Utah therapist charged with child abuse agrees not to see patients pending potential discipline

FILE - In this image made from video provided by the Utah State Courts, Jodi Hildebrandt is seen during a virtual court appearance Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in St. George, Utah. Hildebrandt and Ruby Franke were charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse after their arrests on Aug. 30 at Hildebrandt's house in the southern Utah city of Ivins. Hildebrandt, a licensed mental health counselor, has agreed not to see patients until the allegations can be addressed by state licensing officials, the Department of Commerce said on Tuesday, Sept. 19. (Utah State Courts via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah mental health counselor charged for her alleged role in denying food to two children and physically and emotionally abusing them has agreed not to see patients until the allegations are addressed by state licensing officials, officials said Tuesday.

Jodi Hildebrandt and her business partner Ruby Franke — a mother of six who gave parenting advice via a once-popular YouTube channel called “8 Passengers” — each face six felony counts of aggravated child abuse for injuries suffered by two of Franke’s children.

Hildebrandt signed a stipulation limiting her license to practice on Sunday, and the director of the Division of Professional Licensing signed it Tuesday.

“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.

The stipulation says Hildebrandt’s license to practice is limited until the allegations have been resolved either through a disciplinary agreement with the state’s Commercial Enforcement Division or after a hearing before the Clinical Mental Health Counselor Licensing Board.

Prosecutors say Franke, 41, and Hildebrandt, 54, either caused or allowed someone to torture Franke’s 12-year-old son and injure her 10-year-old daughter. Both children were allegedly starved and harmed emotionally. They and two other of Franke’s children were taken into the custody of child protective services.

The boy escaped from Hildebrandt’s house Aug. 30 and ran to a neighbor’s home, where he said he was hungry and thirsty, according to an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department.

The neighbor saw duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists, along with injuries, according to a 911 call.

Hildebrandt and Franke remain jailed without bail and have not entered pleas. Their attorneys — Douglas Terry for Hildebrandt and LaMar Winward for Franke — were said to be unavailable to comment Tuesday.

A hearing that had been scheduled for Monday was postponed, and court officials said afterword that the next hearing in the case is not expected until after Oct. 5.

The state has made no finding of unprofessional or unlawful conduct against Hildebrandt and has not taken any disciplinary action against her license, which remains active, the Commerce Department said. Hildebrandt’s business is called ConneXions.