Inside The Disturbing Allegations Against Mom Blogger Ruby Franke

The following article mentions allegations of child abuse and sexual assault.

A new name has dominated YouTube drama channels and TikTok's true crime community: Ruby Franke. The notoriously popular mother of six, best known for her now-obsolete parenting vlog "8 Passengers," was arrested in August 2023 after her adolescent son escaped the house he was staying at under distressing conditions that amounted to abuse. The incident put a glaring spotlight on Franke's unconventional parenting style, which allegedly included withholding food and bedding from her children, among other questionable practices. As reported by NPR, six counts of felony child abuse have since been charged against the online figure. As of this writing, Franke awaits hearing in her case, which also involved the arrest of her business associate Jodi Hildebrandt.

Allegations of abusive parenting have hounded Franke for years, culminating in action once before when child services visited her in 2020. A defiant Franke refused to back down, justifying her divisive content. "The reason we got canceled was because I was demonstrating, as I have done from day one, what a responsible mother looks like," she told The Wrap. With the kind of parenting techniques attributed to Franke, overhanging concerns over her children's safety were prevalent even among her own family, including a daughter who welcomed her arrest. From ethical parenting to family vlogging and the sensitive subject of child abuse, Franke's case is layered with burning social issues worth considering. Here's a breakdown of the disturbing allegations against mom blogger Ruby Franke. 

Her son's escape from home prompted legal action against Ruby Franke

A young boy of 12 reportedly escaped a residence in Utah in August 2023, setting in motion events that led to shocking revelations and multiple arrests. The son of popular influencer and parenting YouTuber Ruby Franke, he climbed out of the windows and sought out his neighbors' help. Local authorities in Ivins were consequently notified of the distressing situation, leading to the arrest of Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, whose house the boy escaped from. "The condition of the juvenile was so severe that they were seen by Santa Clara-Ivins EMS and transported to a local area hospital," read a statement from the Santa Clara Ivins Public Safety Department.

The condition of the young boy, who had knocked on his neighbor's door asking for food and water, prompted authorities to search Hildebrandt's home. The probe blew up the abuse affair even further, leading to the discovery of a second child in poor health inside the residence. The survivor was identified as Franke's 10-year-old daughter, according to the AP. Both children, along with two of their other siblings, were taken into the custody of child protection services. Franke and Hildebrandt were charged with aggravated child abuse by Washington County officials, arrested without the possibility of making bail.

Her children were found under distressing health conditions

In the case of Ruby Franke, the particulars of the deficient state her children were reportedly found in left people shellshocked, prompting wide outrage on the internet. According to Ivin officials, the 911 call made by Jodi Hildebrandt's neighbors sounded the alarm about the ill health of Franke's son, who escaped to seek help. A press release from the local safety department stated that "the juvenile appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities." 

The boy's little sister, located in Jodi's home not long after, was said to be similarly malnourished and both children were transferred into medical care. Quoting an affidavit in the case, The New York Times reported that Franke's son had lacerations on his body that suggested he had been tied up with rope. Evidence for the same was reportedly found inside Jodi's residence, with cause to believe that both Franke and Jodi were aware of the abuse the children suffered. 

As reported by KSL TV, a transcript of the 911 call recorded the neighbor telling the dispatcher that the boy suggested "what's happened to him is his fault." The charges brought against both women referenced not just the children's malnourished state, but also the physical and emotional harm inflicted on them. Talking to KUTV 2News, Jodi's niece Jessi Hildebrandt recounted experiences similar to what Franke's children faced and recalled being bound, blindfolded, and kept away from other people during the time that she was in her aunt's care. 

Ruby Franke had an unconventionally severe style of parenting

The treatment of Ruby Franke's children finds possible context in the YouTube vlogger's severe style of parenting, propagated most notably through her now-defunct channel "8 Passengers." The mother of six oriented her millions-strong subscribers with her controversial approach toward disciplining children, which included starvation. In clips that resurfaced after Franke's arrest, her son alleged that he slept on a bean bag for seven months as punishment for pranking his sibling, Insider reported. 

Other, more concerning, claims came from Franke as she justified taking away her children's access to food until they completed a desired task. The vlogger also talked about giving her 6-year-old the responsibility to pack her own lunch for school: "Hopefully nobody gives her food and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch." Franke's children were also seemingly isolated, a neighbor of the arrested influencer told People. "We saw their presence in the neighborhood almost daily, and then we just quit seeing the youngest two around," they said. 

While the "8 Passengers" vlog originally belonged to Franke and her estranged husband since they started it in 2015, her most recent business partner Jodi Hildebrandt allegedly played a significant role in influencing her parenting. Jodi's niece Jessi Hildebrant, in her testimony to KUTV 2News, suggested that Franke's actions were straight out of Jodi's playbook: "The philosophies and therapeutic modalities that she is using are Jodi's. ... This is a pattern Jodi has been engaged with for at least 14 years." 

Child services have visited Ruby Franke in the past following child abuse allegations

Ruby Franke's arrest isn't the first time that the mommy vlogger has been accused of child abuse. Similar allegations have followed her erstwhile YouTube channel "8 Passengers" for years, as social media users and subscribers raised the alarm over her harsh approach regarding the upbringing of her six children. In 2020, things came to a head when Franke's teenage son admitted in one of her videos that his bed had been taken away for seven months, prompting an eruption of backlash reaction videos against his parents. It proved to be a critical turning point for Franke and her fellow creator husband Kevin Franke, who were widely denounced on social media and eventually visited at their Utah home by child protection services. 

An online petition was the catalyst behind the Division of Child and Family Services showing up to the Frankes' door, Insider reported at the time. Authorities reportedly deemed the allegations of abuse against Franke unjustified and closed the case. Franke, meanwhile, claimed that the clips people were outraged over had been taken out of context and that her son, advised to sleep separately from his sibling, had picked the bean bag by choice. "What people aren't understanding is that we give our children choice in everything," Franke said. The family allegedly received threats amid the scandal, with Franke suggesting that the situation could have spiraled into a life or death situation for them. 

YouTube drama channels and social media users heavily criticized Franke

Some of the loudest protests against Ruby Franke in the months preceding her arrest came from her own fraternity of YouTube creators, many of whom took issue with her content. A simple YouTube search of Franke or her defunct "8 Passengers" vlog will yield dozens of reaction videos from voices critical of her brand of allegedly abusive parenting. Franke's case was especially conducive to YouTube's fertile war zone of drama channels that, as described by Vulture, are "known for exposés, spreading rumors, and clickbait." In fact, drama channels on YouTube and TikTok creators were reportedly instrumental in accelerating negative attention toward Franke's harsh parenting style back in 2020, which consequently drew the attention of child protection services. 

According to Insider, the viral Franke scandal three years ago even prompted the creation of new channels looking to cash in on the trending issue. "They were purely seeking to throw hate. That was their only objective," the arrested vlogger said then, accusing fellow creators of exploiting her family for selfish motives. From "worst of" compilations calling out Franke to rapid rundowns disparaging "8 Passengers," videos highlighting a slew of issues with views running into millions exist online. One creator J. Aubrey flagged the possible harm family vlogging could cause children, sparing no sympathy for the Frankes who claimed to be affected by cancel culture. "They don't really have a case that they're victims. They did this to themselves," Aubrey told The Wrap. 

The YouTuber's neighbors had long been concerned for her children's safety

Legal action against Ruby Franke had been a long time coming, according to the residents of Springville, Utah. Unusual parenting practices within the Mormon family were not entirely uncommon and the vlogger's neighbors echoed concerns consistent with Franke's online content. From denying her children Christmas celebrations to allegedly leaving them unattended for days together, the accusations against Franke were varied. "Everyone is just breathing a collective sigh of relief, because we thought they were going to come out of that house with body bags," a neighbor of the arrested influencer told NBC News. Some in the Springville community claimed that they had attempted to draw attention to Franke's alleged malpractices for months, even trying to get child services involved. 

Another witness who spoke to People noted that Franke's abusive parenting style did not show up in her demeanor: "She wasn't off-putting, we didn't hear her screaming at her kids." What's more, the Frankes had apparently put in painstaking effort into furnishing their home for the sake of their children. The vlogger, however, had reportedly begun spending less time at her Springville home and more in Ivin where Jodi Hildebrandt — a life coach with whom she ran the "ConneXions" podcast — lived. In Ivin too, incidents like Franke blocking out her windows and leaving her children alone in the house for weeks had prompted neighbors to call the cops on her multiple times, Rolling Stone reported.  

Ruby Franke's family had raised the alarm against her in the past

Residents of social media and Ruby Franke's neighborhood weren't the only parties concerned about the popular vlogger's unconventional parenting techniques. Ruby's arrest encouraged her own family to come forward and express that they had worried about her children's safety for a long time. "It feels like a weight has been lifted as we now know our nieces and nephews are safe," Ruby's sister Bonnie Hoellein shared online, per NBC News. Her other siblings Julie Griffiths Deru and Ellie Mecham — who also create content around motherhood, like Ruby — said in a joint statement that they had been looking out for Ruby's children when abuse allegations against her intensified in recent years. They seemed to be in agreement with Ruby's arrest, citing her children's safety as the top priority. 

One of the strongest reactions came from Ruby Franke's oldest daughter, Shari Franke. "We've been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up," the 20-year-old shared on Instagram, per People. The Brigham Young University student also moved to action and set about compiling a public-sourced list of damning remarks made by her mother. According to a video Deru shared, Ruby had been estranged from her family for the past three years, around the same time outrage against her YouTube vlogs blew up in a big way. The family also had reservations about her close association with Jodi Hildebrandt. 

Ruby Franke has been charged with six counts of felony child abuse

Years of outrage over her parenting videos, concerns flagged by family and neighbors, and finally a desperate call for help from her son culminated in Ruby Franke's arrest on August 30. The controversial influencer, along with her business partner and co-accused Jodi Hildebrandt, was arrested in Utah. A week after their detention, they were each charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse. If convicted, Franke could be looking at a prison sentence of up to 15 years and fines up to $10,000. The Washington County Attorney's office elaborated on the charges against Franke, which involved "a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture, starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life, and causing severe emotional harm" (via 

Action against Franke and Hildebrandt, beyond the legal context, also transpired following their arrests. In a statement to NBC News, social media platform YouTube — which hosted Franke's channels, including "ConneXions" where she and Hildebrandt aired controversial opinions on subjects ranging from eating disorders to sexual assault – said it had suspended accounts linked to the vlogger. Hildebrandt, meanwhile, surrendered her license as a clinical mental health counselor amid the ongoing case against her, People reported. This is not the first instance of Hildebrandt being accused of malpractice. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Hildebrandt was at the risk of losing her license even back in 2012, when she breached the confidentiality code and discussed a patient with his church and university. 

She made counter-allegations of sexual abuse against her own child

In what can only be deemed one of the more twisted consequences of her arrest, Ruby Franke reportedly came forward in court with allegations of sexual abuse against her own children. The mommy vlogger — jailed in Washington County for six counts of felony child abuse — dialed in for her hearing around a week after her arrest only to turn the finger at one of her six kids, claiming that they were responsible for the abuse of nearly 20 other children, the Daily Mail reported. She alleged the minor in question had mistreated their own sibling, as well as their cousins and neighborhood peers. In follow-up to Ruby's disturbing testimony, the judge presiding over the court hearing in Utah suggested that the accused child "be placed in a home with no other children."

Kevin Franke — the vlogger's husband who has been separated from her for approximately a year and was also present in court — refrained from reacting to the serious allegations his estranged wife made. His legal representatives, meanwhile, voiced his ignorance about the alleged physical abuse of the children he shares with Ruby. "We're working hard to get the kids back with Kevin in the family home," The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Kevin's attorney as saying. Subsequent hearings in Ruby's case, which has garnered worldwide attention, have been postponed to October in the event of "additional time needed to review copious amounts of discovery," Fox 13 reported. 

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).