Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
June 9, 2024 ·  4 min read

NICU Nurse Adopts Teen Mom of Three Preemie Triplets

We are constantly bombarded with scary or sad stories in the news. In contrast, occasionally, we hear about a beautiful story with a happy ending. In this story, an Indianapolis nurse helped shape brighter lives for a teenage mom and her three new babies.

Kinship to an Indianapolis Nurse

Katrina Mullen is an Indianapolis nurse who worked in the NICU for over 20 years. Furthermore, she happened to also be a teenage mother herself. Therefore, when Shariya Small came into the hospital to give birth at just 14, she and Mullen quickly formed a bond. With Small being so young, the situation was already complicated but became more so when she went into premature labor. The triplets, two girls and a boy, were born weighing less than 2 pounds each. The babies spent the next four months in incubators in the NICU. That’s when the Indianapolis nurse developed her bond with Small and the babies. “If you need anything, I will be there for you,” Mullen told Small, according to Scrubs Mag. “I immediately thought that I needed to give her a shoulder to lean on.” 


Sharing Coveted Advice

When the babies were discharged from the hospital, the Indianapolis nurse and the new mom exchanged phone numbers. In the following months, they and remained in contact via Facetime or in person. Mullen had not only been in the medical field for more than 20 years, but she also was a mother to 5 children. As a result, she felt a kinship with Small and had a lot of helpful guidance for the young teen mom. Eventually, Mullen began doing nightly feedings so that Small could get some sleep. Although she loves her new babies, there’s no question that three new babies would be hard for anyone, let alone a single teen parent.

The Indianapolis nurse stepped up and helped the family of four. “I would go sit in the office with her and talk about basically anything,” Small said. “I would tell her some of my secrets and she talked to me about her experiences with being a teen mom. That’s one of the things we clicked on while I was in the hospital.”

Indianapolis Nurse Outdoes Herself

Small lived in Kokomo, Indiana, which was about an hour away from Mullen’s home in Brownsburg. However, the distance didn’t prevent the Indianapolis nurse from being a regular part of the new family’s lives. She’d even take gifts for the babies. In fact, the two moms had become so close and involved in one another’s lives that people around the hospital would joke about how Small was Mullen’s “adopted daughter.” Unbeknownst at the time, that running joke would soon become reality for the Indianapolis nurse and her family.

Tragedy struck when the baby boy had to be taken back to the hospital for a couple of days. He recovered and was able to go home. In the meantime, Small would need someone to stay at home with the girls, and of course, Mullen stepped up, stating it “was no big deal.” Unfortunately, the baby’s health scare prompted a CPS investigation, and the social worker decided all three babies would need to go into foster care. Panic set in, and Small contacted the Indianapolis nurse, who once again came to her rescue.

Mullen filed to adopt Small and her three babies and was granted approval, despite the fact that she still had three of her five children living at home. “Just from being a nurse, I knew there would not be many foster homes that would take a teen mother with three kids… I didn’t want them to be separated. I wanted them to stay together,” the Indianapolis nurse explained.

Creating a Brighter Future

The Indianapolis nurse has even started a GoFundMe page with a goal of $3,000 with the hope of creating “a financial cushion” for the new family. Fortunately, the total donations surpassed the original goal, and the family is happily figuring it out together. “Everybody told me that I wouldn’t finish school, that I wouldn’t achieve my goals, but now I’m graduating as a junior and was accepted into two colleges with academic scholarships,” now 15 years old, Small said. The support she’s gotten from Mullen’s support has been life-changing and invaluable for Small’s now brighter future. Meanwhile, Mullen seems to be exhausted but over the moon with the new family’s arrangement. “It’s been great. Stressful? Yes. Sleepless nights? Yes. But worth it? Absolutely.” She exclaimed.

According to the Child Welfare website, there are nearly 400,000 children in foster care and looking for homes. A whopping 80% of those children are estimated to have mental health problems, with an estimated stress rate of around five times more than an average individual. With so many children out there needing loving homes, it’s a true blessing for Small and her babies to have been welcomed home by the Indianapolis nurse and her family.

Keep Reading: ‘I just cried holding her’: Couple welcomes baby girl after 5-year adoption journey


  1. Nicu nurse adopts teen mom of three preemie triplets – scrubs: The leading lifestyle magazine for the Healthcare Community.” Scrubs. Steven Briggs. March 8, 2023.
  2. Nicu nurse adopts premature triplets… and their teen mom: ‘I wanted them to stay together’.” Live Action News. Laura Nicole. March 17, 2023