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Man charged with child neglect, leaves son behind in foreclosure home

Father abandons son

A 60 year old Minneapolis single father and struggling architect, Steven Cross has been convicted with child neglect for leaving his 11 year old son behind in the home he was losing to foreclosure last summer. It is not uncommon for evicted homeowners to leave pets behind that they cannot afford, but this is the first we have heard about a child being left behind.

While his son was sleeping, Cross left his son “forever,” leaving the following note, according to CBS Minnesota, “If this paper is wet, it’s because I am crying so bad. You know your dad loves you more than anything. This economy got (illegible) there are no jobs for architects so I have to go because the sheriff will take the house July 27. There will be no more me … Some good news is your mother is still alive. Though I do not think it is for the best.”

The child followed the note’s instructions and went to his neighbor’s house with detailed instructions for how to care for him. Since then, the boy has gone to live with a great aunt, as the mother’s rights were terminated in years prior.

Cross was convicted earlier this week on one count of gross misdemeanor child neglect and will be sentenced in March. In a separate lawsuit, he is fighting to regain custody of his son. “I am going to keep trying. I’m not going to give up.”

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After being convicted, Cross tearfully told CBS Minnesota, “I wasn’t thinking about myself in any way shape at all. I was just thinking about my son, and this is awful…. I just wouldn’t wish it would happen to me — going through foreclosure. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody and I love my son to death.”

Being painted as a villain

A quick search for Cross’ situation online reveals his being painted as a monster and as the “World’s Worst Dad,” along with some other less kind epithets. Upon reading the note to his son, it sounds like a suicide note and that perhaps Cross did not go through with the act. Millions of Americans are facing foreclosure, and each handles the pressure differently, especially depending upon their network of friends and family on whom they can rely. When people have nowhere to turn and are losing their home, many feel under attack from every direction be it the bank sending threat after threat yet not answering the phone or helping make any modifications, or from an employer who has laid the homeowner off, to even a spouse, as financial duress is a top reason for divorce.

While Cross likely has an uphill battle as he attempts to regain custody of his son, we must put ourselves in the shoes of the millions of people getting those threatening letters and question their ability to be rational, not to mention the possibility of mental health issues. Cross should not have taken the path he took, it appears that he knows that, but the alternative path some choose of murder-suicide or are forced to become homeless seem more extreme than the route Cross took. Cross will likely face two years of probation for the child neglect and it is impossible to know whether he will get his son back, but it should be considered that he may not be the monster bloggers are painting him as (but then again, maybe he is, it is completely up to interpretation).

Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D., supervising psychologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center recently wrote regarding whether personality factors play a role in a person’s ability to survive a crisis of traumatic proportions. Dr. Nowinski said, “we often hear that so-called “resilient” people are more likely to come through a crisis – a job loss, home foreclosure, divorce, death of a child – less psychologically damaged.”

It is very possible that the mortgage and foreclosure crisis will be seen by future generations as a major cause of post traumatic stress disorder for those that are less “resilient” as Dr. Nowinski says, and while this situation will be much easier to see looking backward, of course it is difficult to understand why anyone would leave their child in a home (with or without “instructions” on how to care for him), but perhaps a non-resilient person is less rational and feels they are making the best move.

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We have had many of our friends confide in us how alone they feel as they go through foreclosure and how desperate, depressed and helpless they feel in their situation and it is not surprising that each person deals with the situation differently, even if it is hard to understand the rationality behind an extreme case like Cross’.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Crista

    January 27, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I appreciate the author's taking a compassionate view of the situation, based on personal trauma and possible psychological imbalance. That is some people's reality. People in trauma can live in a fog, certainly, and when there is no hope in sight….this was a nightmare for everyone involved, and I pray for God's grace and love.

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