Nearly one year ago, court-ordered strangers took a teenage girl and her younger brother from their relative’s home in Santa Cruz and brought them to Los Angeles, where they were forced into a controversial family therapy program with their mother.
They were then taken to live with their mother in Washington State, where they were forbidden from contacting their father, relatives and friends back home.
Maya Laing and her brother Sebastian, 16 and 12, escaped in May and have laid out their story on social media, which includes being taken by the transport company Assisted Interventions, Inc. on Oct. 20, 2022, kept in a locked room and threatened with being sent to a juvenile facility if they stepped out of line.
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 331, which will prevent this from happening to other children.
The new law is also called Piqui’s Law, named after a boy who was killed by his father after a judge ordered he be returned to his custody.
Authored by Sen. Susan Rubio, the law prevents judges from ordering children into so-called reunification therapy, including the four-day “camp” Maya and Sebastian endured. It also mandates training for judges to help them better assess whether they are placing children with possibly abusive parents.
Lynn Steinberg, who runs the “One Family at a Time” therapy program in Los Angeles—in which Maya and her brother were placed—did not return a call for comment.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Rebecca Connolly, who presided over the case, likewise did not respond to a call for comment.
Maya and two friends traveled to Los Angeles in September to urge Newsom to sign the bill, where she met Rubio and other lawmakers and spoke during a televised press conference.
But while the new law will protect her and her brother from being taken again, she said her advocacy had a broader purpose.
“It’s mostly for protecting other kids from going through what we went through,” she said.”
“Piqui’s law is so important to the safety of all the children of California, and prevents others from going through the horrific experience me and my brother experienced,” she said.