- Attorney Ladona Sorenson told the Lafayette Journal and Courier that the Ukrainian orphan at the center of an adoption scandal was a child when he represented her.
- Sorenson represented Natalia in 2013, a year after Michael and Kristine Barnett changed birth records with the girl’s age from 8 to 22.
- The Barnetts were charged last week with neglect of a dependent in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. They’re accused of abandoning Natalia and moving to Canada in 2013.
- Natalia has a type of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, which makes her age difficult to accurately record without a birth certificate.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A lawyer who once represented the Ukrainian orphan at the center of an adoption scandal in Indiana says the girl was still a child when he represented her, despite her mother claiming she was a mentally disturbed woman posing as a minor.
Attorney Ladona Sorenson represented Natalia in 2013, a year after Michael and Kristine Barnett changed the girl’s age in her birth records from 8 to 22, according to court records seen by the Lafayette Journal and Courier.
“I do not believe her to be an adult at the time I represented her,” Sorenson told the Journal and Courier.
Sorenson was appointed Natalia’s lawyer by the court when another family unsuccessfully attempted to take guardianship of Natalia in 2013. The case was unsuccessful because a judge had approved her age change a year earlier.
The Barnetts were charged last week with neglect of a dependent in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. They’re accused of abandoning Natalia and moving to Canada in 2013.
Natalia has a type of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, which makes her age difficult to accurately record without a birth certificate. Though she was said to be 6 when the Barnetts adopted her in 2010, NBC News said it saw hospital records showing her age as about 8 in June 2010.
There are disputes over Natalia’s real age
Citing court documents, WISH-TV, an Indianapolis CW affiliate, reported that the girl’s age was changed from 8 to 22 in 2012. The report also said a skeletal survey at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital deemed her to be 11 at the time.
But WLFI-TV, a CBS affiliate, obtained what appears to be an Indiana University Health report from 2016 that said Natalia was an adult. The document hasn’t been verified but says that she had “made a career of perpetuating her age facade” and “continued to fool those who have the best intentions.”
Now, Natalia would either be 14, 16, or 22, depending on which records are actually accurate.
“The most egregious part of it is that this child was turned into an adult without any representation, without any due process safeguards being instituted by that court,” Michael Troemel, who was representing the family who tried to take guardianship of Natalia, told the Journal and Courier.
Troemel said the girl was omitted from participating in due process in the age-changing case because the Barnetts filed an ex-parte petition.
“This kid’s sitting out there, and her parents say, ‘Well, we’re going to turn you into an adult.’ Which is what I find incredibly offensive,” Troemel told the Journal and Courier.
Kristine Barnett said that Natalia was an adult who tormented her family
Kristine Barnett told the Daily Mail this week that the adoption was a scam and that the girl was not who they thought she was.
She said that she and her now ex-husband agreed to an emergency adoption in Florida in 2010. She said they didn’t know many details about Natalia’s background but were told that her previous adoptive parents gave her up for undisclosed reasons.
Kristine Barnett said that Natalia terrorized her family, tried to stab them while they were sleeping, once tried to push her toward an electric fence, and poured bleach in her coffee.
Michael Barnett, meanwhile, told investigators that he and his now-ex-wife knew Natalia was not an adult when they left her in Lafayette, Indiana, and moved to Canada.
Troemel told the Journal and Courier that he doesn’t know where Natalia is now, but that another family had taken her in after the Barnetts moved to Canada in 2013.
Daily Mail Online reported on Friday that Natalia is living with a Christian family in Indiana that treats her like a child. It’s unclear if the family is the same one that Troemel said took over Natalia’s care six years ago.
He said the main goal of the 2013 guardianship hearing was to change Natalia’s age back to her original 2003 birthday.
“Our primary goal was to get the child in school at that time,” he said.