Father in Child-Abuse Case Calls Accuser, 14, Troubled

Date: 1991-05-24
Source: nytimes.com

Father in Child-Abuse Case Calls Accuser, 14, Troubled

May 24, 1991

Kodzo Dobosu, adoptive father of 18 unwanted children, denied yesterday that he had sexually abused his 14-year-old adopted daughter, as she had charged.

Mr. Dobosu said the charges against him and the ensuing attention by news organizations had "turned not only my life upside down, but also turned my children's lives upside down."

"My daughter has problems," he said. "She has intellectual problems and emotional problems."

In Family Court yesterday, Judge Edward M. Kaufmann ordered the daughter who had made the charge placed in foster care, but he allowed the other adopted children to stay at home with their father. Arraigned and Released

Mr. Dobosu was arraigned Wednesday in Criminal Court in Manhattan on charges of first-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. He was released on his own recognizance and is back with 17 of his children in his home on the historic block of Striver's Row at 257 West 139th Street in Harlem.

The 14-year-old daughter told her school guidance counselor on Tuesday that her father had sexually abused her. The police then arrested Mr. Dobosu.

Investigators in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office interviewed Mr. Dobosu's other children Wednesday to find out if any had complaints about abuse. But Colleen Roche, a spokewoman for the office, declined to discuss what the children had said. No other charges were filed yesterday against Mr. Dobosu.

His lawyer, Barry Abbott, said of the inquiry into the other children, "The D.A. grilled them rather harshly, and there was no corroborating evidence, as far as I know." Father Honored and Profiled

Honored as a father of the year by the National Father's Day Committee, Mr. Dobosu, 51 years old, has adopted more than 30 unwanted children in the last 20 years. He has been favorably profiled on national television for adopting children who are physically disabled or emotionally troubled.

His sister, Bernice Nelson, is staying in the home to help out.

Mrs. Nelson, who is 63, said the child who made the accusation of abuse had been troubled since she joined Mr. Dobosu's family at the age of 3. Mrs. Nelson said she did not believe the charges against her brother.

She said the girl, a special-education student at Public School 30, set a fire in Mr. Dobosu's home a few weeks ago.

A Fire Department spokesman, Tom Kelly, said trucks went to a house on that block on May 12 to put out a fire that started on a stove, but he said he did not immediately know the address where the fire had occurred.

Many of Mr. Dobosu's 17 adopted children still at home are "terrifed they're going to go back on the foster-care treadmill again -- their security is shaken," Mrs. Nelson said.

Yesterday Mr. Dobosu said: "I believe we will beat this. I believe we will come out on top, and I believe my children will be all right."

Mr. Dobosu gained a measure of fame after a laudatory profile of him and his sprawling adoptive family on PBS's Frontline program in 1983. Carole Langer, an independent filmmaker who directed the program, said she was in and out of his home for two years and never detected anything questionable.

"I hope this cloud can be lifted from him," she said.

In 1984, Mr. Dobosu, then known as Kojo Odo, was recruited to head the special adoptions program for Ohio. He quit in 1988 over frustrations with the bureaucracy, said Carol Hector-Harris, who was the chief spokeswoman for the agency when he worked there.

Ms. Hector-Harris called the charges against him "preposterous."

He changed his name from Odo to Dobosu after he discovered his African ancestors had the name Dobosu, his lawyer said. Praised by a Governor

The CBS news magazine West 57th profiled Mr. Dobosu on Dec. 26, 1987. On the program, the Governor of Ohio at the time, Richard F. Celeste, described him as "an extraordinary human being who's discovered that families can be grown in different ways."

When Mr. Dobosu was asked on the program how one man could give so many children enough attention, he replied that he could do a better job than an institution.

"We are still and evermore a family," he said. "I may not be able to meet all the needs of my kids. They may have to chip in and help to meet each other's needs. They don't have to get it all from me."


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