The Curious Case of Natalia Grace is Curious Indeed!


The Curious Case of Natalia Grace is Curious Indeed!

Has anyone else gone down the documentary rabbit hole of watching The Curious Case of Natalia Grace yet? We certainly have! My hubby and I binged the whole first season in one night. The first five minutes into the first episode, we looked at each other and asked, “Do we really want to watch something like this right now?” We had just gotten back from a wonderful Christmas vacation, and this show was a whole different vibe. But, we dove in anyway.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, it focuses on an Ukrainian orphan with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, a rare bone disorder, named Natalia Grace Barnett. The birth certificate the Barnett family was given when they adopted Natalia stated she was only six-years-old. Her age became the entire conflict around which this documentary revolved. Kristine and Michael Barnett were her second adoptive parents.

As I watched the first few episodes, I realized where I knew Kristine Barnett from. She was the author of The Spark, which I had always meant to buy and read (but, I’m now glad I never did). Her oldest son is a genius, and she capitalized on his brilliance. As you watch through season one, you really start to feel for that poor boy so much.

There is just too much to cover in this one post, but I’ll try to summarize the key points for all of you. I will say, however, that I still don’t know whom I really believe or not in this crazy and curious case.

  • Kristine and Michael adopt Natalia
  • Right away, Kristine starts questioning whether Natalia is really 6 or is an adult masquerading as a child
  • Kristine starts telling everyone that Natalia is trying to kill the whole family
  • There are many reports and recordings from varying sources where Natalia says herself she has tried to kill her new family and has thoughts of hurting neighbors
  • Kristine and Michael got her admitted to a State mental hospital, Natalia was moved from the pediatric ward to the adult ward, and she was ultimately sent home
  • There was an endocrinologist and dentist that both independently aged Natalia between 6 and 9 years old collectively
  • A Barnett family doctor and a case worker provided reports that were the only two used by a judge to re-age Natalia to 22 years old (parents are responsible for children until 21 years of age in Indiana)
  • Natalia was moved into an apartment by herself as an alleged 22-year-old (when she really was apparently 9) and creeped out all her neighbors around her
  • Kristine and Michael then moved her to another apartment a little north in Indiana from the first one the next year and moved themselves to Canada
  • A woman who was married to a Bishop in that town and had taken in several other children was convinced she was actually a child and had been abandoned
  • That family took Natalia in, and warrants were put out for Kristine and Michael on two counts – at first, it was for offense against a child and then was changed to offense against a dependent person (a disabled child remains a dependent for life basically)
  • Michael went to trial, but Kristine never did, and they never served any time as a result of the charges
  • In season two, Natalia shares her side, and we hear more from Michael (Kristine never makes an official appearance in this documentary)
  • Natalia and Michael both claim that Kristine manipulated and abused them in multiple ways

Random note – I lived with my mom in Westfield, Indiana (where a lot of season one happens) for my senior year of high school and laughed to myself at how Michael tried to hype up the area when I know first-hand that it’s a lot of mass-produced subdivisions and pretty middle to upper middle class. I hadn’t even thought of that house in over 20 years and pulled up Google Maps on my phone to look up the street view and show my husband how Westfield homes all look the same. Michael seems to have a knack for exaggerating and changing his stories over the years this documentary cover. Sometimes, I felt bad for him and other times, I just hated how he didn’t protect his children (included Natalia) from that alleged monster of a wife of his.

I do NOT like the producers of this documentary. They do some misleading ish and are ethically ambiguous. The one part that really got under my skin was when the Barnett’s oldest son, Jacob, had said he was done with his interview and left the room, but his mic was still left on. They continued to record him and USED the footage and audio that was explicitly NOT intended for their use. That infuriated me. The also used a “legal expert” who did not really focus on the law like you’d expect a legal expert to do. They did share perspectives and accounts from many, many sources, which can be a good thing. But, you still really don’t know the truth about anything from anyone at the end of two seasons.

In season one, when you think Natalia may actually be an adult and you focus only on what you believe is the law (that being legally over 21 absolves Michael and Kristine from responsibility of her care), Natalia looks like the monster. In season two, when you know that the Barnetts were legally required to care for her for the rest of her life and that they (or at least Kristine for sure) knowingly left a 9-year-old child alone in an apartment by herself, we were infuriated as parents and decent human beings. Kristine is a monster, and Michael is a coward. That’s our final thoughts on them from our own personal opinions.

I still don’t know if I trust everything that Natalia says, but my heart breaks for a little girl that should have been loved and not abused and abandoned. The tears and trauma from her in season two appears very genuine as she recounts her memories from her time with the Barnetts. We do not like the couple that are her current guardians, but I am glad that Natalia felt acceptance and love (whether it’s all a scam by the guardians to get attention and her benefits or not…). It’s a roller coaster of an experience to watch this documentary, so watch at your own risk. Do I wish I hadn’t seen this? In some ways. Do I regret watching it? No, not at all.

When you watch The Curious Case of Natalia Grace yourself, let us know in the comments what your takeaways and thoughts are!


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