How did parents accused of abuse adopt four young children

Benito Gutiérrez and Carol Gutiérrez (Source: Pima County Sheriff's Department)
Benito Gutiérrez and Carol Gutiérrez (Source: Pima County Sheriff's Department)
Updated: Feb. 21, 2018 at 6:42 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Questions are being asked as to how Benito and Carol Gutierrez adopted four young children ages 6 to 12.

The children were discovered being held captive in the couple's Flowing Wells home.

The discovery happened when one of the children got out a bedroom window, went to a local store to call an uncle and a clerk became suspicious and called 911.

Police discovered the children were living in horrid conditions, locked in two bedrooms and not allowed out. The windows were boarded shut and all they had a bucket for a toilet. There were deprived of food and water.

Police won't answer many questions such as to whether these adopted children were part of a kinship adoption, which is family adopting family.

We do know the children were adopted over a several year span. The first one was adopted when he was two years old. How the others became part of the family over time is still a mystery.

But what we do know, the adoption process is rigorous and time consuming. 

Even so, in a statement sent to KOLD News 13 from the Department of Child Safety, some slip though the cracks:

The Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) does its best to ensure the children in our care are in the safest homes possible.

We can confirm that DCS removed the children from the home of Benito and Carol Gutierrez on February 17, 2018.

While we cannot comment on other aspects of this case due to confidentiality laws, we can comment on how DCS licenses its foster placements in general.

The Department requires potential foster placements to undergo a thorough vetting process before acquiring a license.

This process includes full background checks, a central registry check for prior DCS history, a fingerprint clearance card issued from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, home inspections, reference checks, and licensing classes through a provider agency.

Licensed foster placements also receive quarterly home visits from their licensing agencies in addition to monthly DCS visits.

As an added oversight, the court must approve out-of-home placements. Also through the court, foster placements are scrutinized by the biological parents' attorneys, the children's attorneys, the Guardian Ad Litem, which is an attorney who works in the best interest of the children, and the judge.

Once parental rights are severed, the foster parents begin the adoption process.

Once an adoption is approved by the court, DCS is no longer involved with the family.

Despite all of these safeguards, people are sometimes able to avoid detection, especially if a person has no prior criminal or child abuse history.

We investigate all reports of abuse and neglect and work with law enforcement agencies to ensure those who abuse and neglect children are brought to justice.

We would also like to point out that while a small number of people with bad intentions do manage to make it past the rigorous licensing and court process, the vast majority of Arizona foster parents are magnanimous, dedicated people and we are grateful they open up their homes to Arizona's most vulnerable children.

The Arizona Children's Association says in the case of kinship adoption, were family members adopt the children of other family members, especially grandparents, cases like this can be hard to detect.

"Typically, in an adoption, we're going to stay on board until the adoption is certified," said Dave Quis, who counsels foster parents. "Once the court says that's it, the kid is now legally yours, we don't go back into the home."

Prior to adoption, Quis says, the state will make four in-home visits a year, as well as offer services and monitor the health and well being of the children.

In a case like this, the only way to detect it is if the children tell a teacher something is wrong at home, then the teacher is required to report it.

Or if someone stumbles into it, like this case.

"If they adopt a child, then there's no reason for us to continue services with them," Quis said.

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