And so the story continues…
Two loving families from Indiana. One with a prodigal son who has autism. The other, the family of a recently ordained pastor. Both families subsequently adopt an abandoned orphan from Ukraine with a genetic disorder. What should have been a feel-good movie about a family coming together to overcome the obstacles of life has instead turned into a horror flick festooned with deceit, death threats, criminal charges, and a whole mass of confusion.
The story begins in 2010. Kristine and Michael Barnett receive word of a child who is in need of an emergency adoption. With just 24 hours to complete the process, the loving couple rushed to Florida to finalize paperwork and welcome the newest member of their family, a six-year-old Natalie.
With such a short deadline, the Barnett’s were not given the opportunity to learn more about the child. All they were told is that she was allegedly born on September 4th, 2003, according to her birth certificate, she had been in the United States for two years, and that the previous family had given her up for undisclosed reasons. They also knew that Natalia had dwarfism, formally known as spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital.
Regardless, the family accepted the child with open arms. Kristine had always wanted a large family but was unfortunately unable to have any more children of her own after suffering severe complications in her pregnancies, as told by her to the Daily Mail.
Unfortunately, this would not be the happy family that Kristine and her husband may have imagined. From the outset, the couple could sense something was amiss. Take their first outing to the beach. The Barnett’s three son’s rush into the water to play, but young Natalia stays behind. She wishes to be carried into the ocean, but both the parents are too tired and ask for a minute’s break. With that, she shot up and ran alone into the water, leaving the couple baffled.
The oddities don’t digress. During bath time, Kristine noticed something very striking for a child so young; pubic hair. To further throw the family into disillusion, Kristine finds Natalia’s discarded clothing with what appeared to be remnants of a period.
With no traces of a foreign accent, a vocabulary beyond that of a regular six-year-old, and an inability to describe her home country, the family grew increasingly weary to the point of getting a professional opinion on her age. A visit to the family physician finds that Natalie may actually be 14, and not 6.
After learning of what may be Natalia’s true age, the family decides to be accommodating and adjusted to allow her to comfortably be her age. Apparently, Natalia felt differently. As speculation about her age grew, her behavior declined, dramatically.
The family reports remembering seeing Natalia attack a baby boy, through a baby monitor. She would, reportedly, smear bodily fluids on walls and mirrors, make death threats against her adopted family, and hear voices. In other incidents, she reportedly tried to drag Kristine against an electric fence, and tried to add chemicals, like bleach, to coffee. When confronted, Natalia’s answer was she was trying to poison them.
Out of concern for their safety, and the safety of others, Natalia was admitted to the St. Vincent Indianapolis Stress Center for treatment with her psychiatric disorders. According to professionals, Natalia suffered from a psychiatric disorder only found in adults.
It was while she was in long-term psychiatric care when she supposedly admitted to being 18. According to Andrew McLaren MD., the Barnett’s primary care physician, Natalia’s birth date was, in fact, wrong, and that she may have made a career out of deceiving caring individuals into believing she was a child.
According to the doctor, Natalia’s true birth date was September 4th, 1989, which would have made her 22, at the time. Even after such a mind-blowing revelation, the family did not give up. They legally changed Natalia’s age from 8 to 22, allowing her to receive the medical attention she required, as an adult.
The Barnett’s even went as far as to rent an apartment for Natalia and placed her under the care of Aspire Indiana, the state healthcare provider. When she was evicted, they came to her aide once more, renting out another apartment for her. On top of this, they assisted her in acquiring a social security number, an ID, benefits, and food stamps.
Kristine stayed in constant communication with Natalia, even as the family decided to move to Canada in 2013, to further their son’s education. Natalia was left behind in Indiana, to continue receiving treatment. In 2016, the drama would be rekindled, with a new family, Antwon and Cynthia Mans, petitioning to take legal custody of Natalia. The Barnett’s would have to block the petition, citing their belief of Natalia’s true age, providing evidence and professional testimony. The petition was later dropped.
However, it seems the new family never let go. It was recently reported that Natalia has actually been living with the Mans’. This comes just weeks after discovering that the Barnett’s have been criminally charged with neglect of a dependent, by the Tippecanoe County. Reports have surfaced of tests done at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in 2012 that determined Natalia’s age to be 11, at the time. 2012 was also the year the Barnett’s legally changed Natalia’s age from 8 to 22.
Kristine and Michael are now out on bond. In the span of the two years, she was in the Barnett’s care, her age had been estimated to be 6, 8, 14, 11, 18, and 22. With an inadequate birth certificate from Ukraine and a genetic defect that does not allow for the accurate estimation of her age, Natalia remains in limbo. Her legal age of, what is now 30, stops her from participating in what could potentially be age-appropriate activities, such as high school. However, if she is in fact 30, she is now deceiving another family into believing she is a minor.
The mystery remains. How old is Natalia?