The adoptive mother of a 31/2-year-old boy at the center of a custody dispute tearfully handed the boy to his biological mother on Saturday, then dropped to the ground and repeatedly screamed: "How can they do this to a little boy?"

Evan, bundled in a blue jacket and sucking on a pacifier, was carried outside by Dawn Scott (search), who along with her husband, Gene, cared for the child for most of his life. The couple had appealed a judge's ruling transferring custody to the biological mother, Amanda Hopkins (search).

News crews gathered around the Scotts' home Saturday morning in anticipation of the meeting, and the child's biological father and grandfather pushed a television cameraman out of the way during the transfer.

Evan, who could be heard wailing inside the home, appeared calm after he was placed in a car seat in a van driven by Hopkins' husband, Michael Hopkins.

Amanda Hopkins scolded photographers taking pictures of the child: "Leave him alone. He's just a little boy."

Hopkins, a member of the U.S. Navy, lives in Illinois with her husband and infant daughter, but their hometown has been kept in sealed court files.

Evan was quickly whisked away, and Dawn Scott then dropped to the ground in an emotional outburst.

Gene Scott called it a "very emotional, traumatic situation" and said the family would continue their legal fight.

"If they truly loved him, they wouldn't have done this," he said, tears welled in his eyes.

The Scotts had appealed Friday to the 1st District Court (search) of Appeal in Tallahassee, asking the court to let them keep the child. But their attorney, Susan Pniewski, said the court never acted in the case.

The case began about 31/2 years ago when the childless Scotts met Hopkins, who was pregnant. She agreed to a private adoption, according to court files.

The Scotts watched Evan's birth in May 2001, and he was placed with them two days later.

The adoption was supposed to be final in August 2001. But a month before that, the boy's biological father, Stephen White, filed a motion demanding custody. The Scotts claimed White should not be able to block the adoption, but a judge disagreed.

Hopkins supported the adoption until it appeared the court might grant White's request for custody. Late last month, she was awarded custody and White was given liberal visitation rights.

Calls to attorneys representing Hopkins and White were not immediately returned Saturday.

Carl Moodispaugh, 37, who lives in the Scotts' cul-de-sac, said his 8-year-old stepson, Christopher, often played "Hot Wheels" with Evan, and the youngster was like a little brother to his son.

"It is like one of our kids being ripped from us," Moodispaugh said.