting them to work on a cattle ranch and building Christian virtues through prayer. The ranch's website stated that the ranch addressed behavioral issues " that are naturally helped through ranch life," including alcohol and drug abuse, ADD/ADHD, depression, narcissistic behavior, and others. The boys' families paid a $2,500 admission fee and $6,000 monthly tuition for help with those types of behaviors, and they received " an 18 month guarantee: if your son resumes negative behavior after an 18 month stay at our ranch, we will take him back to our program for free." The Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS), believing that Triangle Cross was providing the type of services that required certification which the ranch had not obtained, sought an injunction. After a bench trial, the district court entered an order enjoining Triangle Cross from operating an uncertified child caring facility in Wyoming. Triangle Cross appeals and we affirm.
[¶2] The parties identify two issues on appeal, which we restate as:
1. Did the district court correctly interpret the language of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-4-102(b)(vii), which excepts ranches " not offering services" from the child caring facilities' certification requirement?
2. Was there sufficient evidence to support the district court's conclusion that Triangle Cross was offering services to children who were delinquent or intellectually disabled?
[¶3] Appellant Gerald Schneider has owned the property now operated as the Triangle Cross Ranch since 1973. Mr. Schneider and his wife, Appellant Michaeleen Schneider, founded Mount Carmel Youth Ranch (Mount Carmel), a Wyoming nonprofit corporation, which operated at the same location to provide group home licensed services to troubled youths. When the Mount Carmel board of directors decided to close the facility and turn in their license in November 2012, three or four Mount Carmel clients stayed on at the Schneiders' home and continued to help on the cattle operation, for which their families paid Mr. Schneider $4,800 a month. Mr. Schneider " wanted to continue the good work that had been going on at Mount Carmel," so in December 2012, he applied to DFS for a license in the name of Appellant Triangle Cross. The application is captioned " Application for Certification Substitute Care Services for Children," and it states: " In accordance with the provision of Wyoming Statutes § 14-4-101 through § 14-4-116, the undersigned hereby makes application for certification as a provider of substitute care services for children." That application process was closed March 6, 2013, because Triangle Cross did not provide the information necessary for its completion.
[¶4] In July 2013, DFS was notified that there were children at Triangle Cross. Nicole Anderson, DFS substitute care program manager, first looked at the Triangle Cross website for information " regarding treatment, services provided . . . , just whatever might be perceived as something that the children would receive when they were at the facility." The website at that time listed,
among other things, the types of therapy offered at Triangle Cross, including equine therapy, family therapy, reality therapy, substance abuse therapy, behavioral/emotional therapy, and Love & Logic Parenting Course. The therapy list, in addition to the description of the kinds of teens they would serve--those with alcohol and drug abuse, rebelliousness, depression, narcissistic behavior, anxiety, ADHD, ADD--and the fact that the families paid a fee and tuition, led Ms. Anderson to believe that statutes and DFS rules required Triangle Cross to be licensed. The following week, Ms. Anderson and three other DFS employees visited Triangle Cross. There they encountered boys as well as staff, and then met with Mr. Schneider. Ms. Anderson testified that, after the visit, she was convinced that Triangle Cross was a facility that needed to be licensed, because, in addition to the types of services offered on the website, " they had children at the facility who ...