The Whelan Family:
Parent Bill with Adopted Children Abby and Noah
Bill and Lisa Whelan, both Connecticut natives, moved to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1998 with their four biological children and their adopted daughter, Abigail. The Whelan family first met Abby, who was born pre-mature and diagnosed with Down syndrome, while Lisa was a nurse in the local hospital delivery ward. Already licensed foster care parents, Lisa and Bill took Abby into their family as an infant and eventually adopted her.
When the Whelan family moved to Florida, Bill went to work for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). In April 2003, a substance-exposed baby boy, Noah, was born in a Daytona-area hospital with Down syndrome and tracheal malacia, as well as a broken leg from being born breach. DCF was involved in the child's case, but the hospital felt foster care was not the best fit for Noah, so they called the Children's Home Society (CHS). Eventually, the birth mother surrendered Noah, leaving CHS in custody for subsequent adoption. However, CHS had a difficult time placing Noah with their prospective adoptive parents because of baby Noah's many medical issues.
Lacking options, the CHS employee handling the case asked her co-workers if they knew of anyone who would be interested in adopting an infant with Down syndrome with other medical conditions. One of the co-workers, John, was a former colleague of Bill and immediately thought of the Whelan family. "John thought of our family because Abby has similar medical conditions," said Bill. "Lisa and I already knew how to care for Abby so taking Noah into our family was a natural fit."
John called Bill and Lisa on "Holy Thursday" - the same day seven years earlier that the Adoption Committee had met with Bill and Lisa in Connecticut to approve Abigail's adoption. Lisa immediately jumped at the prospect of adopting Noah and they took off for the neo-natal intensive care unit to see Noah, who was just three days old. "I had to see Noah right away," said Lisa. "Abby was such a joyous addition to our family that the thought of bringing Noah into our home made me so very happy."
Once at the hospital Lisa urged Bill to "just hold him," knowing full well that once Bill held Noah, he would ready to bring the baby home. Having five children already, the new dad-to-be was uncertain if they had room for another child but, after holding Noah, Bill knew there was room for one more.
After 30 days in a Jacksonville children's hospital, Noah was released to Bill and Lisa and the adoption was finalized at the end of 2004. Although Abby and Noah both present their own unique challenges, they more importantly bring countless joyous moments to the lives the Whelan family. "Noah and Abby surprise us daily," said Bill. "Both children remind us of the importance of a supporting family and to laugh at the little things which make life wonderful."