Kristine Barnett is an author, public speaker, and longtime advocate for education for autistic children. She first graced national media coverage when her pre-teen son, Jake, enrolled as an undergraduate at Purdue University. Barnett has traveled around the country talking about her strategies for homeschooling her brilliant son, who has autism. More recently, she and her ex-husband, Michael, have been charged with neglect of a dependent a bizarre child abandonment criminal case, in which she claims the young child she and her then-husband adopted from the Ukraine in 2010 was actually an adult woman.
Specifically, Barnett and her now ex-husband, Michael Barnett, are accused of leaving their adopted daughter in an apartment in Indianapolis in 2012, though Michael contends that they paid for rent for several months. Per The Washington Post, the Barnetts changed her age from 11 to 22 on official documents around that same time period, prior to moving to Canada for their son Jake’s enrollment at a physics institute. The location of this girl’s whereabouts are now unknown.
In a brief Facebook statement, Barnett confirmed that she does not yet have legal representation. She wrote, “I am sick and devastated from the idea of any of these charges and maintain that they are false charges. Friends and family you decide if what you are reading is real or fake for yourselves.”
Prior to becoming a consultant and public speaker, Barnett ran an alternative preschool program for three years. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Barnett & Her Ex-Husband, Michael Barnett, Adopted an Eight-Year-Old Girl in 2010; She Became Convinced the Girl Was Actually a Sociopathic Adult
To a local news statement, Barnett explained how her 2010 adoption of what she believed to be a nine-year-old girl from the Ukraine was actually “a scam.” She went on to allege that she soon found out her adopted daughter was a diagnosed psychopath.
Per WISHTV, court documents state that a doctor estimated her age to be around eight years old in 2010. She also has a type of dwarfism called Spondyloepiphyseal, the publication reports.
In 2012, the Barnetts moved to Indianapolis and rented an apartment for the girl. Her location now is unknown. The Barnetts divorced shortly after in 2014, WISHTV reports.
There are many points of confusing and conflicting pieces of information in this adoption story. For example, the adopted girl, whose name has been withheld, told detectives that she was originally brought to the United States with a different couple in 2008; undisclosed complications led to the Barnetts adopting her in 2010. It’s also unclear how the Barnetts were able to legally change the girl’s age. However, Barnett did provide medical documentation to WISHTV in which a doctor determined that the girl’s age on her birth certificate was “clearly inaccurate” because she had secondary sex characteristics and teeth of an adult.
2. Barnett Has Been Charged With Abandonment; Her Adopted Daughter’s Location Is Not Known
Both Barnett, 45, and her ex-husband Michael, 43, have been charged with neglect of a dependent.
In response to these charges, Barnett’s community has rallied around her, with some even creating a fundraising page to help Barnett pay for a lawyer. One friend of Barnett’s who posted about the fundraiser on a Facebook group shed further light on the apparent situation . She wrote,
As of Thursday, The State of Indiana as well as the media have claimed that Kristine adopted a child, abandoned the child, and fled the country. This as well as news of her arrest, before a warrant was served have been spreading through out the world via news. Long before allegations arose Kristine had explained what occurred. She and her (now former) husband had been scammed by an adoption agency. An individual who was brought here by the agency in 2008 was adopted to the Barnett family in 2010, after having spent time with other families. She had dwarfism and severe mental health issues, including psychosis.
She posed as an 8 yr old child at the time. After drs. evaluations it was determined that the individual was actually an adult. Kristine has submitted the drs report to the media. As well as at the time, the Barnetts had submitted this information to the state. At the time the state accepted the documents as valid. Kristine even reports that the state conducted thorough investigations and also came to the same conclusion. Through appeal to the courts, her age was legally changed to that of an adult. The Barnetts helped the individual while she was in and out of mental health institutions. After sometime it was decided that she was able to live independently, as long as she remained under a drs supervision. The Barnetts helped her obtain housing, as they could no longer have her in the home. They had endured physical attack and feared for their safety. They did not flee the country, to escape any legal issues or wrongdoing, as the media has alleged.
Barnett also mistakenly accused The Washington Post of posting a mugshot of the wrong woman. In a Facebook post, Barnett wrote on September 15, “I am having to come in here to confirm I am not arrested and my attorney states and has confirmed there is no warrant for my arrest. You want a mugshot Washington post get the right girl. And also find an actual criminal.”
3. Barnett & Her Husband Michael Have Three Other Children Together; Jake Barnett Went to College at 12 Years Old
The Barnett have three other sons under their care: Jake, Wes, and Evan. Jake Barnett was a topic of national discussion in 2012 when it was reported that he would attend Purdue University as a preteen.
Jake has autism; his mother, Barnett, took him out of school and homeschooled him, leading to the book she would eventually write: The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. The book’s movie rights were sold to Warner Brothers.
To The Indianapolis Star, Barnett explained the decision to move their family first to Indianapolis, for Jake’s college, and then onwards to Waterloo, Ontario, so that he could study at the Institute for Theoretical Physics. “It was a big move for our family and one that we knew was coming for Jacob,” she said. “We knew Jacob would exhaust the curriculum in Indiana, and we knew that he would need to go to another school one day. We love Indiana, and Indiana will always be a big part of us in our hearts.”
4. Michael Barnett Told Authorities He Always Thought Their Adopted Daughter Was a Child, & That His Wife Persuaded Him to Say Otherwise
Though Barnett has maintained that she is innocent of any crime, WISHTV reports that her ex-husband, Michael did believe their former adopted daughter was a child. What’s more, he has reportedly told authorities that he was coached by his wife to say that she wasn’t.
Per The Washington Post, Michael further alleged that his ex-wife coached their adopted daughter, too, to tell people that she was 22 years old if they asked.
Now, Barnett tours the country giving seminars on her “Spark” training program, and also offers online and private consultations to families. A one-hour appointment with Barnett costs $500.
5. Barnett Is a Published Author; She Wrote About Jake’s Autism & Frequently Tours the Nation to Talk About Her Homeschooling Methods
Barnett’s book is available from online retailers like Amazon, as well as many brick and mortar locations as well. The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, is a memoir about Barnett and her son Jake’s relationship, as well as her journey of educating him and giving him the tools he needed for success.
A summary of the book on Amazon reads, “Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics.”
It continues: “But the story of Kristine’s journey with Jake is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism. At age two, when Jake was diagnosed, Kristine was told he might never be able to tie his own shoes.”