“She is smart, beautiful, polite. I miss seeing her happy smile,” said Randy Paglia, of his 3-year-old granddaughter.
Paglia says he used to see his granddaughter Ariana at least every week. Now, he hasn’t seen her for months. All he has are pictures and videos.
Paglia says his daughter Krystle showered her little girl with love, but then she made life changing mistakes. After taking pain medication prescribed by her doctors for a back injury, Krystle Paglia got behind the wheel with her daughter in the car and got in a minor accident in Pinckney. Because by driving while on that medication she put her daughter at risk, CPS responded.
“My daughter told them right away, my dad will take her in a heartbeat,” said Randy Paglia.
Instead of turning to him, the state sent his granddaughter into foster care.
Randy says he assumed it would take only a short time. He figured CPS would check him out, then place his granddaughter with him in the house in Whitmore Lake where he lives with his other daughter, 16-year-old Danielle. The family got a bedroom ready for Ariana, with books, toys, and clothes.
“It just makes me sad, makes me cry, keeps me up at night,” said Paglia.
It has now been about 5 months. Ariana remains in foster care.
It didn’t help matters when Krystle Paglia violated probation and was sentenced to jail, but this grandpa says that is her mistake. He says he did everything right.
Months after he contacted them, a caseworker finally checked out his home and background, told him he passed and qualified to care for his granddaughter, but by then- three months had passed, giving the non-relative foster family the right to appeal to the court that Ariana stay with them for stability.
“And then all of a sudden she is not coming. It breaks your heart, because it is absolutely not fair.”
“The federal law and the state law, as well as the DHHS policy is that relatives take priority over anyone else,” said Sonia Cannon, Family Law Attorney .
Cannon says under the law CPS should have considered Mr. Paglia from the beginning. Still, she sees this happen.
It is hard to know why. Does a caseworker have a bias for a certain foster family? Are case workers overwhelmed because of caseload or turnover? Mr. Paglia says he has been assigned 3 caseworkers since October.
And while in this case the drug that got Krystle Paglia in trouble was a non-narcotic prescription pain killer, many more grandparents are finding themselves struggling to get their grandchildren placed with them instead of foster care -because of the opioid crisis.
“You can sit in court and you will see numerous cases, one after another. In the course of one day that is as a result of this,” said Cannon.
“It just don’t seem right that you take a child and throw her in the foster system, and now the grandparents are pretty much screwed,” said Paglia.
Randy says he hopes for the sake of his granddaughter, himself, and his family, something is done.
Seven Action News reached out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It said it can't discuss the specifics of Child Protective Services cases due to privacy laws. The state says if department policy is followed, relatives who pass background checks and can provide a safe home are given preference over non-relative foster care.