The grandparents of two young children are fighting to stop them being put up for adoption by social workers after a court order was granted to take them away from their mother.

The couple, who live in Falmouth but cannot be named for legal reasons, looked after the children for nine months last year while their mother was recovering from post-natal depression.

But last July - out of the blue - Cornwall's social services department took the children from the family home and into foster care and told them that they were going to be put up for adoption.

The grandfather claims that his family are the victims of national "adoption targets" set by government, forcing councils to "steal" children from families.

On April 2 he staged a one-man protest outside County Hall in Truro to highlight his case. The police were called by council staff and one of the signs was taken off him because it accused a council official of being a Nazi.

"Our grandchildren were with us for nine months, then the council just came out of the blue and took them away from us and put them in foster care for no good reason," he said.

"My daughter was then put in an assessment centre with the children. At first she passed the assessment and was doing very well but they reversed the decision when she accused one of the staff of assaulting her son.

"If they are adopted we have no rights to see them at all. Once they are adopted we can't get them back. They just phoned up with two days to spare and told us they were coming to get the children and if we didn't let them come peacefully they would come with the police. We didn't want the kids to go through that so we let them take them.

"My daughter's ill. A lot of people get post-natal depression. It's not that she doesn't love her children, she loves them to bits and they adore her. But with this system if anybody gets into trouble they get the children adopted.

"It's something that's happening all over the country. It has been a living nightmare for us. We are absolutely devastated by what has happened. It is making us ill."

The county council's social services department obtained a care order and a placement order through the courts which was opposed by the mother during a five-day hearing last month. Before that they only had an interim care order. Their mother has an appeal hearing on May 9, but if this fails the case could go all the way to the European court of human rights.

The children are currently in foster care in Okehampton with their mother but she has been told that they are going to be put up for adoption.

Earlier this year Liberal Democrat MP John Hemmings tabled a Commons motion on the issue of government adoption targets saying it was a "national scandal."

In an early day motion with cross party support from 12 MPs he said that an increasing number of children were being taken into care not for their safety but because they are easy to get adopted.

But the government has denied this saying there are no targets relating to the numbers of children coming into care.

Cornwall county council said it could not comment on individual cases but decisions to take children into care are made by the courts and had nothing to do with adoption targets.

"Cornwall county council is unable to comment on individual cases which are appropriately subject to rules of confidentiality," it said in a statement.

"The council would, however, stress that cases involving adoption are always based on the individual needs of the child concerned and not on meeting targets.

"All child care cases are heard within a lengthy and detailed court process and have to comply with very strict criteria. All parents (and often other family members) are entitled to full legal aid and have the benefit of solicitors and barristers throughout. It is, of course, possible for any person who disagrees with the judge's decision to appeal if they can show that the judge was wrong factually or legally.

"All of these cases are extremely distressing for everyone involved but the council must at all times look to protect the welfare of the children involved."

However the grandfather said the family was not entitled to legal aid because they owned a home worth over £100,000 and had tried to present the case themselves but this had proved too difficult.