Care Ordered For Children In Abuse Case

Date: 1991-05-29
Source: nytimes.com

Care Ordered For Children In Abuse Case

May 29, 1991
By CELIA W. DUGGER

A Family Court judge, expressing concern for the safety of 17 adopted children living with a Harlem father who is charged with sexually abusing his daughter, yesterday ordered the city to place a homemaker in the man's house 24 hours a day.

The judge, Edward M. Kaufmann, issued the order after lawyers representing the city and the children of the man, Kodzo Dobosu, told the court that Mr. Dobosu and his family had been investigated before after accusations of physical or sexual abuse.

"I'm concerned that there is some neutral person to protect the children if the allegations turn out to be true," the judge said.

Mr. Dobosu, 51 years old, who has won national recognition as an adoptive father, was charged last week with sexually abusing a 14-year-old daughter who is mentally handicapped. He has denied that he ever abused any of his children. Poor Conditions Reported

The lawyers also reported to the judge yesterday that inspections of Mr. Dobosu's home over the last week by Legal Aid Society and city social workers found troubling conditions, especially for young or wheelchair-bound children: no sheets, few if any window guards, the smell of urine, an unhinged bathroom door, poor lighting in the hallways and a limited amount of food.

Mr. Dobosu's lawyer, Barry Abbott, said that the conditions might not be ideal, but that the children were healthy and wanted to stay with their father. He said that his client planned to renovate the home, which has gotten heavy wear and tear from so many children living there, with volunteer help.

"It may not be the level of care out in Nassau County," Mr. Abbott told the judge, "but the children are surviving. They're doing O.K."

The judge replied: "I don't want the children to survive. I want them to thrive."

Mr. Dobosu, who has twice been profiled on national television for his work with hard-to-place adoptive children, strongly objected to the placement of a stranger in his home. He offered to remove himself from the home on Striver's Row, a historic block in Harlem, if the judge would allow his older sister and adult daughters to care for the children. Information Is Sketchy

But Maria Peralta, a lawyer with the city's Human Resources Administration, said that Mr. Dobosu's sister, Bernice Nelson, 63, was "not fully ambulatory" and that Ms. Peralta did not know whether the other daughters were willing or able to care for the 17 minor children in the home.

The lawyers had only sketchy information about the other accusations of abuse, made in New York City and Ohio, which did not lead to any criminal charges.

Monica Drinane, a Legal Aid Society lawyer appointed to represent Mr. Dobosu's children, said the daughter who accused Mr. Dobosu last Tuesday of abusing her told authorities that he had also sexually abused two of the other adopted daughters living with him.

Ms. Drinane also said there was an accusation reported in New York City that one of his children "may have been beaten by him." She did not say when the accusation was made or what the investigation found.

Earl Weber, a spokesman for the Human Resources Administration, said the agency could not comment on child-abuse cases because of state laws requiring confidentiality.

Ms. Peralta said Ohio authorities had told the city about accusations that Mr. Dobosu, while living there in the 1980's, "permitted brothers in the home to sexually abuse other children in the home." Mr. Dobosu administered the state of Ohio's special-adoptions program fron 1984 to 1988.

Ms. Peralta said the city had not yet obtained more specific information about the Ohio accusations.

Sgt. John Rippey of the Police Department in Columbus, Ohio, said in a telephone interview that the police had investigated two accusations of abuse involving the Dobosu family in 1987 and 1988 and that neither had led to criminal charges. He said he was unfamiliar with the specifics of the accusations. Frustrated by Bureaucracy

Sue Moning, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Human Services, which employed Mr. Dobosu, said she was prohibited by confidentiality laws from commenting on any child-abuse investigations.

Mr. Dobosu quit the Ohio job because of frustrations with the bureaucracy, according to a letter of resignation he submitted at the time, Ms. Moning said. He was not forced out of the job, she said.

Mr. Dobosu's lawyer, Mr. Abbott, said that no court had ever found any of the accusations to be true. "The credibility of that information is highly suspect," he said.

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