ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Investigators found an “inadequacy of effort” in the work of a former child caseworker, who’s come under scrutiny since she was charged with filing a false report against a political rival.
The review of 40-year-old Robin Niceta’s work found that she strayed from regulations and lacked “thoroughness,” according to the report released Monday by the Colorado Department of Human Services. In a sampling of her reported casework, investigators estimated around a quarter of it could have been fraudulent.
The CDHS released this summary of its findings:
In conclusion, CDHS found an inadequacy of effort and thoroughness in assessments to which the Social Caseworker and the supervisor were assigned. CDHS also had concerns about the Social Caseworker’s failure to perform work in accordance with the Colorado Code of Regulations, including minimal or no documented efforts to contact necessary family members or collaterals, necessary but unverified cross-reporting to law enforcement, disposition (“finding”) reasoning concerns, and needed improvements to record of contact/documentation/closure summaries. CDHS staff did not identify any additional unresolved child safety concerns as a result of this evaluation.Colorado Department of Human Services
FOX31 has reached out to Arapahoe County for a response.
Report: Some work may be fraudulent, some cases reopened
Niceta is charged with filing a false child abuse report, a misdemeanor, and attempting to influence a public servant, a felony. She’s accused of reporting fake child abuse claims about Aurora City Council Member Danielle Jurinsky, who had made public criticisms of former Police Chief Vanessa Wilson — Niceta’s partner at the time.
“I thought this was a political attack against me, and I thought that this was an isolated incident,” Jurinsky told FOX31’s Joshua Short on Monday.
“I think the state definitely recognizes that there’s a lot of flaws going on in Arapahoe County, DHS, a lot of oversight and a lot of lack of supervision,” Jurinsky said.
After her arrest, Niceta resigned after five years on the job with Arapahoe County. The state then reviewed a sample of Niceta’s work “to determine whether the scope of this fraud was isolated or more of a pervasive issue,” according to a statement from CDHS.
Taking a look at the last six months of her employment, investigators found that between 6-26% of Niceta’s reported casework “may not have occurred” and could be fraudulent, according to the report. Eight cases were “reopened to assess for child safety.”
Investigators then took a deeper look at her work back to July 2017 “for possible child safety concerns.” Of 196 intake assessments and 73 cases, 13 were sent to another county for re-assessment because they were “unable to determine if the originally identified safety concerns were mitigated.”
Niceta has also been subject to seven complaints about her performance and conduct, according to the report. “These complaints were all reviewed and concerns related to potential misconduct or misinformation have been referred to the criminal investigations team involved in this matter,” the report states.
CDHS said it would meet soon with Arapahoe County, recommending a closer look at “case practice and supervision.”
Niceta is also facing a civil lawsuit from Jurinsky and others, accusing her of misconduct on the job.
So what happens next? FOX31 legal expert Chris Decker weighed in.
“The department will be looking into this, plaintiff’s attorneys will be looking into it, parents who may have been a party to one of her cases will be looking into it, and I suppose only time will tell exactly what that review will illustrate,” Decker said.
Arapahoe County issued the following statement to FOX31 the day after the report was released:
“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.”