Last summer, Steven Cross allegedly left his 11 year-old son in their Lakeville, Minnesota home with a note telling the boy to go to a neighbor's house for help. The house had gone into foreclosure, and Cross was heading to California. He reportedly asked family members to take over guardianship duties for the child. He now faces several obstacles in his efforts to be reunited with his son.
Cross reportedly left several notes with his son when he left in July 2011. He told the boy to go to a particular neighbor's house and asked the neighbors to take care of him through the end of August. The child now resides with a great aunt.
Cross moved to Cambria, California, where he worked in a deli and lived in his van. Police arrested him on August 29, and Minnesota extradited him to stand trial for child neglect. He was released from jail in September. A jury found Cross guilty of gross misdemeanor child neglect in January. His sentencing is scheduled for March 20. The judge has indicated that Cross will probably not serve any more jail time, but could receive up to two years probation.
At a child-protection hearing, Cross asked the court to reunite him with his son. The court appointed a psychologist to assess Cross and ordered other services for Cross to complete. At a subsequent hearing, the court still denied visitation rights, based in part on the report filed by the psychologist. According to news reports, the psychologist indicated that Cross lacked empathy for the child, believing that the boy was "unaffected by the abandonment" and denying his own role in the abandonment. He recommended against reuniting the two for the time being. The judge said that Cross had complied with the court's orders, but that he still has not met the "threshold that the therapist has set." Cross acknowledges that he has more work to do.
At the same time, Cross worked out a prospective agreement with the child's mother, Katik Porter, who has not been involved in the child's life for some time. Porter reportedly lost visitation rights in 2002 after police made multiple visits to their home during their original custody disputes. Cross told police that he wanted documentation of their disputes related to custody of the child. Both parents were arrested on one occasion during that time.
Porter's attorney proposed a joint custody arrangement earlier this month, which would allow both parents an opportunity to raise the child. The court will consider a proposed agreement once both parents can agree on something, which they hope to do before the next hearing in late March.