- When This Couple Adopted a Little Girl, They Had No Idea What They Were Getting Themselves Into

Like many couples, Kristine and Michael Barnett had trouble conceiving and turned to adoption. They were desperate to add another child to their family, and the adoption process was harder than they expected. In America, the adoption process is often long, tiring, and difficult to complete, and the Barnetts experienced this stressful process. People looking to adopt must undergo hundreds of invasive paperwork, home visits, and interviews. Even after jumping through all these hoops, it's still not guaranteed that they would be able to adopt. 
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Once approved, the challenges may not end. In fact, that's where many challenges begin. Depending on the age of the adopted child, moving into a new home with strangers can be a difficult transition. In particular, children who have been in the foster care system may have trouble adapting to their new lives and families. Many of these issues go away with time. But sometimes the problems never go away, and in fact, get worse. For the Barnetts, they found this out the hard way.
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Share The Love

Kristine and Michael Barnett are a devoutly Christian couple from Lafayette, Indiana, who wanted nothing more than to share their love by adding to their family. To them, the bigger the family meant the greater the love. Their whole lives were dedicated to children, both theirs and others, so they knew they would make the perfect parents for another baby.
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They were highly qualified to adopt a child. They had years of experience as foster parents, so they were equipped to deal with children struggling within the foster system. Additionally, children were their full-time job: they ran a daycare from their house. The couple already had three children of their own, but a series of difficult and failed pregnancies had left Kristine and Michael unable to conceive again.
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Adoption Dreams

The couple turned to adoption for numerous reasons. First, they desperately wanted more children and were unable to have children of their own. Other options for having children were expensive or inaccessible, like IVF fertility treatments or hiring a surrogate. They thought rather than pay money to bring another life into the world, it would be worthwhile to give a home to a suffering child who is already alive. With adoption, they'd be fulfilling their desire to have more children and provide a loving, happy home for a child in need, all at the same time.
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“I always wanted to have a larger family and I had very severe complications in my pregnancies and was unable to have more children,” Kristine told the MailOnline. “I also at that time had a very privileged life. I felt that if I had the ability to help another person in the world then I wanted to do it.”
However, it wouldn’t take long for their adoption dream to turn into a real-life horror movie nightmare.
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A Match is Made

After subjecting themselves to the rigorous and lengthy process that comes along with adopting a child, Kristine and Michael thought they had put all their headaches behind them in 2010 when they were finally given the good news that they had been accepted as adoptive parents. Although the process to adopt was long and hard, all their efforts paid off when they heard they were approved to adopt. The next step was the most exciting: actually adopting a child.
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Within days they received the news that they had been “matched” with a child in need of adopting. They felt stress, nerves, and excitement all at the same time. Would the child love them? Would he or she get along with their other children? Would the adoption be a smooth transition or would they need to put in the extra work to help their new child adjust to a new life? Above all else, they could not wait to meet their new child.
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Adding To The Family

They learned that their new child had special needs, but this didn't faze them at all. One of the Barnetts’ sons, Jake, was diagnosed with autism at age 2, so the couple was well versed in raising a child with special needs. If anything, they loved the child even more because of his or her conditions. They knew that they would be the best parents to raise this child.
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They didn’t flinch at the prospect of adopting a kid with special needs, knowing that those children can oftentimes be passed over by prospective parents, especially when they are no longer a cute little baby. They were confident they would love this baby forever, no matter what obstacles they faced. 
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Baby Joy

To say Kristine and Michael were excited and elated at the news of their soon-to-be new child would be an understatement. After trying to have more children and enduring the painful losses of multiple pregnancies, they could not wait to finally bring another child into their home. 
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The couple literally couldn’t wait for their bundle of joy to arrive. They expected their new little baby to add life, love, and happiness into their lives. They never expected their child to bring terror, horror, and heartache to their household, but ultimately, that's what happened.
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Welcome To The Family

Kristine and Michael were thrilled to learn that they would be adopting a little girl—a 6-year-old named Natalia who had been born in Ukraine but had been living with a previous adoptive family in the USA for a couple of years. This was the best-case scenario because they'd be able to talk to her previous foster parents and learn about her temperament and personality. 
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However, Natalia's previous family of 2-years gave her up for "undisclosed reasons," which seemed suspicious. Kristine didn't think anything of it, though. The couple was so caught up in the excitement of finally being able to add to their family, and so eager to not add to the distress that the little girl had already gone through, that they didn’t question what had happened between Natalia and her previous parents. 
Oh dear.
“Out of compassion for their situation, I didn’t want to press them for information on what had gone wrong,” Kristine shares.
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And Natalia Makes Six

Kristine and Michael had felt like their family was incomplete for a while, but could never figure out why. With Natalia's arrival, they understood what had been missing in their lives: a daughter. They had both always longed for a little girl to dress up in make-up and bows. Michael knew she would be a daddy's girl, and he was already wrapped around her finger. The Barnett family was finally complete—they had three sons and a daughter, and it seemed like everything was perfect in their world.
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At first, the couple was “overjoyed” by the addition of Natalia to their family, and as she settled into her new home they believed that everything was “just right”. The family fit together like puzzle pieces made for each other, and the Barnetts could not even remember what life was like before they had Natalia. But things were about to take a bizarre, and very dark, turn for the worse as it slowly dawned on the couple that things were very far from "right".
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Suspicious Minds

Kristine and Michael hadn’t been suspicious as to why Natalia’s last adoptive parents had surrendered the little girl. To them, she was perfect. Since they had experienced being foster parents, they knew that sometimes, parents and foster children just don't click. Sometimes the children have a hard time transitioning into a new family, but who can blame them? The last thing on Kristine and Michael's minds was the reason why Natalia had been given up for adoption a second time. 
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As much as they didn't care about Natalia's history with her last adoptive family, they couldn't help but be curious as certain issues began to come up. They began to wonder if they should have concerns when then they started noticing things that raised red flags. These red flags weren't small problems, they were big issues that they couldn’t just push aside and ignore.
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Red Flags Start Waving

The Barnetts were under the assumption that Natalia was a little girl. Since they had experience with 3 other children, Kristine and Michael had a solid grasp on developmental milestones of infants, children, and pre-teens. When Kristine gave Natalia her first bath she noticed that her daughter, who was supposed to be a 6-year-old child, had “full pubic hair.” This was slightly alarming, but not anything to be very concerned about. From then on, the Barnetts started paying a little more attention to Natalia to see if anything else was amiss. 
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It turned out other things were suspicious, too. During a family day out at the beach, Natalia did something that was either a miracle or something very suspicious. They were told that Natalia was unable to walk, and thus had been confined to a wheelchair. When they were at the beach, Natalia stood up from her wheelchair and raced into the ocean after her brothers went in. Was this an act of God or a red flag that something was up? The Barnetts did not want to inflict more trauma on Natalia by asking her questions, but they made sure to keep their eyes open to more suspicious behaiors.
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Red Flags Start GLARING

More things began popping up that made The Barnetts suspicious of Natalia. In addition to the two other incidents, Natalia had her period. While it's not uncommon for girls to start menstruating between 10-15 years old, 6 years old is extremely young. Besides these now 3 major red flags, the parents also learned that Natalia had adult teeth. Not only had her disability sudden disappeared, but her body seemed to be much older than she was claiming it to be. 
dailymail.co.uk
Besides the physical characteristics that made Natalia's age suspicious, she began showing social behaviors that were concerning. Like the loving parents they are, the Burnetts gave Natalia all the toys and dolls she could dream of. But Natalia didn't take any interest in them. Instead of playing with toys that most kids her age would love, she liked hanging out with other kids. It wouldn't be a red flag if she was hanging out with other 6-year-olds...but the kids she was hanging out with were not kids at all: they were teenagers. 
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If She Walks Like An Adult, Talks Like An Adult…..

More and more, they began to notice strange things about Natalia. For example, her vocabulary was way beyond that of the average 6-year-old, and her conservation style was far from kid-like. “At the time I ran a little school and I remember she said to me, 'these children are exhausting, I don't know how you do it,'” Kristine says. “I was like, you're supposed to be a child yourself. It was like something another mom would say as she dropped her kids off."
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Even though she had allegedly only been in the US for two years, Natalia didn’t have even a trace of a Ukrainian accent and didn't know a single word of her birth language. It started sinking in for Kristine and Michael that their "6-year-old" daughter wasn't at all who they thought she was, but they remained determined to love her none the less. “It's very hard to decipher how old she is because she has such a unique look. But at that time I started to believe she was probably a teenager," Kristine says. “But I didn’t have any regrets. This was what I wanted to do. I felt overwhelming love for her.” They had worked so hard and long to adopt, they weren't going to just give up on Natalia just because she was different.
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How Do You Solve A Problem Like Natalia?

There was clearly a problem with Natalia, something was clearly “off” but Michael and Kristine couldn’t get to the bottom of what it was exactly. Did she have a physical disability that made her age more rapidly? Was her information forged so she'd be more likely to be adopted? The possibilities were endless, and Michael and Kristine weren't able to get answers. The couple could never have imagined in their wildest dreams, or nightmares, what the truth would turn out to be.
dailymail.co.uk
Once they took the courageous step to find out exactly what was going on with Natalia, they learned the unbelievable truth about their daughter. It would shock them and completely turn their lives upside down. After the truth came out, it didn’t take long before the Barnetts’ loving and perfect home turned into a dangerous and volatile war zone, and the couple found themselves literally in fear for their lives.
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Things Take A Very Sinister Turn

The working theory that Kristine and Michael had was that Natalia's age was not what she made it seem to be. They were unsure how to find out their daughter's real age. After some research, they learned they could have a certain test done in order to reveal how old Natalia was. In a bid to get to the truth, Kristine and Michael had taken Natalia to a doctor for a bone density test to determine her real age. And, Natalia was NOT happy about it.
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Natalia didn't just throw a temper tantrum about a trip to the doctor's office--something most kids don't enjoy. Her reaction was much more adult and frankly scary. According to Kristine, she started acting out violently—attacking a baby boy, and making threats to kill her mom, dad, and siblings then "bury their bodies in the garden." Also, Natalia’s mental health started deteriorating rapidly—she began smearing blood and bodily fluids on the walls and hearing voices. It was clear that Natalia was hiding something and was afraid a visit to the doctor would reveal it.
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The Violence Ramps Up

Then, things took an even darker turn after Natalia pushed her mom onto an electric fence, and poured household cleaners in her coffee in a bid to poison her—leading to Natalia being placed long term at a state-run psychiatric unit due to the threat she posed to others. Kristine and Michael were willing to look past the strange things Natalia did like hanging out with teenagers or having pubic hair. But once she became a threat to their other children's lives as well as their own, they could not let her behavior slide. 
dailymail.co.uk
Kristine paints a disturbing picture of life with Natalia, eerily reminiscent of the 2009 horror movie, "Orphan", where an adult woman poses as a child and then attempts to murder her new adoptive family after they take her in. “She was standing over people in the middle of the night. You couldn't go to sleep. We had to hide all the sharp objects,” Kristine alleges. “I saw her putting chemicals, bleach, Windex something like that, in my coffee and I asked her, ‘what are you doing?’ She said, ‘I am trying to poison you.’” However, Natalia tells a different story. She describes the electric fence incident as “an accident” and insists the poisoning claims are “an outright twisting of the truth”.
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The Results Are In

As if things weren’t bad enough already Natalia’s test results added an even darker edge to the already grim picture. The Barnetts did not know what to expect. Was she just a little girl suffering from various disorders, or was she hiding something more sinister? As they waited to speak to a professional about the results, they began to wonder if they had put their 3 boys in danger by bringing Natalia into their home. 
The Barnetts’ doctor, Andrew McLaren MD, found that Natalia’s skeleton was that of an adult and surmised that her given birth date of 2003 was fraudulent. Kristine and Michael's heads began to spin. Who was this person they brought into her home? If she wasn't 6, how old exactly was she? They had many, many questions and were afraid that some of them would never be answered. 
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Career Kid Criminal

Dr. McLaren came to the conclusion that Natalia had made a “career” out of pretending to be a child, and that she had fooled him, her parents and everybody else. It was clear that this wasn't the first time she had medical professionals and her adoptive families fooled. She was no amateur, but instead an expert. The level of detail it takes to fool a trained doctor is something only season experts can do. 
After extensive tests, the doctor could not believe the results he was reading. After more than two decades in the healthcare industry, he had never seen anything like Natalia's case. Taking into account her strange behavior, developmental milestones, and bone density, the doctor determined that Natalia was not 6 years old. In fact, she wasn't anything close. Her real age was 22 years old.
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The Bones Don’t Lie

Natalia’s bone density test had revealed that she was actually an adult with a rare form of dwarfism called ‘spondyloepimetaphyseal dysplasia’. People with this condition are short-statured when they are born and have a very short torso and short limbs. Since people with this disorder do not grow normally, an adult with the disorder can end up being the same height as a small child. This appears to be how Natalia fooled the Barnetts. 
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A psychologist also backed up the findings, determining that Natalia was indeed an adult who was impersonating a child. And, according to the Barnetts, Natalia even confessed herself to be much older than she was pretending to be while undergoing treatment in the psychiatric unit, although Natalia denies this ever happening.
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The Game’s Up

Not surprisingly, Michael and Kristine were shocked and stunned to learn their little girl was actually a fully grown con woman. They felt shocked, sad, disappointed, and betrayed. They had opened their home to this woman and loved her just as they loved their natural-born children. Not only were they disappointed their baby girl was a con woman, but they were also angry that Natalia had inadvertently deprived a real child in the foster system from having a loving home. 
After reality finally set in, the couple made the difficult decision to have Natalia’s age “corrected” officially, so she could receive the appropriate psychiatric treatment for an adult, rather than a child. In June 2012, Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis, Indiana, revised Natalia’s date of birth from September 4, 2003, to 1989.
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Do The “Right” Thing

Kristine and Michael weren’t eager to welcome Natalia back into their home with open arms. They feared for their lives and the lives of their children with Natalia around. Despite this, they refused to "abandon" her. After all, they still loved Natalia.  They had spent an enormous amount of time "raising" her and making her a part of the family. It would be impossible for them to just dump her on the street and act like they never knew her.
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So, despite still reeling from the massive deception, when she was released from the hospital, the kind-hearted couple rented an apartment for Natalia, and continued to pay for her ongoing psychiatric treatment after she was placed under the supervision of state healthcare provider, Aspire Indiana.
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Ongoing Support

Even though she was a grown adult, Kristine and Michael vowed to continue to care for Natalia. 
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The couple helped Natalia apply for her social security number, government benefits, food stamps, and ID.
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Setting Her Up For Life

After she was evicted from the apartment they had rented for her, for “causing problems”, Kristine and Michael sorted out a new home for Natalia, in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, paying her rent in advance.
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Kristine checked in with Natalia every day in person or by phone and even helped her enroll in college to get her high school diploma and study cosmetology.
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Time For A Change

In 2013 Kristine published her memoir “The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism” which was about caring for her son Jacob, a child prodigy who had just turned 21.
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Shortly after, Kristine and Michael made the decision to move to Ontario, Canada so they could be near Jacob while he attended college there.
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The Disappearance

Kristine claims that at the point they were preparing to move, Natalia, who would have been 9-years old at the time (if her claims are indeed true), had “vanished” and stopped returning her calls. 
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The mom goes on to allege that she was worried Natalia had stopped taking her meds, and she feared that after finding a little pink bicycle parked in Natalia's driveway, and children's clothes in her wardrobe, she was posing as a kid again and attempting to deceive a new family into taking her in and caring for her.
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A Marriage Dissolves

A year after relocating to Canada, Kristine and Michael divorced. The stress had just proved to be too much them—they both hoped to put the past (and Natalia) behind them, and start afresh again in Canada.
But sadly for them, the drama was very far from over.
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Here We Go Again

Just as Kristine and Michael were settling into their new home, and the memory of Natalia was starting to fade, their adoption nightmare reignited and turned the couple’s lives upside down once again.
As far as Kristine and Michael were concerned, they had gone way beyond the call of duty, and more than fulfilled their legal obligations to Natalia.
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After determining she was actually an adult and that they had been tricked into adopting her under the belief she was a 6-year-old child, they had still supported Natalia for three years, setting her up in a home, enrolling her in college and ensuring she was financially cared for.
But, it turns out, Natalia was far from done with them—and she had enlisted the help of law enforcement in her bid to get what she believed she was “owed” to her by the couple.
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The Threat Of Jail

Kristine and Michael were left stunned, yet again, after they were accused by Indiana authorities of “abandoning” Natalia. 
The couple was arrested and threatened with jail time after they were booked on felony charges of neglecting a dependent.
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It was Natalia herself who had reported them, telling the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department she was a 9-year-old child who had been “left alone” after her adoptive parents moved to Canada.
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New Family, New Lie, Same Old Drama

Shockingly, Natalia was now living with a new couple, Antwon and Cynthia Mans, also devout Christians, who believed she was just a little girl that had been callously abandoned by her parents.
dailymail.co.uk
After investigating her complaint, cops decided that Natalia was a “reliable and credible” witness, and determined that Kristine and Michael would have to be made to answer for ditching their “young daughter”.
And, although Natalia claims that she doesn’t want Michael and Kristine to go to jail, she does believe they need to be punished for “abandoning” her.
“I just want them to give up on the whole charade. I don't want them to just keep on with this, I want them to have their normal lives back after this is all over and they did their time,” she says.
“It's not right to do that to a child. I don't want it to happen to anybody else, but if it did have to come to that then they should do the responsible thing, do their time come and get it over with and get right with God.”
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8, 11, 22, 33? Who Knows At This Point?!!

Natalia’s new family continue to refuse to believe she is really an adult, they vow she is only 16-years old, and they refer to a doctor’s testimony to back-up their claims.
Dr. Rigs, an expert at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, carried out his own bone density tests 8 years ago when the Barnetts moved to Canada, and he determined the results prove Natalia was 8 at the time.
A skeletal test at another facility that was carried out at the same time, found that Natalia was 11.
Kristine and Michael Barnett continue to maintain that Natalia is 22, and claim she may even be as old as 33.
Meanwhile, Natalia claimed, in a recent interview with Dr. Phil, that she’s 16.
The Mans, who are parents to several other children too, staunchly support Natalia, and insist she’s telling the truth about her age.
They described her to Dr. Phil as being, “a genuine and loving young lady who has been through a horrible situation”.
Antwon and Cynthia are disgusted by the actions of the Barnetts, branding them, “heartless liars who deserve to be brought to justice for what they did to the child they promised to take care of.”
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So What Now?

Kristine and Michael’s nightmare is still far from over. At the time of posting the couple is awaiting court to answer the neglect charges that have been filed against them. They maintain their innocence and are “horrified” by the accusations.
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“I am being charged by the state of Indiana for crimes against a child when the state of Indiana has determined multiple times that Natalia was an adult,” Kristine says.“From day one this was a mission of love. But when you bring a child into your home, you expect them to be a child. To be accused of this is unconscionable to me. It’s just horrifying.” 
Meanwhile, Natalia steadfastly refuses to budge from her story. She insists that she was born on September 4th, 2003, and says that she was forced to live in as many as 30 different foster homes before landing at the Barnett home when she was 6. So far, there has been no word from Natalia’s previous adoptive parents, and their identity remains a mystery.
However, a woman has come forward claiming she is Natalia’s birth mother, and she backs-up her daughter’s story. Anna Volodymyrivna Gava says that she was forced to Natalia up for adoption because she couldn’t care for a special needs child. Anna’s testimony would appear to also fit with Natalia’s age claim. She alleges Natalia was "just an infant" when she handed her over to Ukrainian authorities 16-years ago. "Daughter, forgive me for what happened 16 years ago,” she told the MailOnline. “Visit soon for me to see you. We are waiting for you. You have two sisters and two brothers."
This story just gets more and more curious...

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