Santa Cruz, CA

Child files restraining order against mother day before forced to “reunify” with abusive parent

Robert J Hansen
Friends and supporters of Maya Laing protesting in from of a Santa Cruz courthouse on Friday, October 28, 2022.(Courtesy of Tina Swithin)

Sacramento, Calif. - By Robert J Hansen

The day before Maya Laing and her brother Sebastian were taken against their will to a court-ordered reunification camp, Maya filed a temporary restraining order against her mother.

The hearing to see if it will be granted is on Thursday but the temporary restraining order against the mother, Jessica Laing, has not been served with the order.

Before Maya could serve her mother with the restraining order, transporters forcibly took Maya and her brother to a reunification camp in Los Angeles.

Maya’s mother solicited the services of Dr. Lyn Steinberg, a self-proclaimed expert witness in “parental alienation” in family courts and “reunification therapy”, who urged the court to place the children with her in reunification.

Family court judges throughout the country are ordering children to be removed, by force if necessary, from their safe parent's home and forced into "reunification" camps and “reunite” with their other parent who is oftentimes abusive.

In custody disputes across the country, protective parents and domestic violence professionals have long asserted that family courts frequently deny true claims of adult partner or child abuse and instead punish protective parents who seek to protect children from a dangerous parent, according to a 2019 study from George Washington University Law School.

Dr. Lynn Steinberg runs a reunification camp performing “threat therapy” with abused children in her office in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Children subjected to these abusive programs report being denied food, being assaulted, being drugged, being shamed, and having no privacy as transport agents follow them into bathroom stalls, according to the Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE).

The term “parental alienation,” is invoked to deny child custody to in most cases, the mother, and grant it to a father accused of domestic violence which disregards the possible risks for the child.

Steinberg abusively coerces children in these treatments to recant their reports of child abuse by threatening to send them to foster care or jailing their safe, protective parent, according to people familiar with reunification.

“This father was being accused of sexually molesting and assaulting his daughter,” Steinberg said to ABC 10 in 2018. “But I knew he couldn’t get an erection. Diabetics can’t get an erection. Nor would he ever want to do that to his daughter. He told me.”

Diabetes does not prevent people from being sexually abusive.

Dr. Steinberg could not be reached for comment.

Kathleen Russell, founding Executive Director of the CJE, manages a growing team of dedicated child safety advocates from around the U.S.

She said she is appalled at what happened to Maya and Sebastian and is holding a demonstration today in front of Dr. Steinberg’s Los Angeles office, demanding that the children be returned to their father.

“She needs to stop abusing children for profit,” Russell said.

Russell said parental alienation and reunification therapy is not based on any proven, medically peer-reviewed treatment of abused children.

“These good kids are ripped from their safe family, their schools, and their friends and isolated for months or years with their perpetrator,” Russell said. “This has happened in a couple of recent cases where the children were not resisting or refusing contact with the other parent and they still get sent to these camps.”

Darrel Riley is a protective father to two daughters who were forced by a King County, Washington judge into a family reunification camp, which he describes as “unregulated, unlicensed threat therapy isolation.”

Riley, on the Board of Directors for CJE, said it was a really good decision to record what happened to Maya and Sebastian.

“It’s a very rare person who would be able to do that,” Riley said. “These people are up against people that are heartless.”

Maya and Sebastian are just two of the countless children across America who are being traumatized by Steinberg and others like her.

Ally Cable, the Youth Initiative founder of the Center for Judicial Excellence, was placed in the Family Bridges reunification camp when she was 16 years old.

Cable, now 20, was taken from her mother in Nashville and taken to Montana where she and her sister were subjected to reunification therapy in a hotel for four days and then given to their father for about a year.

Her father sexually abused her and her sister during that time.

“We tried to tell them that our father was abusive and we didn’t feel safe with him but the reunification camp leaders told us that we were lying,” Cable said.

She said that there also was a 90-day no-contact order with her mother that ended up lasting seven months.

Cable said these reunification camps claim to reestablish a relationship between children and their abusive parent yet experts have written about the dangers of these programs which further damage already abused children.

“Theoretically they are supposed to reunify the kid with the parent they were taken from but that’s not really what they do they just keep kids in that cycle of telling them that they are alienating and keep it going for as long as possible,” Cable said.

Some children are never reunited with their safe parent and are forced to reside with their abuser.

Cable has not spoken with her father since she returned to her mother and is no longer a minor.

A previous version stated that the restraining order was granted but whether it was denied or granted has not been confirmed nor could it be determined.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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