Sunday, 19 April 2009

Inspirational women of the year: Alison's son was snatched away after she was wrongly branded a child she fights for justice for mothers

The months Alison Stevens spent apart from her son still haunt her.
Twenty four years on, she cannot forget the pain she felt when social services took away her three-year-old without warning - or just cause.
Doctors should have diagnosed brittle bone disease when Alison took Scott to A&E with a broken leg. Instead, they decided he was being abused by his parents and put him in care immediately.
It took 12 long, tormented weeks for Alison and her husband, Andy, an electrician, to clear their names and win their son's return. The joy and relief they felt at having their family reunited was immeasurable. Alison was left so affected by the experience that she was determined to help other people fight similar injustices.
Since then, she has helped thousands of parents as the head of the national organisation Parents Against Injustice (PAIN).
'I will always remember the hurt and confusion I felt back then,' says Alison. 'It was horrendous finding Scott's hospital bed empty, then being told by nurses they thought we were to blame for his injuries. For months we had to visit him in a foster home when we desperately wanted to have him home.
'I am compelled to help other people because I understand what they are going through and how badly the system can work. This can happen to anyone and, when it does, you feel powerless.
'The toll it takes on you is indescribable - parents call me on the brink of suicide. But through PAIN I am able to help them get their children back.' While the agony still feels fresh to Alison, it was back in 1985 that her son Scott was put in care. He had been having a bath with his brother Lee, then five, when he tried to get out and slipped awkwardly, hurting his leg.
'Leaving him was like having my heart ripped out'
When Alison and Andy took Scott to hospital, doctors insisted he stay in for observation.
'Returning to the hospital that evening to visit Scott, I never suspected anything was amiss,' says Alison.
'But when we reached his bed it was empty.

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