Ukrainian dwarf could sue adoptive parents over new claims

Parents who adopted a Ukrainian dwarf could be set to face a new legal battle, as fresh claims have come to light.

In 2010, Indiana couple Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted Natalia Grace Barnett, who was born with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia – a rare kind of dwarfism that can cause skeletal abnormalities and issues with vision and hearing.

At the time, the parents believed they were taking a six-year-old girl into their home but the family later claimed they’d been duped, alleging Natalia was instead a “sociopathic” adult pretending to be a child, and that she wanted to harm them and their biological children.

Authorities went on to charge the Barnetts with neglecting their disabled daughter, but they were cleared of those charges and the pair legally changed Natalia Grace’s age to 23.

However, there are now fresh claims that suggest Natalia Grace was a minor, according to DailyMail.com, but the claims have not been reported.

Beth Karas, a prosecutor, said she was exploring her options about pursuing new charges against the parents that had a “good chance of success” and would likely de-age Natalia Grace.

“[Because of the effect the re-ageing had on her, she was denied an education, she says ‘my childhood was taken away from me’,’’ Ms Karas said.

“If she can bring a case, it would look pretty good for her.”

The charge against the Barnetts is the subject of a three-part docuseries, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, which premiered mid-last year.

Natalia Grace has now hit back at her adoptive parents in a new six-part docuseries, Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, where she shares her side of the story because she “didn’t get that chance.”

“The things that Michael has said I’ve done is a lie,” she said in a new trailer that recently aired. “She (Kristine) was trying to make me seem like I was just this big crazy person, that’s not true.”

“In every lie is a hidden truth, but you’ve gotta dig enough to be able to see it,” Natalia says in the new docuseries, according to People. “They’re not going to get away with this. This is my side of the story.”

She continues, “Do I look like a monster to you?”

Natalia Grace has maintained that she was six when she was adopted by the Barnetts.

She has rarely spoken to the media about the allegations but when appearing on Dr Phil in November 2019, she insisted that she was not, as host Phil McGraw put it, “a 33-year-old scam artist”.

In previous excerpts of the docu-series, Michael – who split from his wife in 2014, and they officially divorced in 2018 – recalled adopting Natalia Grace in 2010 from an agency in Florida.

“They said, ‘She has dwarfism. You have 24 hours to sign; otherwise, she is going straight to foster,’” he said.

“We adopted Natalia Grace because we wanted to help somebody who was in danger of never being loved.”

Natalia Grace’s Ukrainian birth certificate indicated she was born on September 4, 2003 – but the day after the Barnetts brought Natalia Grace home, Michael said Kristine was shocked to discover she had pubic hair while giving their daughter a bath.

Michael claimed that in the weeks following, Kristine confronted Natalia Grace after finding bloodstained underwear in her bedroom.

“I have a period, and I’ve been hiding it,” Natalia Grace responded to Kristine, in home video footage shown in the 2023 docu-series.

Michael alleged Natalia Grace also had adult teeth and began exhibiting other disturbing behaviours, such as urinating and defecating in the family car and then smearing the windows with faeces – as well as throwing herself out the door.

Michael claimed his adopted daughter started hoarding knives, and once told him, “I’m going to kill you in your sleep.”

He also accused her of trying to poison his now ex-wife and threatening to stab her older brothers.

Natalia Grace was admitted to a mental health treatment facility, where Michael claimed she was diagnosed as a “sociopath”.

The family were convinced, by this point, that their daughter was an adult, and that her Ukrainian birth certificate had been forged.

In 2013, Michael and Kristine successfully petitioned a court to change Natalia Grace’s birth records, citing that she hadn’t grown in their care, and determining she was born on September 4, 1989 – meaning she was a 23-year-old adult.

They then found an apartment in Indiana for Natalia Grace and paid the rent, relocating to Canada with their three biological sons and cutting ties with her. Neighbours who lived in the complex told the docu-series that Natalia would introduce herself as a “little person” in her early 20s.

But authorities became involved when Natalia’s electricity and phone line were cut off due to unpaid bills. After police questioning, Michael and Kristine were accused of leaving their daughter to fend for herself for more than three years, and charged with neglect.

Last year, Michael was found not guilty of all charges. Kristine’s trial was scheduled for February, but the case was ultimately dismissed.

Natalia currently lives with another Indiana couple, Cynthia and Antwon Mans, and their children, where she has been since 2013. Cynthia first met Natalia after she was moved into the Indiana apartment, and shortly afterwards she was invited to live with them.

The Mans parents have remained by Natalia’s side throughout her legal troubles and also testified on her behalf during Michael Barnett’s trial in 2022.

According to the Mans’ family Instagram account, Natalia celebrated her 20th birthday on September 4, 2023. However, her updated birth date of September 4, 1989, would make her currently 34 years old.

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