Social workers are sending a girl of six to live with her stepfather in America after refusing to let blood relatives adopt her.
A court has ruled the man should raise the child even though she barely knows him and has had little contact over the past three years.
The girl’s grandmother, great aunt and great uncle all wanted to look after her, but were turned down by social workers who supported the American’s custody case.
Now the family fear they will never see her again. All he needs to take her to his home is a U.S. visa.
The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was born in 2005 to a woman with learning difficulties after a casual relationship.
She began seeing the American five months into the pregnancy and they married six months after she gave birth. But the marriage broke up two years later amid accusations of violence on both sides.
He shared the girl’s care with the mother and grandmother until he decided to return to America in 2008. The child’s family then accused him of trying to get her a passport in his name and take her with him.
Police placed the girl in the grandmother’s care. She had hoped to formerly adopt her, but social workers are backing the stepfather’s case because he’s her ‘psychological father’.
The grandmother told the Sunday Mirror: ‘Only a miracle will keep her here. I want my granddaughter to know one day when she comes looking for us that we loved her and did everything we could to look after her.
‘We never expected any problems adopting. The social workers said she was traumatised at leaving her stepfather.’
The grandmother claimed she was criticised for not having enough pictures of the stepfather in her home and had not given her granddaughter ‘appropriate emotional care.’
Since 2009, the child has been in a foster home after social workers won a full care order while they assessed the stepfather’s suitability.
The grandmother is no longer allowed to see her while the child’s mother gets an hour a week. The girl talks to her stepfather over Skype.
The mother claims she was persuaded to sign a document allowing her former husband to take her daughter to America or face the threat of never seeing her again.
Under U.S. law, the natural mother must consent to him being a ‘special guardian’ or it be proved unnecessary before a visa can be granted.
Last month social workers took the child to the American embassy in London to make sure the application went through smoothly.
Two MPs are backing the family. One told the paper: ‘I cannot understand how somebody of no blood relationship can be considerd for custody over a blood relative.’