An Indiana couple, Michael and Kristine Barnett, at first thought they had taken in a six-year-old orphan but quickly grew uneasy. Four years after the adoption, the family’s turbulent journey began when the parents claimed that their daughter, Natalia, was not who she claimed to be and may be an adult dwarf disguising herself as a child.
The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, a documentary that recently made its television debut on Investigation Discovery (ID), examines the upsetting struggle the family had to go through. In the opening scene, Michael Barnett sobs as he says, “She won’t tell us the truth of who she is — we are living with a con artist.”
In the documentary, Michael describes how, on April 26, 2010, when everything appeared perfect, their family decided, out of the goodness of their hearts, to adopt an orphan from a facility in Florida. They reared their three sons with joy, enjoying financial security from a sizeable savings account and a brand-new house.
“At the beginning of 2010, we had many blessings. When 2014 rolled around, I had 37 cents in my bank account, no wife, no kids, no house, no job, and no children. I wouldn’t get divorced if Natalia hadn’t come into our lives, Michael admits in an emotional statement.
The couple began to question Natalia’s age when they realised she had been hiding her menstrual cycle from them for a long time. Additionally, Natalia once came across another child who was a real six-year-old with a rare bone condition. Natalia towered over her companion, showing superior bone structure and vocabulary, making the stark age difference obvious.
Michael also claimed that Natalia displayed a number of indicators that she was an adult rather than a child. These indicators included having adult teeth and menstrual cycles. In addition, he saw that she had not grown, something even children with dwarfism would generally do.
Additionally, according to reports from medical experts, Natalia had a severe psychological illness that is generally diagnosed in adults. These findings confirmed the idea that Natalia’s age had been exaggerated, adding to the convoluted circumstances surrounding her real identity.
Natalia revealed throughout the investigation that she had been informed of her new birthdate at her orphanage before to moving to the US.
Michael said, “(The officer) tells us he feels that her birth certificate is all fake. Michael contends that even taking into account Natalia’s dwarfism condition, it would be unusual for a six-year-old to have demonstrated no development over four years, according to a document relating to her migration process.
The family decided to seek legal counsel as a result of all these worrying signs. They filed a petition in probate court in 2012, and the judge eventually decided to change the official birthdate on her birth certificate from 2003 to 1989.
As they prepared to move to Canada after their petition was approved, the couple chose to move Natalia to an apartment in Lafayette, which was three counties away from their prior home. Natalia admitted that noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made up the majority of her diet. She also claimed that she had poor hand and arm dexterity, which made it difficult for her to open cans of food.
Natalia was forced to vacate the flat around a year after the relocation as a result of numerous complaints about her disruptive behaviour. In the documentary, neighbours described seeing her struggle to take care of herself and described seeing her wearing soiled clothes and smelling bad. They also claimed that she was a persistent nuisance to the neighbourhood because she would trespass into people’s homes.
Despite their assertion that Natalia was legally recognised as an adult woman due to the alteration in her birthdate by a court order, the couple was recently cleared of neglect charges for abandoning their adopted daughter.
According to Michael, the family moved from Indiana to Canada in order to assist with the college education of their 15-year-old son. However, some detractors of the family contend that their main motivation for moving was a wish to get rid of her. Although the legal age change caused the child neglect charges relating to Natalia’s age to be withdrawn, further neglect charges were still applicable because of her dwarfism, which made her dependent on the couple’s care.
In a 2019 Dr Phil programme, a very upset Natalia fiercely disputed being an adult and denied the charges of misleading the Barnett family. She continued to act innocently while conveying her worry about the dire circumstances.
Natalia was accompanied by her adoptive parents, who supported her and argued that she was a sincere loveable girl rather than an adult psychopath who was acting like a child. Their assistance was intended to refute Natalia’s accusers and present another angle on her personality.
Fortunately, not every dwarf has a narrative as dramatic as Natalia’s, despite their difficulties. People born with dwarfism can actually have the same employment, daily routines, and desires for family life as everyone else under the correct conditions.
Preview photo credit Inside Edition / YouTube