5 Things To Know About The Natalia Grace Barnett Case

Michael and Kristine Barnett claim their adopted daughter who had severe dwarfism was actually an adult — and not a little girl, like birth records showed.

Natalia Grace, pictured here, was thought to be a 7-year-old orphan from Ukraine when she was adopted by the Barnett family in 2010.

Michael and Kristine Barnett claim their adopted daughter who had severe dwarfism was actually an adult — and not a little girl, like birth records showed.

Photo by: ID/Michael Barnett

ID/Michael Barnett

By: Aaron Rasmussen

An Indiana couple adopted who they thought was a 7-year-old orphan from Ukraine. They then became embroiled in a legal battle that took multiple twists and turns and years to resolve. Ahead, some facts about the bizarre case of Natalia Grace Barnett.

What happened with Natalia and her adopted family?

Ukrainian birth records showed Natalia should have been 7 years old when Michael and Kristine Barnett welcomed her into their Westfield home and completed her adoption in November 2010, the Journal Courier reported. Within days, according to the publication, the couple began to suspect Natalia was actually much older and they were conned. They’ve said, for example, that she had a vocabulary that was much too advanced for such a young child. The adoptive parents also claimed Natalia had pubic hair and menstrual cycles at the time — allegations she denied when she appeared on the show Dr. Phil in 2019.

What condition does Natalia Grace Barnett have and what did she allegedly do?

Natalia has severe dwarfism, or spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, which has left her crippled. She has limited use of her arms and hands and her feet, knees, legs and hips are deformed.

Natalia once threatened she would kill her adoptive parents as well as their other children, Michael and Kristine have alleged, the Journal & Courier reported. Kristine once claimed her adopted daughter shoved her into an electric fence during a family hike, and Michael has alleged his wife also caught Natalia pouring household cleaner into her coffee, USA Today reported. In 2019, Natalia sat for an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw. “They say that you scammed them. That you lied about your age and came over here and terrorized them," the talk show host told Natalia about her adoptive parents during the episode. Crying, she responded, “It’s not true at all.”

What did the Barnett’s do?

Court documents obtained by the Journal & Courier show that the Barnetts had experts conduct medical and psychological evaluations of Natalia beginning in 2010, the year she was adopted. In June 2012, the couple petitioned the court to legally change Natalia’s age from 8 to 22, making her birthdate 1989 instead of 2003, according to the legal documents. The court agreed to the change, which protected the Barnetts legally from charges they neglected a dependent child.

What reportedly happened to Natalia?

Court documents show the Barnetts claim to have worked to get Natalia social services and federal disability benefits. They also said in the legal papers that they rented her an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana. After the lease ended in 2013, they helped relocate her to a new place in Lafayette and paid a year’s worth of rent. That summer, the Barnetts reportedly left Natalia behind and moved with their biological sons to Ontario, Canada, where one was enrolled in college. According to the Journal & Courier, at the time, Natalia was, per Ukrainian birth records, 9, but in the eyes of the court, she was legally 23.

Did the Barnetts get convicted of any crimes?

No. Over the years, the Barnetts, who eventually divorced, were charged with a total of eight crimes, including neglect of a dependent, neglect of a dependent causing bodily injury, neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury, and conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent. As of March 2023, all of the charges against them were dismissed by the courts, WTHR reported.

For more on this case, stream The Curious Case Of Natalia Grace on Max.

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