There isn’t much that gets me out of bed these days. Three cups of coffee shot directly into the vein? Meh. HR’s threats of “immediate action” should I be late for the 10th time this month? Don’t tempt me with a good time, Karen. What does get me going, you may ask? A scandalous news story about a wholesome midwestern family finding out their adopted Ukrainian daughter is actually a woman in her 20s posing as a 6-year-old child with dwarfism. Now THAT I’ll get out of bed for. So buckle up, kids, it’s time to gather ‘round for a story more convoluted and insane than a Riverdale plotline (and as the former weekly recapper, just know that I had to sit through the showrunners try and explain how the local Riverdale cult was just a front for an underground blackmarket human body parts trade).
The story was originally published in The Daily Mail UK earlier this week and it is… a lot to take in. The article claims that famed parenting author and motivational speaker Kristine Barnett and her now ex-husband Michael Barnett have been charged with neglect after leaving their 11-year-old daughter Natalia to fend for herself in their apartment when they moved to Canada. Sounds terrible. Like, let’s get ADA Barba and the Special Victims Unit on this ASAP. However, the Barnetts are claiming that it’s not neglect because Natalia is not a child, but in fact a “mentally disturbed adult posing as a child” who has threatened to kill them before.
In order to truly appreciate the masterpiece that was this Daily Mail article, we need to go back to the beginning. First, a little backstory on the Barnetts: Kristine rose to moderate fame in the mid 2000s when she wrote a book about raising her genius physics prodigy son, Jacob, who has Autism. The couple even appeared on 60 Minutes back in 2012 to talk about Jacob’s success story. So, like, it’s a little ironic that Kristine, a woman who has probably been humble bragging about her parenting skills to her book club for longer than The Office was on the air, is now being charged with parental neglect. I bet her friends are having a hell of a time in their group chat.
In 2010, the couple adopts Natalia, who, as far as they know, is a 6-year-old girl living with a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia. Natalia had been living in the U.S. for two years, had a Ukraine birth certificate saying she was born in September of 2003, and needed a home ASAP because her previous adoptive parents “suddenly gave her up for undisclosed reasons.” This is the same excuse I give whenever someone asks if I’m still on my diet, but somehow it doesn’t feel legit enough for adoptive parents to use as an excuse to return A LITERAL CHILD, but okay.
Soon after the adoption, Kristine says she realized Natalia could not actually be the age she was claimed to be. First off, she claims Natalia was speaking with a sophisticated vocabulary beyond that of a typical 6-year-old’s. As I don’t associate with children I’m not quite sure what that means, but I’m going to assume that little Natalia was only speaking to the Barnetts via Mean Girls quotes and Cardi B rap lyrics.
Moving on. The couple claims there were also physical signs that Natalia was older. She supposedly had adult teeth, didn’t grow one inch in the years they had her in their care, had a period (!!!), and they discovered a full bush on her the first time they gave her a bath. According to The Daily Mail, Natalia also “shunned dolls and toys and sought the company of teenage girls.” (I stand by my earlier Cardi B comment).
During this same time Kristine claims Natalia was terrorizing the family by threatening to stab them in their sleep. (And that’s not even a part I am exaggerating for effect!) At one point, Kristine claims she even tried to pour bleach in their coffee because she wanted to “poison them” and shoved Kristine into an electric fence. To be fair, if my adoptive mother was making this big a deal about my period I would also react this way.
In an interview Kristine said of Natalia: “She was jumping out of moving cars. She was smearing blood on mirrors. She was doing things you could never imagine a little child doing.” These allegations, if true, are alarming. If not true, then just stolen from The CW writer’s room notes on the Gargoyle King character attributes.
The Barnetts checked Natalia into a psychiatric hospital where Natalia was diagnosed with various psychiatric disorders. Health professionals at the facility even say Natalia herself admitted to being 18 years old.
Kristine had the family doctor run bone density tests on Natalia to see if she was actually a small child or a much older sociopath posing as a child. I’m hoping that is exactly how she phrased it when she approached her family doctor. Boy, to be a fly on the wall during that doctor’s visit. According to the Barnetts, the doctor concluded that Natalia was actually closer to 14 years old, if not older. This feels suspicious to me because presumably these tests took place sometime after 2010 so modern science and technologies were available for said test, and yet, the most accurate data they could ascertain was that she’s “probably 14.” K.
In 2012, after it’s confirmed that Natalia is not six years old but, like, maybe might be 14 or something, the police start investing Natalia for immigration fraud. The Barnetts, meanwhile, successfully applied to the Indiana courts to have Natalia’s age corrected so she could receive the appropriate psychiatric treatment for an adult, and a judge actually revised Natalia’s date of birth to September 4, 1989, effectively changing her age from EIGHT TO TWENTY-TWO. Okay, but like, where did they get that number from?? The doctor confirmed she was maybe 14 and if my basic math calculations are correct that number is nowhere near 22. A birthday is not like the weight you list on the doctor’s forms. You can’t just make it up!
Kristine says she and her family then set Natalia up in her own apartment, which they paid for, and helped her get benefits and a social security card. The family moved to Canada in 2013 so Jacob could attend a school in Canada, and they say Natalia stopped returning their messages and they lost contact. When Kristine found a pink dress and a little pink bicycle at Natalia’s house, she feared she was conning another family.
Which brings us to today. According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by NBC News, the Indiana police started getting involved in the case around September 2014 when Natalia told authorities the Barnetts rented her apartment in Lafayette. When the police interviewed Michael Barnett about the case earlier this month, he said that Natalia was actually a minor when they legally changed her age to 22 and that Kristine coerced her into telling people that she just looked young for her age. Michael is now saying those comments were taken out of context. Keep in mind the timing of all of this: If the police actually received Natalia’s complaint in 2014 then that means they waited five years to investigate her claims. This feels extremely suspicious to me. What’s with the hold up here? Why has it taken half a decade to investigate a minor’s claim that she was abandoned while her family moved to Canada?
BUT Y’ALL. It gets even weirder because an expert at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital named Dr. Riggs came forward as the man who carried out the bone density tests on Natalia in June 2010 and concluded THAT SHE WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD. You guys, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
WHAT. IS. THE. TRUTH. INDEED. A further skeletal test carried out two years later, at the same facility, concluded she was around 11 years old, and I still don’t understand how not one medical test in the year 2011 cannot definitively tell us a girl’s age.
The Barnetts have since been arrested and charged with neglect. They’re still holding true to their story, but I don’t know what to believe anymore. For one, some of their arguments regarding Natalia’s age are flimsy at best. Though Natalia may have been physically mature for a 6-year-old, that doesn’t mean she actually wasn’t her age. I went through puberty in second grade and had a full rack and acne by 8, so WHAT’S YOUR POINT, KRISTINE. The Barnetts also claimed that when they asked Natalia about her time in the Ukraine she gave the same answer Mariah Carey gave about knowing J.Lo, and couldn’t recall any specific details about her homeland. She also could not speak the language.
Again, if Natalia is the age she says she is, that means she was four when she left the Ukraine so, like, how great would her memory really be? I think it’s a little much to be quizzing her on Ukraine’s country flag or history. Then there’s the police work. If Olivia Benson thought an underage girl had been abandoned by her family she would have the entire Manhattan police force fly out to Indiana to investigate this case, and you’re telling me it took local PD five years to look into these very alarming claims? And that all they currently have to show for it is a medical test which somehow can’t be verified? Look, I know Dick Wolf is not actually a member of law enforcement, but these are some pretty wild claims that nobody in law enforcement took seriously at the time.
Which brings me to my last concern: it doesn’t sit well with me that no one can confirm Natalia’s age. These medical “tests” feel about as legit as those pregnancy tests I bought at the Dollar Tree. I know she has a unique case of dwarfism but my god there has to be a way to medically tell her age that isn’t cutting her open and counting the rings like she’s a goddamn tree. I mean is she 11? 14? 18? 22? 33? JUST TELL US HOW OLD YOU ARE, NATALIA.
At the moment, all we know for certain is that Natalia is currently in the wind and her location is unknown. The Barnetts have been released on bail and continue to claim that they accidentally adopted a dangerous, mentally ill tiny adult for a daughter. And while the only immediate answers we’re going to get from this case will play out in the form of a “ripped from the headlines” episode of SVU, I will continue to follow this case v v closely. And by “closely” I mean between the hours of 1am-4pm when I can’t sleep because I still don’t understand how this con artist/Ukrainian child (??) managed to bamboozle both the American medical society and justice system. Stay tuned, Betches!
Images: Amazon; Giphy (3)
You’ve probably heard someone start a sentence with, “So, I’ve been listening to this podcast…” and immediately wanted to punch them in their pretentious face. We get it. And we hate to do this to you, but we’ve been listening to these political podcasts…and they’re like, really good.
Political podcasts are a great way to stay informed, get your news while you’re on the go, and prevent anyone from trying to talk to you because you have headphones in. A real win-win-win. Plus, it’s 2018 and there’s a lot of shit to keep up with and it’s not cute to be like, “I just don’t really care about politics lol” anymore. How many times do we have to tell you this?
Here’s a list of our fave political podcasts that we use to keep up with the fuckery-fest that is our news cycle. Yes, these are all left-leaning so like, if that’s not what you want then…maybe you should try Sears? For the rest of you – listen, subscribe, you’re welcome.
Pod Save America
You’ve probably at least heard of this one unless you’ve been living under a dumb rock. If you haven’t, get out from under that dumb rock and check out this podcast. It’s hosted by four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor. They’re all v smart, v funny, and honestly, p cute. They bring on a variety of guests and discuss the news and American politics, all in a very accessible and entertaining way. Plus they shit on Trump a lot. Like, a lot a lot. So, we’re in.
This podcast attempts to answer the question: WTF is wrong with our president and why TF is this happening to us? It chronicles the rise of the Trump presidency and his current administration and explores how this nightmare came to be. I think we all deserve an explanation, and this podcast sets out to give us one. It’s hosted by Jacob Weisberg, chairman of Slate, along with Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie, and writers Virginia Heffernan and Josh King. Can’t say I know who they are but they sound v important.
Lovett or Leave It
Remember Jon Lovett from Pod Save America? We just talked about him two paragraphs up, keep up. Well, this podcast is like his Beyoncé moment where he goes solo. It also tackles politics and the news, but has more segments and lots of fun n’ flirty games. He’s on tour right now doing some live shows, which you can check out here.
State of the Union With Jake Tapper
If there’s one thing the
end of America’s dignity Trump Presidency has done for me, it’s make me realize Jake Tapper is the sex icon I never knew I was missing. Have you seen his interview where he completely shuts down human tape worm Stephen Miller? It’s the hottest effing thing I’ve ever seen. Anyway, this podcast is like his show on CNN, but it’s a podcast. You get it. Anything that involves more Jake Tapper sounds good to me.
Honorable Mention: The Sup Live
Okay, if you don’t know about this I don’t even know what to tell you. Actually, I do: WATCH. IT. The Sup Live is The Betches Sup’s live show where News & Politics Editor Alise Morales and Betches Co-founder Sami Fishbein go over the news from the week and usually end up chugging some sort of alcoholic beverage at 1:30pm on a Thursday. It’s incred. Is it a podcast? Technically, no. Is it everything you’ve ever hoped and dreamed of and more, and you will die filled with regret if you don’t tune in? Literally, yes. It’s every Thursday at 1:30pm EST on our Facebook page. Come cry about the news with us.
Click above to watch the latest episode and be sure to follow the Betches Sup Facebook page so you don’t miss the next episode.
Heads up, you need to keep up with the news. It’s not cute anymore. That’s why we’ve created a 5x weekly newsletter called The ‘Sup that will explain all the news of the week in a hilarious af way. Because if we weren’t laughing, we’d be crying. Sign up for The ‘Sup now!
Today Donald Trump released his America First budget proposal for 2018 and, Nazi-ish name aside, it’s…extra. Could 2018 be worse than 2017? Will 2017 be worse than 2016? This budget signals that the answer is yes. Most of it is the shit that we’ve all come to expect from President Twitter. Huge increases in defense spending, funds to bill the wall, and a giant financial “fuck you” to things like clean air and poor people (Just be rich already!!!!).
Now before you go all freaking out and trying to snag a husband on Canadian Twitter, you can chill a little bit. Take a Xanax. Calm down. This budget isn’t necessarily what is going to happen, it’s just what Trump wants to see happen. It’s like when you went away to college and told your parents you were going to need another $500 per month for social events and dinners and they countered that buy buying you the slightly more expensive meal plan. All we need to stop this budget from happening is for a couple republicans in Congress to stand up to Trump’s agenda and—oh wait you’re right, we’re totally fucked.
Like most government things, Trump’s actual budget proposal is really long and boring. As if Trump has ever read anything that’s 62 pages long in his life. So, in order to explain something that is boring that we hate, let’s use something that is entertaining that we love—in this instance, the Kardashians.
$52.8 Billion Increase In Defense Spending
Yep, the U.S. military—aka the greatest military force in the world—is going on steroids. Because that’s what the world needs: a roided out America with a reality TV star calling the shots. This would make sense if we were like…in a war. So basically, the US’ entire foreign policy is about to be:
$44.1 Billion Increase In Homeland Security
The Dept. of Homeland Security handles immigration enforcement and counterterrorism, so it make sense that our dear leader has such a boner for them. Given that increased ICE raids already have immigrants cancelling their food stamps for fear Trump will deport them, this one is like, actually pretty…
$1.5 Billion To Build The Fucking Wall
So yeah, Mexico ain’t payin’ for shit. We’re paying for it. Our taxes are going to pay to build a wall along our southern border even though 40% of illegal aliens enter our country via airplane and 58% of illegal immigrants are not from fucking Mexico. So, yeah:
$5.7 Billion In Cuts To The EPA
Take a good look outside your window. Do you see a tree? Savor that tree. Imprint its memory into your mind. That tree, and all others of its kind, might not be around for very much longer. But hey, at least the increase of oil spills that render the ocean unswim-able will prevent tragedies like the following one from ever happening again:
$27.1 Billion In Cuts To The State Department
If increasing military spending by $52 billion didn’t make you think, “hmm sounds like the president wants us to go to war,” then maybe $52 billion in military spending paired with $27 billion in cuts to the State Department—aka diplomacy—might get you there. So yeah, now that their budget is slashed, you can expect all our foreign service professionals to be rolling into Russia like:
$17.9 Billion In Cuts To Department of Agriculture
The Dept. of Agriculture is generally in charge of all the USA’s farm chores. Which might have you thinking:
Yeah, so that’s a Corinne meme and not the Kardashians, but you see why we had to use it.
Anyway, one of the USDA’s most important farm chores is looking at the food that you eat and making sure it’s like, safe and shit. They’re also responsible for making sure that all the amazing shit in your mom’s medicine cabinet actually works and won’t fucking kill you. So start stocking up on the good shit now, and maybe get one of those Pinterest window gardens going now so that you know the strawberries you’re eating are really strawberries and not just playdough in the shape of a strawberry. This is obvi a huge problem because:
Eliminates Funding For 19 Federal Agencies
The biggest “fuck you” to the world in Trump’s budget comes from the complete elimination of funding from 19 federal agencies. But I’m sure these agencies are like…totally useless right? Like, they’re basically the carbs of agencies, and America is trying to get its bikini body. Let’s take a look now at exactly all the empty calories Trump will be eliminating from the American diet. So next time some agency gets all upset about losing funding, Trump can be like:
African Development Foundation: Because Africa is obviously developed at this point. I’ve heard they even have the internet in some cities.
Appalachian Regional Commission: I thought Appalachia was Trump country? Could it be that the president doesn’t GAF about his supporters? Or maybe he’s just like:
Chemical Safety Board: “Chemicals are safe. Period.” — Sean Spicer in two years when the chemicals in wet wipes burn a baby’s face off.
Corporation for National and Community Service: Umm I did enough community service after my underage drinking charge in college, tyvm.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Sorry, Big Bird. Try getting a real job, asshole.
Delta Regional Authority: Don’t know what this is. Apparently has to do with “regional economies.” Now regional economies be like:
Denali Commission: Provides job training and other economic development to rural communities. The same rural communities that voted for Trump because they have no jobs? TBD. Either way, they’re lame.
Institute of Museum and Library Sciences: You know this one is because a librarian shushed Trump in sixth grade and he never forgot it.
Inter-American Foundation: Funds development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. Because like, the Kardashians already went to Cuba. The region is good.
Trade and Development Agency: The USTDA helps “create U.S. jobs through the export of U.S. goods and services” so like…wait…isn’t that Trump’s whole thing? I’m lost.
Legal Services Corporation: Strange considering how many lawyers Trump has needed just in his first 50 days as president.
National Endowment for the Arts: Shoulda listened to my uncle when he told me a Liberal Arts degree wasn’t worth shit.
National Endowment for the Humanities: Again. Should have listened to my uncle.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation: All neighborhood investment will now be done via bake sale.
Northern Border Regional Commission: This one makes sense. What Canadian would try to cross over our border at this point anyway? Any Canadian in the U.S. is almost certainly like:
Overseas Private Investment Corporation: Seems like something he would keep but then again the word “overseas” is in there so…
U.S. Institute for Peace: Truly can’t think of a single reason why this would be necessary.
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness: Okay cool so we’re gonna stop helping homeless people now? Okay…
Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholar: Again, anything with the word “international” must go, even if it is one of the top 10 think tanks in the world.
So, there’s a whole bunch of other shit in this budget, but this article is quickly becoming a novel and given the cuts to arts funding, I’m not writing a fucking book for free, but to sum it all up:
And, for no particular reason, this post has moved you to call your representative in Congress. You can do that here.