Michael and Kristine Barnett are accused of leaving their 11-year-old adopted daughter in an apartment alone and moving to Canada with their two other children. The Indiana couple claim the girl, who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal, was given to them with a sociopathic personality disorder.
Prior to abandoning her, the couple changed the girl’s age from 11 to 22 and asked her to lie about it if questioned. Kristen, the author of The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism, and Michael, adopted the girl in 2010 after she had arrived in the US from Ukraine via an adoption program in 2008.
The couple, who have two biological sons, rented an apartment on North 11th Street in Lafayette in Tippecanoe County for their daughter before leaving the country. The girl, who was interviewed by police the following year, said she “had not seen the Barnett’s since they moved to Canada,” according to the court documents.
It is unclear how the couple managed to change the girl's age legally or exactly why they left her behind. They reportedly instructed her to tell anyone who asked that she "looks young but was actually 22.” Although they helped the girl financially by paying her rent, it also a mystery as to how she managed to survive on her own. At some point within the last five years, she was enrolled at the Excel Center — a tuition-free high school for adults. She then left Tippecanoe County in 2016.
WISH TV reported that Kristine Barnett told its news team that the family was scammed by the adoption, and the girl was actually an adult with mental health disorders. https://t.co/bPv2m1Iddp— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 19, 2019
The couple has defended themselves from accusations of child abandonment claiming the adoption was a scam. “I am sick and devastated from the idea of any of these charges and maintain that they are false charges,” Kristine wrote on Facebook. The Barnett’s continue to insist that the girl was an adult when they left her, even though doctors have confirmed otherwise.
In 2012, the couple appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss their then 13-year-old son Jake who has Asperger’s syndrome. Jake was studying physics at Purdue University Indianapolis despite being told he would never be able to read. The segment showed the couple’s adopted daughter sitting at the dinner table with them.
In light of the accusations, Tippecanoe County prosecutors filed neglect charges last week against the couple. As of Friday, they had not been booked or arraigned and online court records don't list an attorney for them.