“I just gave her a place to put her roots and to flourish where she needed to grow.”

They say it takes a village to raise a child but for Shariya Small, she was a village of one.

In 2020, Shariya gave birth to premature triplets. Having triplets is scary in the best of circumstances but having them in the NICU, hooked up to wires and machines, takes terrifying to a whole new level.

Not to mention what made it even more difficult is that at 14 years old, she was still just a child herself.

And without any type of support system to help her she was facing the grim reality of having to raise three babies, all on her own.

That is, until her NICU nurse, Katrina Mullen, 45, made the choice to adopt her. A decision that changed all of their lives.

What Led Up To a NICU Nurse Adopting A Teen Mother of Triplets

Triplets Serenitee, Samari, and Sarayah were born at just 26 weeks, weighing less than 2 pounds each. They spent more than five months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis. It was a scary time for the young mother.

Once a teen mother herself and now a seasoned nurse, Katrina understood what Shariya was going through. After noticing that the 8th grader never seemed to have anyone with her she made it her mission to do everything she could to help.

She’d be there alone for days at a time sitting at her babies’ bedside,” Katrina told TODAY.com. “I immediately thought I needed to give her a shoulder to lean on.”

It didn’t take long for a strong bond to form. Even after being discharged from the hospital and moving in with an aunt, the two remained close. Shariya would often call Katrina or FaceTime her for advice.

The Call That Changed Everything

Adoption Day | Katrina Mullen Facebook

After one of the triplets was hospitalized for “failure to thrive” the Department of Social Services (DSS) investigated Shariya’s living conditions. The caseworker determined that Shariya and her three infants would need to enter foster care unless someone could take them in.

That someone was Katrina.

Already a single mom to five with three (ages 16, 14, and 7) still living at home, she didn’t hesitate.

“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,” she said.

Katrina enrolled in foster parent classes and Shariya, Serenitee, Samari, and Sarayah moved in.

668 days later, Katrina officially adopted Shariya and became an instant grandmother to her three children.

Paying It Forward


Today, the triplets are toddlers and they’re thriving. So is their mother. The now 17-year-old has graduated from high school and has already been accepted into college with an academic scholarship.

And Katrina couldn’t be more proud.

“I’m so proud to be Shariya’s mom,” she said. “She just amazes me every day. When she’s frustrated with the babies, she never raises her voice. She’s just blossoming into this incredible woman.”

Shariya hopes to pay it forward one day. She plans to pursue a career in social work, helping teen moms.

Katrina has created a GoFundMe to go towards setting up Shariya and the triplets “for her future college experience and adventures this coming fall.” So far it’s raised nearly $42K.

“This is a success story and the success revolves around her. I just gave her a place to put her roots and to flourish where she needed to grow,” Katrina told Today.

A success story indeed.