Natalia Grace launches GoFundMe following explosive docuseries revealing her true age

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Jan 10, 2024 at 05:38 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

The story that we are about to unfold is one with many layers and different narratives. The life of Natalia Grace is a perplexing case that has captivated audiences with its bizarre twists and turns.  And its latest development is no exception to the rule…

The curious case of Natalia Grace

Grace, a Ukrainian orphan with a rare form of dwarfism known as spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, entered the public eye in 2019 when her adoptive parents, Michael and Kristine Barnett, faced charges of neglecting a dependent after a five-year investigation.

The Indiana-based couple, who had adopted Grace at the age of six back in 2010, had relocated her to an apartment in July 2013. She would have been eight at the time. Subsequently, they moved to Canada, leaving the young girl behind, alone..

Though the Barnetts’ adoption of Grace in 2010 initially seemed like a heartfelt decision, it was their suspicion surrounding her real age that led them to ostracise Grace. The couple claimed that Grace, whom they believed to be six years old at the time of adoption, exhibited physical signs of adulthood, including pubic hair, adult teeth, and menstruation.

So, where are they right? Well, we finally know the answer to that question.

Natalia Grace’s adoption and age controversy

Based on these suspicions, the couple made the unconventional move by petitioning the Marion County Probate Court in 2012 to legally alter Grace’s age from eight to 22. This legal manoeuvre effectively changed her documented birth year from 2003 to 1989.

Shortly after, the Barnetts moved Grace into an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana, and subsequently relocated to Canada with their three other children, effectively severing all contact with the child. The couple asserted that Grace was an adult posing as a child and accused her of posing a threat to their family, citing alleged incidents such as attempts to poison Kristine’s coffee and threats to harm their sons.

In the aftermath of the legal turmoil, Michael and Kristine Barnett’s ways parted. In 2018, they divorced after almost two decades of marriage. However, a turning point in this story occurred in 2019 when, for the first time, the couple faced neglect charges for abandoning Grace. The legal saga around the child unfolded further with Michael being acquitted in 2022, while Kristine’s charges were dismissed in 2023..

The Barnetts’ side of the story gained further attention when Michael detailed a series of alarming threats in a three-episode documentary aired in May 2023 called The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, wherein he claimed that Grace threatened to stab their sons.

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Natalia Grace’s side of the story

In response to the Barnetts’ accusations, Grace spoke out in her own six-hour docu-series,  The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, which premiered on 1 January 2024. She vehemently denied all the allegations and declared, “This is my side of the story. Do I look like a monster to you?”

The Mans family

Grace’s story took another unexpected turn when it was revealed that she had been living with another Indiana-based couple, Cynthia and Antwon Mans, since 2013. The Manses had petitioned to become her legal guardians in 2016, but a judge determined that she was legally an adult, leading to the dismissal of the guardianship petition. Despite the legal battles, Grace continued to live with the Mans family.

Amid the aftermath of Grace’s legal entanglements with the Barnetts and the ensuing media scrutiny, the Mans family have consistently supported her. Their public stance became evident in 2019 when the couple joined her on the Dr Phil talk show, emphatically reaffirming to the host that she was a minor and had never displayed any violent behaviour towards their family.

The Manses’ unwavering support extended further when Cynthia testified on Grace’s behalf during Michael Barnett’s trial in 2022, solidifying their commitment to standing by her side throughout the legal proceedings.

Despite the tumultuous events, Grace has maintained a complex relationship with the Barnetts. In her interactions with Dr. Phil and during Michael’s trial, she expressed positive feelings toward her former family and testified that she did not want to move out. However, she vehemently refuted their claims about her age and harmful intentions.

What is Natalia Grace’s real age?

Grace’s age has been a contentious issue throughout this ordeal. The Mans family celebrated her 20th birthday in September 2023, going by the birth year listed on her Ukrainian birth certificate, instead of the updated birth date of 4 September 1989, which, technically, would place Natalia at 34 years old.

 

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However, a blood test conducted by TruDiagnostic in August 2023 indicated that Grace is approximately 22 years old, confirming her claim that she was in fact a child when the Barnetts adopted her, and ultimately abandoned her.

“This one little piece of paper throws every single lie that the Barnetts has said right into the trash with a match,” the young woman said in a January 2024 episode of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, adding: “It just proves that I was not lying about my age.”

Natalia Grace’s story and its similarities with the horror film ‘Orphan’

Grace’s story bears uncanny similarities to the 2009 psychological horror film Orphan. While her ordeal unfolded in real life, the movie, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, presents a fictional narrative that strikingly mirrors some aspects of her life since the Barnetts adopted her.

In Orphan, a couple adopts a 9-year-old Russian girl named Esther, under the impression that they are providing a loving home to an orphaned child. However, they soon discover that Esther is not the innocent child she appears to be. The plot takes a dark turn when it is revealed that she is, in fact, a 33-year-old woman with a rare condition that stunts her physical growth, allowing her to pose as a child. Esther’s true identity as a violent and manipulative adult becomes the central focus of the movie.

Speaking to Dr. Phil, Cynthia Mans highlighted the coincidental timing between the release of Orphan and the events surrounding Grace’s adoption. The film, which premiered in 2009, predates the young girl’s adoption by the Barnetts in 2010, making it clear that it was not inspired by real-life events, but more so the other way around.

Grace’s adoption by the Mans in 2023 seemed like a hopeful resolution to her turbulent life. However, the conclusion of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks brought yet another unforeseen and shocking twist. In a phone call, Cynthia Mans can be heard saying, “Natalia [Grace] is stabbing her family in the back, over a complete lie!” This is followed by Antwon adding: “We’re done with her.”

Official plans for a third season of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace have not been confirmed yet. However, People has confirmed that Grace had launched a GoFundMe in order to raise money for new housing and medical expenses. So far, the page has raised just under $10,000.

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