A COUPLE have spoken of their joy after winning an 18- month battle to stop their grand-daughter being forced into adoption.

Lee and Katrina Parker were not told by Essex County Council of its intention to take baby India from her mother, who had mental health problems.

When the county council then filed an order to halt their plans to secure custody, Mr and Mrs Parker, of Colchester, were unaware they could appeal to the family courts until four days before the deadline.

The council’s decision to block the Parkers’ custody bid left a judge at Chelmsford County Court “deeply troubled”, and he allowed them to appeal.

After 18 months of meetings, assessments and court hearings, the Parkers were finally made full-time carers of India, now two.

A six-month transition period ended last week, leaving the family able to restart their lives.

Mrs Parker said: “Now we don’t have to go to court, talk to solicitors, or do anything like that and that’s amazing.

“We’re just starting to be able to make plans.”

India was born to the Parkers’ daughter in November 2011.

Two months later, Essex County Council launched an attempt to remove her from the care of her mother, who had been placed in a mental health unit.

India’s mother’s relationship with the Parkers had broken down and they only discovered social services planned to place India in adoption through a solicitor they hired to establish regular contact with her.

A custody battle was launched, but Mrs Parker claimed Essex County Council did everything possible to block their application.

She said: “They wanted her adopted. It seemed they were throwing every spanner in the works”.

Assessments by social workers claimed there were “chaotic and hectic living arrangements”

at the Parkers’ home, where they live with six of their seven children.

In October 2012, Essex County Council successfully applied to have the Parkers removed from the case.

At the same time, India’s mother lost her bid to care for her.

The Parkers belatedly discovered their right to appeal, which was allowed the following month.

While the case was ongoing, India lived with foster parents described by Mrs Parker as “fabulous”.

Mrs Parker said the couple were overjoyed at being able to raise India, who sees her mother once a month.

She said: “India is laid back, easy-going and happy. She’s an absolute dream.”

‘India is an absolute dream.

"She’s slotted straight in and we just feel she’s at home now."

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “This case involved very complex and finely-balanced decisions, which took account of a range of professional advice.

“As the case progressed, we were able to change our position to support these grandparents, but at all times the final decision was one to be taken by the courts.

“The council is providing financial support to the grandparents to help them care for their granddaughter under the Special Guardianship Order.”