A couple have spoken out about how they saved their grandchildren from forced adoption.

Lee and Katrina Parker told reporters how social workers – who operated under the protection of the secretive family courts – had desperately tried to put their granddaughter, India Parker, up for adoption, even though she had relatives who were perfectly capable of looking after her.

Not only were the grandparents denied guardianship of the then three-month-old, they were also excluded from all future proceedings while the adoption went ahead.

They were granted a last-minute reprieve only after they discovered they had a 14-day window to appeal.

Essex social workers had tried to take the baby girl, because they deemed that having a working-class family of seven children was unsuitable for India.

India initially came under the watchful eye of the social services due to her mother having mental health difficulties. However, under the law, social services are supposed to make every effort to ensure that if there are other relatives who are capable and willing to take care of a child, that child should be placed with those relatives.

This did not happen however. Essex Social Services also dismissed the Parkers from all future proceedings after claiming there was ‘no further role for them’.

Plans were made for India’s adoption, but the Parkers discovered the 14-day window to appeal. They were, by that time, however, on day ten. With no legal representation or legal aid, they appealed two days before the deadline.

Mrs Parker, 39, said in an interview with the Mail: “Social services walked into our lives with preconceptions and did not have any intention of revising those prejudices. We are not a conventional family, some of our children have been home-schooled, and I don’t think they liked that. But we knew we were capable of giving India a loving home. They never intended to take the time to get to know us or the children.”

The couple can only now finally tell their story after the judge released his judgment, more than 13 months later.

However Judge Newton ruled in 2012 that the decision of Essex Social Services was “manifestly unjust” and he concluded that the rights of Lee and Katrina Parker had been breached because they were denied access to a fair trial.

The Parkers, who live in Colchester, were then given full custody of India, who is now two years old, last August.

Mr Parker said: “We nearly lost our granddaughter to strangers because social services were hell-bent on having India adopted, but we were unable to talk about it because it happened in secret. There is a misconception grandparents have automatic rights, but they don’t. Social services have too much power and the secret courts assist them to behave in any way they wish, because there is no recourse. There is no one to scrutinise their decisions.”

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “This case involved very complex and finely balanced decisions… As the case progressed, the council was able to change its position to support the grandparents.”

The Parkers deny that Essex ever switched its support in their favour.

In fact they said that social services had fought them at every turn and held secret meetings, designed to falsely paint them as bad parents.

They added in an interview with Channel 4 news: “It should never have been about social services being against us. It should always have been about what is best for the child.”

Even though they have now won their case, and spoken out about their ordeal, they are still unable to discover the full details of why the judge eventually ruled in their favour. This ofcourse, makes it more difficult and uncertain for other parents or grandparents to win a legal battle for similar reasons.

Even their own barrister who they hired initially, told them there was no hope of getting their granddaughter back. They were told to give up. They refused, and their persistence, has paid off.

The couple decided to speak out after hearing about a case earlier this year, which involved Essex Social Services, who forced an Italian woman who was only here in the UK temporarily, to have a forced cesarean. The reason given for this is that she suffered from an anxiety attack related to bipolar disorder.

Alessandra Pacchieri, then had her baby taken into care and has been refused access to her child despite the fact that she has now fully recovered and has other relatives who are willing to take care of the baby.

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