8 Passengers Child Abuse Case Spurs Utah Lawmaker's Call for Stricter Oversight of Life Coaches

Nov 29, 2023, 12:00 PM

The child abuse case involving Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt has prompted Senator David Hinkins to advocate for enhanced oversight of life coaches across Utah. Hinkins believes that the state must take a more proactive role in regulating this industry to protect families and individuals seeking guidance.
 The impetus for Hinkins' call for action came from Ruby Franke's estranged husband, Kevin, who approached the lawmaker, urging him to investigate the qualifications required to become a life coach. Shockingly, Hinkins discovered that there are no mandatory qualifications, creating a concern that unqualified life coaches may be adversely affecting families for an extended period.
 One alarming aspect highlighted by the case is the potentially misleading titles used by life coaches. The Connexions Classroom website, which remains operational, describes Ruby Franke as a "certified mental fitness trainer." Sen. Hinkins expressed concern over such titles, stating, "It's just a title that somebody could make up and makes it sound professional, when it's really probably not."
 Furthermore, while some online classes offer what they call "mental fitness training," state law currently allows individuals like Franke to use such titles without any mandatory background training or qualifications. Hinkins emphasized, "I don't think there's anything that stops her from saying that, and I don't know that she's had any background training to be that."
 Former clients of Connexions Classroom have accused Franke and company founder Jodi Hildebrandt of employing shaming tactics designed to create divisions within families. One client, Trey Warner, shared a disturbing example, where a man believed he was a danger to his family merely because he had a momentary lapse of concentration. Warner recalled, "This guy got his own apartment and separated from his family because he was a 'danger.'"
 The critical issue at hand is the lack of regulations and standards governing life coaches in Utah. Sen. Hinkins highlighted this gap, stating, "Right now, there's nothing regulating [them]. They can tell people to do anything they want, and there's no recourse." He believes that individuals professing to be life coaches should be subject to criteria to establish credibility and protect the well-being of their clients.
 Officials from the Utah Division of Professional Licensing declined an on-camera interview but sent a text response, acknowledging the absence of licensure requirements for life coaches in the state. They noted that some complaints involve former licensed behavioral health practitioners who lost their licenses and now operate as life coaches, providing services that may be illegal.
 Sen. Hinkins clarified that the bill he intends to draft is in its early stages and aims to strike a balance between providing oversight and ensuring that people can offer advice to their family members when requested. He plans to collaborate closely with the Utah Division of Professional Licensing to develop effective legislation that addresses these concerns.
 The child abuse case involving Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt has underscored the need for clearer standards and oversight within the life coaching industry, as Utah seeks to protect its residents from potentially harmful advice and practices.
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