Dad Cleared of Neglecting Adopted Daughter Accused of Being Adult Posing as 6-Year-Old Child

credit: susan burrell / Alamy
A dad has been cleared of neglecting his adopted daughter whom he claims was actually an adult posing as a six-year-old child.

The child - Natalia Grace Barnett - was the subject of a Dr. Phil episode in 2019, BBC News reports. In the episode, she explained how her adoptive parents Michael and Kristine Barnett had abandoned her at an apartment when she was just a child.

Michael and Kristine defended their decision, stating that Natalia was actually a woman who was pretending to be a child and that she had threatened to kill her adoptive parents and their biological sons.

At the time, many netizens drew comparisons between Natalia's story and the popular horror film, Orphan, which follows the fictional story of a woman who poses as a nine-year-old child and tries to kill her adoptive family.

Despite Natalia's claims, Michael was cleared of neglect charges, three years after he was first arrested.

The Lafayette Journal and Courier has been covering the unique story since it began, writing that the couple first decided to adopt Ukrainian-born Natalia in 2010.

She has dwarfism, or dystrophic dysplasia, as well as scoliosis - and was allegedly told by Kristine that she had been with up to 30 different families (though this is something she doesn't remember).

Michael and Kristine were told that she was six years old, though they had suspicions about her actual age. In fact, a court agreed to legally change her age in 2012 to indicate that she was born in 1989, rather than 2003.

After legally changing her age, Michael and Kristine moved to Canada with their biological sons, leaving Natalia in an apartment on her own. She was eventually taken in by some neighbours, and her adoptive parents were charged with neglect in 2019.

Natalia appeared on Dr. Phil to maintain her story that she was just a child, not an adult as Michael and Kristine claim.
Michael and Kristine moved to Canada with their biological sons, leaving Natalia in an apartment alone. Credit: susan burrell / Alamy
During her testimony, Natalia stated: "I wanted to be with the Barnetts. I wanted to live with them." She added that she was living off Ramen noodles, pizza, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and that the neighbors who took her in taught her how to read and write. Natalia's age was not brought up in the trial, given that it was legally changed in 2012 and cannot be reversed.

During cross-examination, Michael and Kristine's attorney asked Natalia: "At the age of 23, you didn't know how to use a washer and drier? Didn't know how to count money?"

"I didn't know how to do anything," Natalia responded.

With Michael being cleared of the counts of neglect, his now-ex-wife Kristine's trial is set to begin in February.

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