AURORA, Colo. — The Colorado Department of Human Services released the results of an audit into the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services on Monday, focusing on a former social worker charged with crimes related to reported misconduct.
Robin Niceta was arrested in May and charged with filing a false child abuse report.
The onetime partner of former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson also faces a lawsuit from Aurora City Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky accusing Niceta of "baselessly, falsely, and unconstitutionally" separating or trying to separate children from their parents in her role as a social worker.
In the audit published Monday by the Colorado Department of Human Services, the state writes it has concerns about Niceta’s “failure to perform work in accordance with the Colorado Code of Regulations."
In some cases, Niceta made “no documented efforts to contact necessary family members” involved in child welfare investigations.
The Arapahoe County Department of Human Services tells 9NEWS Niceta failed to completely investigate cases of child abuse and her supervisor did not catch it.
"I think that this report is very telling as to what Robin Niceta was really up to and the lack of oversight and supervision in Arapahoe County DHS," Jurinsky said.
The state began investigating Niceta two months ago, after she was arrested and charged with filing false child abuse claims against Jurinsky. Jurinsky has spoken out about Wilson, and said the false claims were filed in an act of retribution.
"In the beginning, I also believed this was an isolated incident. Absolutely not anymore," Jurinsky said. "This is a systemic problem. It keeps happening."
A new class action lawsuit filed by Jurinsky and around 30 other families alleges that Arapahoe County DHS baselessly and falsely separated children from their families. At least nine of those cases involve Niceta.
After reviewing cases and assessments involving Niceta, the Colorado Department of Human Services said it did not identify any additional unresolved child safety concerns. However, the department said it did find and discuss with Arapahoe County concerns related to the conduct and practices performed by Niceta, as well as the supervision and oversight of her performance.
The state department of human services is now recommending a deeper audit to determine how deep the problems are with case practice and supervision. It's unclear whether the supervisor mentioned in the report as having missed Niceta's misconduct is still employed or if they will face punishment.
Arapahoe County says it will add new measures to stop “bad actors from infiltrating the system in the future.” A spokesperson for the county didn’t provide specifics about what those changes entail and declined an interview to answer 9NEWS questions.
Instead, the county provided the following statement.
Arapahoe County is thankful that the state’s limited review of Robin Niceta’s cases concluded that no children are currently in an unsafe situation, which is consistent with the mission of Arapahoe County Department of Human Services. The County accepts the findings of the review, and we will fully cooperate with the state’s recommendations. In light of these findings, and consistent with statewide recommendations to all counties, we will add measures that will help mitigate the likelihood of bad actors infiltrating our systems in the future. We also will add new quality assurance professionals to help guide these practice improvements.
The County requested this outside review to determine whether there was any additional misconduct committed by the former employee. The audit conducted by the State Department of Human Services determined that, on some cases handled by the former employee, there was a failure to completely investigate and document potential cases of child abuse, although it did not result in any child being left in an unsafe situation. It also concluded that the former employee’s supervision did not catch these instances and recommended further review of supervisory practices. Fortunately, no additional instances of false reporting against a third party by this former employee have been found, nor has anything been found that would support the allegations of widespread overzealous and false pursuance of child abuse allegations contained in the recently filed class action lawsuit.
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