Natalia Grace: Everything to Know About the Orphan Adoption Scandal

Natalia Grace was accused of pretending to be a 6-year-old orphan who was adopted and later abandoned by Michael and Kristine Barnett.

Thanks to the Investigation Discovery docuseries, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, and the follow-up special, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, there's been renewed interest in the adoption scandal surrounding Natalia Grace, a woman accused of pretending to be a 6-year-old orphan from Ukraine and her former parents, Michael Barnett and Kristine Barnett. As Grace tells her side of the story, here's what to remember about the subsequent legal drama and where she is now after Investigation Discovery aired the Natalia Speaks finale on Jan. 3.

Before becoming caught up in a media scandal, Grace was believed to be a young child first adopted by the Barnett family in 2010 (her true age was seemingly confirmed in the finale). Soon after, Grace, who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal, was accused of being an adult before she was eventually abandoned by her adoptive parents. Grace has since confronted her former adoptive father (twice, to be exact) in explosive episodes of Natalia Speaks.

Natalia's Legal Drama

The Barnetts alleged that Grace tried to poison Kristine and pushed Michael into an electric fence. Before leaving Grace behind in a Lafayette, Indiana, apartment in 2013, they had her legal age changed from 6 to 22 years old and then moved to Canada. 

Years later, both parents were charged with neglect in September 2019, with Michael going to trial in February 2022 over four specific charges -- neglect of a dependent, neglect of a dependent causing bodily injury, neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury and conspiracy to neglect a dependent. 

Although he was eventually found not guilty, the Daily Mail reports that Grace went on to "testify that she sustained herself mostly on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ramen noodles and an occasional pizza. She said she had limited use of her hands and arms, and struggled to open canned food."

According to the outlet, Grace "was also forced to move to a second apartment after a year due to complaints about her disturbing behavior. Neighbors recounted seeing her struggling to take care of herself and recount in the documentary how they saw her wearing dirty clothing, scuffed shoes and stinking of body odor."

Charges against Kristine, who is now divorced from Michael, were dropped in 2023, weeks before her trial was set to begin in March.  

Where Natalia Is Now

After being abandoned, Grace was eventually taken in by another couple, Antwon Mans and Cynthia Mans in 2014. In 2016, they applied to become her legal guardians, but were denied. They maintained that she was a teenager at the time and later spoke out during an episode of Dr. Phil, explaining that they didn't experience the same allegations of abuse. 

After also appearing on the same 2019 Dr. Phil episode, Grace testified at Michael Barnett's trial. But since then, she hasn't been seen or heard from publicly until now. 

In 2019, a Ukrainian woman named Anna Volodymyrivna Gava came forward, claiming that she was Grace's birth mother. And while speaking to Daily Mail, she refuted claims that Grace was an adult at the time of her adoption or that she was a "sociopath."  

According to multiple outlets, Grace still lives in Indiana. 

What Natalia Is Saying


"This is my side of the story, and I'm going to say what happened because I never got a chance to say what happened," Grace says in ET's exclusive preview of her upcoming two-hour documentary.  

Set to premiere in the summer of 2023, Natalia Speaks sees Grace detailing what really happened to her after being adopted by the Barnetts and addresses the allegations the family made against her while she was still living with them.   

"The things that Kristine and Michael have said that I have done is a lie. I have never done anything that Kristine and Michael have said that I have done," Natalia says in the clip, referring to the many allegations the couple has brought against their formerly adopted daughter. 

"You can ask anybody in my family now. You can ask Bishop Antwon and Cynthia Mans that -- just ask them, 'Has she ever done anything?' They will tell you who I really am. They're not going to lie and neither am I," Natalia continues. 

"It's frustrating. It's very frustrating to hear everything that's being said from Kristine and Michael. And because I already don't know who I am and I want to know who I am and what happened to me, but I'm hearing all this stuff that never actually happened from Kristine and Michael," she goes on to say. "I'm like, 'It's shocking and it's frustrating.' Because that's not even true. And people are believing what Kristine and Michael are saying without even hearing my side." 

Natalia concludes by adding, "Y'all have heard from Kristine and Michael and what they have said. But you need to hear both sides in order to know what happened." 

Natalia Confronts Michael  

They come face-to-face for the first time, and it ends with Michael becoming furious at her line of questioning before he rips off his mic and storms off. 

"Why did you adopt me in the first place? Why?" Grace asks Michael. 

"Many of these questions there's not going to be a single answer to," Michael responds. "Look, I've learned recently you and I have the same monster. Kristine. We are here because we both were incredible victims of an otherworldly type of abuse."

He was adamant that they shared "the same monster."

"I had the same monster you did. I was exceptionally controlled and put down and threatened, was minimalized," he said. "Anything that was who I was was ripped from me and I was guided and instructed to be exactly what she wanted me to be."

Michael ultimately grows furious, rips off his mic and storms off.

"I tried," Michael cries as he bolts out of the house in tears. "Leave me alone!"

"I want the puzzle to be complete..." Grace says. "I want to know the answers to these questions. And I want people to pay for what they have done."

Natalia Confronts Michael, Part 2

Michael ultimately agrees to another sit-down with Grace. In doing so, Michael conjures up a Monsters, Inc. scene in an attempt to explain the torment he and Grace allegedly experienced at the hands of Kristine.

In an attempt to explain himself, Michael said "it's difficult to understand" but in the end he chalked it up to 15-plus years of "being put down and degraded and controlled and threatened." He added that he "didn't have any strength to stand up to her," though he "wish" he did. 

Then came the bizarre Monsters, Inc. anecdote.

"You ever see the movie Monsters, Inc.?" he asks Grace, who answers yes. "You know how the same monster goes through bunches of doors and all these kids around the world have the same monster, but they don't know it? We had the same monster and we didn't know it."

Natalia's Age Is Seemingly Confirmed

Through DNA tests conducted by TruDiagnostic labs, Grace's age appears to be 22 years old. The results suggest that Grace was around 9 years old when she was adopted by Michael and Kristine.

When the lab work was conducted in August 2023, Grace suspected that she was around 23 years old.

After the results were revealed, Grace became emotional. 

"This one little piece of paper throws every single lie that the Barnetts said right into the trash with a match," she tells her adoptive father, Antwon Mans. "This is so big. Because literally, this has been 13 years of just two people lying their butts off. They ruined a kid's life. They painted me as some big monster when in reality they were the ones."

She added, "It just proves that I was not lying about my age." 

The lab results dispute the Barnetts' claims that Grace was actually an adult woman posing as a child.

Kristine Weighs In: She's a 'Sociopath'

Kristine took to Facebook and claimed Natalia Speaks was nothing but a "sensationalized show." She also called Grace a "sociopath."

"Natalia was a very much loved and cared for member of my family. She was not abused by anyone in my family. Let's get straight to these allegations," Kristine wrote. "Nobody ever took a belt to Natalia and the allegations that she was 'beaten' are just plain false. Any discipline of Natalia was very minimal and was not out of the bounds of normal parenting. If anything it was overly permissive as we all felt a tremendous amount of sympathy for Natalia and loved her while she lived with us."

While Kristine noted that she's had "good and bad days as a mom," she insisted that Natalia's accusations against her have previously been "investigated" and were "dismissed as unfounded."

"Living with Natalia did come with constant allegations about her treatment, which I believe was to lead people away from investigating her personal behaviors which were extreme and usually of some sort of sexual or hurtful to towards others nature. So the accusations of being abused are a way to deflect what she is actively doing to hurt other people and as well they themselves hurt other people," Kristine wrote. "She has alleged abuse by anyone who has had longterm contact with her as well as neighbors, teachers and even children that she claims were abusive to her. In my experience they all were not abusing her."

At the end of the day, Kristine wrote that she does "understand compassion people have for Grace because I had that same compassion myself."

"I understand that when someone is doing some of the extreme behaviors I have witnessed from Natalia it is only natural to think 'she must’ve been abused' and I believe Natalia takes advantage of that sympathy to manipulate people," she wrote. "I believe this because I sat through numerous hospital visits and therapy visits trying to understand and help Natalia and thinking we might be able to find the root of the issue. In the end I learned she is a sociopath. I still have not wrapped my head around that diagnosis to this day honestly and I still revert to feeling sympathy for her and hope that she will do well in life. It's very hard for me to understand to this day what happened in our lives with Natalia or to process it."

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks follows The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, which aired over three nights on Investigation Discovery, is now streaming on Max and Discovery+.